I belong to an essay club in Lynchburg, a monthly gathering of people of various professions, ages, and backgrounds. At each meeting one member gives a talk, responds to questions and comments, and facilitates discussion. There are a few unwritten rules — for example, generally the essay is not to be directly related to one’s daily professional activities and the title of the essay is to be in some way obscure, allusive, or punning.
In my third year of membership my turn came up for the first time last month. The title of my essay was “Just What Do You Think You’re Doing, Dave?” — not exactly an obscure quote to any fan of 2001, but the best I could think up.
Here’s the first paragraph: see if you can anticipate how it might end up connecting with HAL.
“My great-grandmother Laura was born in the 1870s in Grundy County, Missouri, where she lived all her days. Electricity was installed in her home at some point well after she reached middle age. During my childhood, in the 50s, Grandma Laura used that electricity without qualm to run a refrigerator. She would serve us sweet tea over ice in the summers and there was always ice cream in the freezer. But electricity was emphatically not used to light Laura Fannin’s house at night. God, Laura explained, intended for decent people to get up with the sun and to go to bed with the sun; she therefore had no truck with electric lights. Even as a preschooler, it struck me as curious that God felt so strongly about lighting yet seemed to care so little about refrigeration – somehow the dark meant we shouldn’t be awake but the heat didn’t mean there shouldn’t be iced tea.”
If you’re interested, the whole text can be found in the “Remarks” section of my web page. (And please, if you read it there, remember that it’s the text I read from and has not been formatted, proofed, or footnoted as it would be for formal publication!)