When the Humble Servant was still a simple, skinny Zen master, he advised two things. Use words but rarely and wash your bowl. Since then he’s gained weight and sponsors spreading the gospel of now-pow throughout our united nations. He’s speaking at MoreCorp today, which is great!
I never go see the many thought leaders who illuminate the Silicon campus, but this wise guy’s huge, a spiritual superstar, and I’m curious. Is he for real? MoreCorp built many of his retreats worldwide, so we see him everywhere on the webs. Often the context seems objectionable for a monk. The Humble Servant is the face of dozens of products, from tek devices to toys and foods. It seems weird, like maybe he should think different.
The talk is far from the Clubhouse at the Plus Center. I grab a skateboard from the transport rack outside the office, loaded with cycles, scooters, whirligigs, and wheelios. Down paved paths cut through plasti-grass lawns where workers play, I skate to the building and abandon the deck at a half-full rack at the entrance. Nothing is locked … except the doors.
I give the requisite thumbs-up, aiming my micro-chip at a bot-face in an oval screen to gain entry. An alarm buzzes obnoxiously, alerting a guard inside. He doesn’t open, appearing electronically instead. It’s Rice, who I recall from orientation and whose name, rank and ID number show up below his features.
“Hi Rice. Am I early? Grabbing a seat for the Humble Servant talk.”
“That’s not very more-more.”
“What’s not? The alarm? I know!”
“Grabbing,” he corrects. “Bad karma. No-no mojo.”
“Totally,” I agree. “But I’m …”
“Yeah, no.” Rice cuts me off. “It looks like umm … Ellipsis? You’re a thumbs-up. Mini. That’s why the buzz-buzz. This is a hi-5 event, maxi and above. But you can stream it. Kool?”
It’s totally not kool being excluded, as a rule. I trudge back to the Clubhouse on foot, blue, not even smelling the air scented with hypo-allergenic perfumes, nor hearing the sweet birdsong piped in on invisible speakers.
Still, it’s not personal, as the Team Liaison Eclair says. There are many irrelevant workers, some more so than me. We’re divided in four ranks — micros, minis, maxis, and majors. Micros are the humblest servants, a fleet of cleaners, cooks, and deliverers of goods and services, mostly unseen if not invisible, addressed electronically. Thus there are screens in every kitchen, which are everywhere, as it’s also a Founders’ Principle that no one here will go hungry, plus some other awesome stuff.
These ideas, like the talk I will not be attending today, are what makes MoreCorp great and its People Operations famous. The company has been ranked top employer for decades. It gives employees more and is strict about who it employs precisely because it’s so very generous. Giving all workers benefits and bonuses is expensive and impossible, and very few here are technically employed by the company.
Still, you can’t run the world’s biggest biz with very few people, hence the throngs of contractors with limited access to the awesome. Meet another now. Ahead of me is Raz, a micro I know because he keeps the kitchen in the Clubhouse stocked, and reads prose printies so we talk. He’s pushing a tall load of pallets, dodging low-flying scent drones and high-flying golf balls on a narrow concrete path between gaming lawns.
“Hey Raz," I catch up to him easily. "What’s the story?”
“Just pushing that boulder, Ellipsis. Uphill. You? Enviro-clones?”
“No. I was going to see the Humble Servant but I’m too low so it’s back to the Clubhouse to do incomprehensible things.”
“What?” Raz scowls. “To me?”
“No. To everyone. No one seems to know.”
“We can’t go on. We go on.”
“Nice,” I wink. “Are we not men?”
“Well, you’re not, but yeah. We are, so don’t worry. This doesn’t matter.”
“Life. Death. Freedom.” Razz stops pushing the pallets, halting in the path. “Truth.”
“Does not compute,” I respond joking, a little surprised at his gravity. He glares and I concede. “Ok, freedom. Tell me about it.”
“Can't be given, can be taken.”
“Wow. Someone's not sleeping. But mostly guess what I’m seeing?”
“Not the Humble Servant,” Raz offers.
“Funny. The big snooze. That’s what we choose.”
“Well, we’re not locked up. You can leave or laugh.”
“Sure,” I reply. But sure is not how I’d describe myself when I think of Pug and Wolf’s pod-mate disappearing, or Candy Cane and the rumor that her billionaire Big Daddy buys killers. Nothing’s certain. We start walking again.
“It’s not prison.” Raz lowers his voice.
"No," I say neutrally. Having worked crime and punishment for PoorCorp, I can almost guess the coming confession and he must sense the story’s familiar to me, if only professionally. "But you know personally?"
“I did time for murder. Don’t tell anyone. I was young.”
“Shit dude. Ok. How young?”
“Fifteen. Gang shit.”
What can I say to that? We stand in the morning sun, silent. He’s tall, his face partly shaded by the tower of food he’s delivering, unmarked by the sins of childhood or the school of hard knocks. Murder doesn’t show on a face. Raz paws the concrete path with his sneaker, remembering invisible scars. He looks young or old, hard or handsome, light or dark, like everyone or no one, depending on the angle and faces you've seen.
“I guess that explains,” I break the silence. “Prison. I wondered why you read.”
“Yeah, nothing but printies, real old-timey. You’d probably like it.”
“I’ve had the privilege of visiting, thanks. Reading’s good but so are trees.”
“Yeah, freedom, like I said,” Raz reminds. “Fux these fux!”
Strange, that’s what Pug said before he disappeared. Where is he? Shooting the great universal vid? Off the grid? Dead and buried? It’s been weeks with no sign, no snaps, no tracks.
We reach the Clubhouse. Raz and I part ways. Back at my pod, I stream the Humble Servant’s talk, catching the conclusion. The golden robed monk, a fat old man, sits high on a cushion on a raised stage surrounded by students in silver.
A Q&A is announced. Guides point out hidden amplification spots and MoreCorp employees line up in the aisles to articulate their spiritual concerns. These are a few:
“Is app meditation as valuable as a retreat?”
“How do we relax into greatness when the webs work nonstop?”
“Talk about illumination shortcuts real quick, ways to make enlightenment efficient.”
The Humble Servant smiles wisely and nods, double chins shaking as he listens. He is from X-Viet yet speaks English just fine in advertisements. But here a giant beaming blonde with pink cheeks and grateful green eyes acts as an interpreter. The master whispers while she leans beneath him then shares with the group.
“Humble Servant says tek is a blessing. Some use it for ill but the healthy can blossom, being in the now, and feeling that power. Like, we can use apps to remind us to breathe, like a bell.” A man in shiny dress bangs a big bronze gong to illustrate the point. She continues. “Relaxing into greatness is easy with no fear of change.”
Again, the interpreter leans in for wisdom, relaying, “Of course a retreat is superior, which is why Humble Servant is offering a special for MoreCorp members, you guys, hi-5s, a discounted price!” The audience whoops and cheers, clapping at the deal. When it’s quiet again, the interpreter grins, almost singing, “On retreats unhooking’s unnecessary and enlightenment’s possible for all. You asked for a shortcut! You got it!”
The gong is struck again and the Humble Servant smiles, eyes crinkled as if amused, though it seems like shadows flit over his face. Are those clouds of irritation? Maybe he is still, somewhere inside, the wise guy who advised use words but rarely and wash your bowl. It’s so hard to tell what's real, and who has sold their soul.