If you could do one thing today — anything in the world — what would it be?Ah, the classics — this one sits right up there with "What would you do if you were invisible?" That's easier to answer, though, since it's more limited: the specific condition of invisibility versus, uh, total omnipotence. Or does this question grant total omnipotence? It seems to me there are several ways to interpret the set "anything in the world" from which I can choose what to do. While I could break it down into infinitely many differently nuanced versions, I'll go with four today, for brevity's sake:
I have my current skills and resources, but no restrictions. This is the most conservative interpretation, but, in its way, also the most interesting. As Momus once wrote, "The most evocative fantasy is one with only the thinnest membrane between itself and reality; it gets its power from being eminently possible. From being a plan." Unfortunately, I don't know how well-equipped I am to make the most of this scenario. My current resources? Few. My current skills? Practically none. (Besides being a self-facilitating media node, I mean.)
So the question's premise comes down to a grand blow-off of every obligation, deadline and schedule item hovering over me. The obvious substitute for all that junk would be a day-long orgy — wait for the rest of the sentence, now — of making and experiencing interesting things. To prime the pump, I'd watch the most interesting film at hand, which I guess would be Hsiao-hsien Hou's Three Times. I've long wanted to see it but, absent a convincing reason to bump something else from my to-do list in its favor, haven't done so. Plus, I could call it right up on Netflix Instant. Then, a Kobo Abe novel. Probably Secret Rendezvous. Maybe I'd write an essay comparing those two highly uncomparable pieces of culture.
While I'd need to be home for a few hours were I to work on music stuff, it's out in the world for me to do anything else. (By which I mean "out in Santa Barbara," since I can't really go to another city except Carpinteria without violating the "today"-only element of the question.) I imagine that the most efficient strategy to maximize both interesting-thing-making and interesting-thing-experiencing would be to start a project that is the former but which requires the latter. I'd traipse forth with my camera and field recorder, collecting material for a series of experimental psychogeographical semi-documentaries I've been mentally formulating.
Except that Madelaine is out of town today and has my camera with her. DAMNABLE
I have unlimited skills, within the range of human ability. Oh, easy; I'd lay down some tracks. While I likely only have about three-quarters of the gear needed to produce a truly solid sound, I'm sure unlimited musical and technological skill could more or less compensate. And with that unlimited technological skill, I could craft a Myspace Music page that almost isn't hideous. (Okay, that's cheating; to create a non-hideous Myspace profile is to reach beyond mortal ken.) Hell, I could probably crank out an EP and have it on the web by the day's end. As I am, I'd be lucky to have a pre-pre-preliminary version of a song done in 24 hours. And I'd hate it.
I have unlimited (currently extant) resources. So, after I put the finishing touches on my kick-@$$ all-purpose home recording studio and stocked my armory of music and filmmaking gear, you mean? There can be no answer but to travel, as spontaneously and randomness-receptively as possible, in order to fire up my mind's awareness centers that lay dormant way too much of the time.
The question, alas, is where to go, now that the old spin-the-globe-and-put-down a-finger maneuver is cliché and therefore unacceptable. Though I would refuse passage to no country — and with unlimited resources, I'd get to 'em all sooner or later — I do maintain a preferential shortlist. Certainly buying my way onto the next flight to Seoul, for example, would help me get a handle on the language, and fast.
But at this moment, I'd probably take one bound for Reykjavík instead. The sort of music, art, film — culture of all sorts, really — coming out of Iceland these days tells me it's a place I need to check out post haste. Collaboration with some Icelander on something seems like the "right" thing to do. Naturally, while there, I would immediately begin work on an experimental psychogeographical semi-documentary there. And I'd write an essay or ten about it. Think of the material!
Total omnipotence. If underground comic books and avant-garde literature have taught me anything, it's that people who gain omnipotence always use it to do weird sex stuff, at least at first. When they burn out on that, the problems really begin. I have to believe that total omnipotence is like a dream: you can will whatever you want into reality, but none of it matters. Precisely because you're free to instantiate whatever you want, all of it's stripped of meaning.
Remember discovering the god-mode code for your favorite first-person shooter, and how awesome it seemed at first? Now remember how long you continued to play afterward. Running right up to those cacodemons and punching them out with impunity seemed really cool the first dozen times, but thereafter... what was the point? So much of life's interestingness comes, I'll posit, from finding clever ways around rules, conditions and obstacles; when you lift them, nothing feels interesting anymore.
This could be why pounding my skull against musical projects is interesting, or why trying to find a fresh approach to someone who's been interviewed a thousand times before is interesting, or why shooting experimental psychogeographical semi-documentaries with no planned outcome is interesting. It's all about working against limitations. I guess it's why, whenever I punched in the god-mode code, it wouldn't be long before I'd just start exploring to see if I could walk through any walls and find secret rooms. I'd simply look for another boundary to push against — literally, in this case.
If I recall correctly, Adam Cadre implemented a feature in I-0, his debut work of interactive fiction, which allowed the player to win simply by typing "WIN". This victory came in nothing more than a line of text declaring that the player had won, but still, a victory's a victory. The message is clear: what's the result of success without the process of succeeding? By the same token, I have little interest in pushing a button labeled "YOU CAN BECOME THE GREATEST INTERVIEWER WHO HAS EVER LIVED BY PRESSING THIS BUTTON". Where's the challenge? Where's the fun? Unless, of course, I can figure out a way to use my no doubt high platform as the greatest interviewer who has ever lived to pull ridiculous public stunts...
So my answer is that, granted total omnipotence today, I'd spend the day desperately seeking the boundaries of that omnipotence. But that doesn't make much sense, does it? No wonder Dr. Manhattan looks so bored. Maybe he should try shooting some experimental psychogeographical documentaries.