Papers and Paychecks

A picture of Dungeons and Dragons characters playing a role playing game as people in an advanced technological society.

Cover for Hidden Price Tags: An Eastern Orthodox Look at the Dark Side of Technology and Its Best Use: Volume Two, Works of Art

To what shall I liken the great meta-medievals? For truly their world is like unto the Drow's Underdark, and they exceed the wonder of the magical energies pulsing through it and powering the society.

Let us begin. Characters have six attributes: Str (Strength), Dex (Dexterity), Int (Intelligence), Wis (Wisdom), Con (Constitution), Cha (Charisma). The ability scores are reached through adding the total of two six-sided die as is painted in the picture. In another time it might be three dice but people are weakened owing to the diet, poisons, unnatural foods, and radiations of their setting.

Perhaps a good place to start might be to say that they live in harmony with strange and wondrous technology. Now this may be expressed in ways odd to us, for most of us upon acquiring a really good magic item, want to keep it, but to them good technology is almost always new. So they can tell a joke, a jape:

I was trying to help a friend's son look into colleges, and yesterday he handed me the phone, really excited, and said, "You have got to speak with these guys." I fumbled the phone, picked it up, and heard, "—online. We offer perhaps the best-rounded of degrees, and from day one our students are equipped with a top-of-the-line Dell running up-to-the-minute Vista. Besides the ins and outs of Office 2007, we address back-end issues, giving students a grounding in Visual Basic .NET, striking the right balance between 'reach' and 'rich,' and a thorough groundings in Flash-based design and web design optimized for the Internet Explorer 6. Throw in an MCSE, and marketing-based communication instruction that harnesses the full power of PowerPoint and covers the most effective ways to make use of animated pop-ups, opt-in subscriber lists, and—"

I interrupted. "Internet Exploder 6? Minesweeper Consultant and Solitaire Exp—excuse me, but what is your organization called?"

"The A-rist-o-crats."

These people live at a great cusp, for to mankind as it had hitherto existed a great Orcish battering ram is battering the world's doors:

  • BOOM! Internet porn!
  • BOOM! Anti-social media!
  • BOOM! Islamic ascendency!
  • BOOM! Smartphones!
  • BOOM! Gay marriage!
  • BOOM! Vaccines!
  • BOOM! Transgender!
  • BOOM! ChatGPT and Gollem AI!

And sooner or sooner the door will break to shivers and enter the Balrog.

What does "meta-medieval" mean? Let me liken it to a technology they have that is so old and so relatively humble that few of them would call it a technology. This technology is called the "Magnifying Glass," and its virtue is twofold: for it can be used as its name may suggest to make small things look bigger, but there is also a technique of holding it so that it turns all the mighty Sun's radiations so that all of them are diverted to a single point, and then this second virtue makes the single point to grow first hot, then smoking, and then afire. Now the medieval period is a time when dominoes began falling, and the medieval period is likened unto the Magnifying Glass. And it is now true that it is functioning in its second virtue, for the medieval period is bringing together all the rays of the mighty Son and after a long time of growing hot, such as happened in early modern science, the Magician's Twin, the point of its rays is at the meta-medievals in this nexus and the whole thing is asmoke and ready to wax aflame.

And the Magnifying Glass is a salient example because in the medieval period, it was discovered that early Magnifying Glasses could sharpen vision grown dull with age, and this caused a great stir for nobody knew that things might have a virtue that could revert, if imperfectly the ravages of time. Aging need not be final. Now this bore flower and fruit in the meta-medieval period, and refined Glasses are common, and precious few think they are fighting nature. And in their Medical Science they have a branch which is in particular called "anti-aging medicine," and the cooling of heat that helps transform a young and valiant man into a mature elder, is reversed by a single Pill. For they have made many medical Pills, made by a deformation of our Alchemy, and their Pills are like unto Potions save that there are many more kinds, and they rarely cost even so much as a single Gold Piece, and no one thinks this a Wonder except Pills that are recognized to destroy with the Pleasure they give, except perhaps that the Pleasure of carnal relations which their ancestors found too violent and intense a Pleasure, is for them weak and unflavored, and they are "so dainty in their dreams of lust" that a wife will not satisfy a man so much as pixels on the Screen, and they have a telling and right serious song, "The Internet is for porn." (From the point of view which reigneth in Hell, it is.)

And they have but a Last Mile of nature they have not yet conquered, and that Last Mile is themselves. For they are in rebellion with the last point of Nature, Human Nature, and they reject the Metanarrative that sees in marriage an Icon of Heaven and Earth, and something great and special. For earlier they have dismantled that Marriage should be permanent, and that it should be open to children, and that it should be between one Lord and one Wife, and that the Creator created them male and female. For many of them this is not enough, and it is increasingly common not to "identify" as Man or even in any sense Human.

Such Metanarratives have slipped through their fingers, and in fact the Lost say, "We have lost the Metanarrative," though there be ersatz fragments of a Metanarrative, like the Metanarrative of all-powerful Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, abbreviated "STEM" after they had a great Controversy over the fate of unborn children who were conceived without pleasure and were not allowed to achieve birth.

And in the development of technology there is a class of space-conquering technologies, whose purpose is to overcome the limitations of their embodied nature. For they have iterations of newer Technologies which they take for granted as not even real Technology, and which could move the human body faster and faster, in their Cars and Aeroplanes. The newer wave and the one they think of as Technology is Action at a Distance (such a term is used in their Science, but only for things like odd Thought-Experiments). For the Telephone has increased its reach and been replaced by a small and portable Computer, and superseded by the Zoom Chat, a layer of Technology that lies over other Technologies as a Base, so that not only are their Generations called by names for their Generations(!), but one Generation is called Zoomers.

And after a Cybernetic Quarantine which has groomed adults and children alike for Cybernetic Living, it proves easier to get the People out of the Cyber-Quarantine than to get the Cyber-Quarantine out of the People. And some meet in Virtual Spaces. And after that Quarantine has taken deep root, the fastest-growing religion on the books is no longer Islam, but "Nothings," for People who believe in Nothing as their Ersatz faith.

And their energies are devoted to a pass-time of Escape, for those who have Tools that Emperors and Popes did not even dream of, exert themselves in escaping the present, at least when they do not attempt Mindfulnes, and one of their many escapes is Role Playing Games of various descriptions, in which they Fancy they had best live in Medieval Fantasy.

To those interested in digging further into the Lewisian roots of this milieu, I strongly recommend a reading of That Hideous Strength. The Technologies in that novel are quaint by the standards of the Metamedievals, but the spiritual signature is well nigh Identical.

Fare Thee Well,