The world says there are too many of us. They are unashamed to say it, and their voices are loud and public.
In our private rooms, we talk about how there are not enough of us. Our ways must endure, but there are not enough children (women like me are not producing any), and the young people (anyone under seventy) are quick to abandon our ways.
Quick to embrace the shallow niceties of the modern globalized world.
When you are one of us, however, the bonds to your people never fade. They grow colder and more rigid, but they don't weaken.
The first time I went online, I contacted strangers on the other side of the world. They did not define me by my age or my heritage, and it was at once exhilirating and horrifying.
The second time I went online, I told everyone I could who I was. It wasn't long before I had set up a password protected archive to store audio files of my people's stories. Then chatrooms so those among us who had to seek employment elsewhere could still feel the warmth of our fold.
Of course, they could log off whenever they wanted.
But now, I realized, that as I dove into the wired world, navigating the tangles of information and connection, my people would be there with me, like a tether on my ankle or a trail of crumbs to help me find my way.
Again, both exhilirating and horrifying.
They grumbled as I kept working, kept getting better and better. As I learned to see the corners and passageways of the digital world the way the elders saw the other, older, unseen world. With respect but also intimacy. With knowledge.
And with purpose. I learned to weave together strings and braids and planes of information, the way the old ones wove the power of their words, the way the young girls, even today, weave their wedding lace.
When they sent me away, to California, it was for a job. The world of information, hurtling swift as light, was just a pretend job; the real work was a matter dealing with the old ways. This was a message to me, I knew: they were telling me my world was on the surface. My world was a toy. Their connections, their woven world, was the truth below.
My passion, in other words, was a bug in their operating system.
But the longer I was away, the more I surprised myself. I felt more connected, more like it was unthinkable to live as 'ordinary' Californians do, so alone, so rootless, so lost. And yet, there were new connections made - and they were for an ulterior purpose, but they were not just for pretend.
And the more I thought about my three worlds - my two locations and the floating digital one - the more I started to think about links.
And about feedback loops and unexpected glitches. Coded messages and system compatibility.
About complex structures that emerge, seemingly of their own volition, when enough parts are interacting.
My people have had sources of power that protected us when we were living in shadows. Power that rests below the surface until the opportune moment reveals itself. This is our way, and always has been.
I wonder, sometimes, if I had been just a little less obedient, if I had kept trying to weave a pattern complex enough to hold both my worlds, if things would have turned out different. If maybe, possibly, instead of being tangled up in all my worlds, I might have turned those links, those tangles, into another source of power for my people. One that would bind us to the outside world just enough for its motion to help us along, to make peace where it could be made, to strengthen us so that a love of the new might not be a threat to the old.
I wonder, if I had told them that my digital world was not a foreign place or an invading army, but a place where you make your own world as you go, if they would have believed me. Or if it would be another silly thought from the girl who kept staring at that computer.