Dead Man Walking
Tuesday, August 5, 1997 by Dave Winer.
Coming home from a party in Tiburon Sunday night, 101 south towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Turn the bend into the rainbow tunnel, the last bend before heading downhill into San Francisco Bay. Traffic is stopped. Hit the brakes!
The engines and headlights turn off, people get out of their cars, mill around. What's going on? Like a scene from a disaster movie. Couldn't have picked a better spot. You can see the tail lights and the head lights on the bridge. Traffic isn't moving, in either direction.
News comes over the radio -- an injury accident in the northbound lane. Eventually the southbound direction will come on line. No predictions for the northbound direction. Wow! It really is a disaster.
Fifteen minutes later we rush back to our cars, turn the engines and the headlights back on. As we come out of the tunnel, the northbound lanes are totally empty. We keep creeping. Then a tow truck comes thru, dragging a moderately wrecked car behind it followed by more silence on the northbound side.
Then something wonderful happens (the purpose of this tale). A lone car comes thru, racing at what seems to be eighty miles per hour. He (or she) has the whole freeway to him or herself! What a trip... If only life were so easy. I would have loved to be that driver. No traffic, no need to look back or to the left or right. The highway is mine.
What a nice feeling that must be!
Last night I was flipping the TV tuner and caught the beginning of Dead Man Walking (1995) starring Susan Sarandon as a nun and Sean Penn as the dead man. I stayed thru the end, was deeply touched by the movie and its message.
Matthew Poncelet, played by Penn, is a convicted rapist/murderer, sentenced to die. Rigidly, he blames everyone but himself for his upcoming death. But in his final minutes he finds his truth and dignity, owns the crime he committed, and dies with a healing message.
To the parents of the teenagers he killed, he asks forgiveness, and offers the hope this his death will bring them peace. He finds his love, a man who never showed weakness or vulnerability, who never relaxed in life, finds his heart as he dies.
I got a lot from crawling into the perspective of a condemned man. But I was very glad, after experiencing his execution, that I could still walk and talk! It was a trance, just a movie. I could experience it, and then go on living.
After watching the movie I checked my email, did a late night tour of news sites. On the PC WEEK website I found this piece by Rob O'Regan:
He comes to bury the Mac. It has no future. Don't lock your kids in. A dying platform. Apple is bleeding.
Granted, it is labeled as opinion, and if this is truly O'Regan's opinion, who can argue? We all have our own filters, the shades that influence what we see.
The deathwatch theme is repeated on many news oriented websites, and I wonder if the writers have taken a look at how strange life is, and I wonder if maybe they'll miss the dignity of the Mac community, perhaps in its death throes, but also possibly just transforming into a different form.
The future is not ours to see. We can talk about it, but very often we have the wrong idea, things turn out differently. Around every corner there's a surprise. We hope for a pardon, and if one doesn't come, we can hope for dignity and respect. There's a lot to hope for, a lot to learn, even from death. Especially from death.
O'Regan's piece is the flip side of the flame mail we get from Mac zealots when we approach the Apple situation from the other side. It's as if Mr. O'Regan is an executioner, which is a trance -- he's just a columnist. It's as if the flamers are Mr. Poncelet, firmly convinced that they're victimized, and not getting that there are a variety of perspectives, all equally valid.
The bigger picture -- freedom and diversity are essential. If you only hear one point of view, if you're never been stirred into seeing the world from other perspectives, you miss the point of living, I think. That goes for columnists and zealots, equally.
To O'Regan, if he aspires to be an emotive writer, look for more subtle themes. Life isn't that simple. A lot of people use Macs, so what? Presumably he doesn't use a Mac. Is that the story? Has he ever been a Mac user? Does he feel a sense of loss in the death he predicts? Why did he write that piece? I don't know. He says the Mac is not a religion. Right on. So why is his writing, about the Mac, filled with such religion-evoking themes?
To others, especially editors at pubs that cover the Mac -- can we avoid words like deathwatch? Certainly some people are watching for death. But if you're looking for life, check out the sales of Mac OS 8, check out the new chip designs from Motorola and IBM, the new performance coming from the CHRP designs, the cross-CPU release of the Be OS, new boxes and new prices from Power Computing, Motorola, UMAX and Apple. New authoring software.
Lot's of life here. Depends how you look at it.
The message of dignity may not come from the corporate entity known as Apple Computer. Keep your eyes and ears open.
Yesterday two passionate healing essays were posted by people who played important roles in the development of the Mac, Jorg Brown, a lead developer at Connectix, and Danny Goodman, a widely respected writer. Check them out.
Finally, check out a piece I wrote last fall called Que Sera Sera, 10/24/96.
Let's stay in this moment. The future's not ours to see. How much happier we would be if instead of crippling each other with fear, we competed to empower each others' creativity.
PS: Dignity means worthy of esteem or honor.
PPS: Sarandon won the 1995 Oscar for best actress for her role in Dead Man Walking. Penn was nominated for best actor.