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A Flickr buddy, a talented Bulgarian expatriate named Boris who lives in Toronto, recently started a Flickr group on the Golem, the subject of a Jewish legend with roots in the Bible. Whereas the most recent iterations of the Golem include Frankenstein, the Incredible Hulk, and Gollum of Tolkien's Ring saga, the definitive Golem was the Golem of Prague, said to be in permanent storage in the locked attic of an old synagogue. The general theme is that of a robot-like android animated by a misguided genius who preempts the godlike power of bestowing life on the lifeless. The android, of course, gets out of control, wreaks havoc, and has to be disabled or destroyed. Naturally, the Internet is now seen as a kind of Golem:
Norbert Wiener, the 20th Century cybernetics seer warned us in his book God and Golem, and the science fiction writer Wiliam Gibson, coiner of the word cyberspace, reportedly did the same in Neuromancer. But back to Prague. Franz Kafka, the Czech Jewish novelist was said to have walked daily past the very synagogue where the Golem's, lifeless, er, hulk was housed. The big player in the legend, however, as a brilliant rabbi named Loew (some say Loeb) who actually existed. In the legend, the rabbi, feeling very threatened by the militant anti-semites of the era (we still got 'em), made the Golem out of clay, and inserted into its mouth a password, as it were, which was the unknown and unpronounceable name of HaShem (the Name), aka (among Orthodox Jews) as G-d, which must never, ever, be taken in vain. The rest is history. And, for that matter, the future.
You have been warned. Are you ready to shut down all your computers and never go online again? Yeah, right.
An interesting etymological note: the Biblical (Psalms 139:15) word Golem is related to the Hebrew root galam, meaning " to roll or wrap up together" (poorly developed, as it were), like an embryo in a very early stage. The Latin word vulva (no, it's not a Swedish car), similarly means enveloped or wrapped, as in the words involved, convoluted, volute, and revolve. Golems may come, and Golems may go, but, as the French painter Courbet observed, the origin of the world is more interesting than any hulk, no matter how incredible.| Technorati tags: Gods Mythology Cyberspace Golem
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