APB

It’s disconcerting. Being mistaken for somebody else. I suspect I’m not alone in having shown up somewhere I’ve never been before only to have people mistake me for a local. It’s happened to me a couple of times, and what with the recent Steve Wiggins incident in Tennessee, it’s enough to make me question my uniqueness. I’ve also had the unfortunate experience of undergoing identity theft some years back, and floating myself out here on the internet is something the wisdom of which I sometimes question. If I’ve got enough doppelgängers running around out there, perhaps I should be careful of revealing too much online. Such problems my grandparents never had.

A long time ago I turned off the warning alerts on my phone. It’s not that I don’t care, but rather it’s that I keep odd hours. Without revealing too much, I think I can say that I’m awoken somewhat often by those who don’t go to bed so early, or who don’t think about timezone changes before hitting “send.” We here in the American orient awake earlier than others. So I switched off my alerts. Then I started reading that other people were getting “Steve Wiggins alerts.” Was fame passing me by in the night? While this wasn’t the kind of fame I’d hoped to attain, a few stray visitors to this blog couldn’t hurt. When I searched Google for information on “Steve Wiggins” I found myself listed in the Google box on the right as “other.”

Some people who’ve written only two books are listed as “author” on Google. In my case it seems Google can’t figure out why anybody would be searching for me. “Other.” They say Google knows everything. It certainly knows how to flatter the self-seeker, at least most of the time. What does it mean to be an “other?” The unclassifiable? My work, indeed, falls into the “other” column, like that of many people who’ve made plans only to run into the cold reality that fate has laid out for them. Not being a professor any longer is a source of constant confusion to me. Books I read state that x or y knows about a subject because university z or w has hired them. There are those kinds of experts, then there are the “others.” And because of recent events, there are those instantly famous for killing another man and running away. Who am I? I’m not legend; I am other. What exactly that means I still haven’t sorted out.

Who We Were

Once upon a time there was no world-wide-web. The only computers in existence were industrial-sized military and research-based units that kicked off enough BTUs to heat Bar Harbor. Those of us interested in religion found our information by stalking shadowy library stacks and clawing through ancient tomes of arcane information. If someone wanted to find you, they shoved a letter in the postbox and trusted that the U. S. government knew where you were. I never used a computer regularly until I began my Ph.D., and then it was only a glorified typewriter, qwerty on steroids.

Suddenly I found myself in the technological age. Jobs were announced online and the preferred method of communication was email. Cell phones hadn’t hit big yet, but you could search for someone online using search engines that weren’t really engines at all. And then the information could be displayed in color, for those who could afford it! Pictures could be uploaded, but this took about an hour per shot on dial-up. Within a decade everyone trusted internet information like their best friend. Somewhere along the way I searched for my own name, figuring Wiggins to be somewhat unusual. To my surprise, I found another Steve Wiggins, and one involved in religion, no less. To my horror, he turned out to be a Christian rock musician! Now I began to wonder, as my career bumped along the bottom of the academic deep-ocean floor, never finding that fabled full-time teaching career that is said to exist, if I might be the victim of mistaken identity. Have deans and department chairs searched for “Steve Wiggins” and brought up my internet Doppelganger?

Not me! Notice the fancy hair, brown eyes and lack of a serious beard.

Not me! Notice the fancy hair, brown eyes and lack of a serious beard.

Technology has changed even the way we practice religion. It has changed the way we perceive reality. As I sit here blogging away, still seeking that mythic fulfillment of an academic job that will pay the rent, I wonder what the other Steve Wiggins is doing. Has his career suffered from being cross-wired with that of a liberal ex-professor who has an interest in ancient goddesses? Maybe miracles do occur after all!