The Cult of Vi
A few years ago, my father was down on his luck. He lost his job and did not have the skills to get a new one. After a long and serious chat, I ended up suggesting a number of programming books to get him started in software engineering, or at least information technology.
This was, by far, the biggest mistake of my life.
As it turned out, my father was a prodigious programmer. He soon learned to type much faster than he could speak and quickly became a junior developer at a small business in town. He could refactor old code to make it absolutely beautiful, functional, and efficient, and before long, he was promoted to senior software developer of another company and then chief technical officer of the entire corporation.
I was certainly proud of him and his accomplishments, but I started to feel he was more distant than before. The long, philosophical discussions we used to have became short texts. The dinners became snacks. The weekly chess matches stopped entirely.
Something was up, but I couldn't tell what.
One day, I drove to his house as he was getting off work and waited for his car to enter the driveway. As he approached, I stepped out and waved at him. When he opened the door, I said "Hey dad... Can we talk for a minute?"
"Sure, son. What'sup?" There was no tremor in his voice, but he was clearly not happy. Rather than looking at me, his gaze was set on the lawn.
Nevertheless, I continued, "I just feel like you have been rather distant lately. Is everything alright?"
"Yeah, everything's fine." He still didn't look up. "I owe everything I have now to you.... Well, you and Vi, of course."
"Vi? Who is that?"
"Ah, just the text editor I use. Nothing to worry about, son." He drew a deep breath before repeating, "Nothing to worry about."
"Ok." I said, while leaning onto my car, "But the way you said that makes me feel like it is most certainly something I should worry about."
"Don't. You are my first-born son. I wouldn't let anything happen to you."
"Ok, cool." I shook off the comment. Why was he emphasizing that I was his first-born? "Do you mind if I come in?"
"No no. Please stay where you are." He sent a panicked glance to the front door. "I have some friends coming over tonight and need to clean up. Maybe tomorrow we can play a game of chess together like we used to?"
"I'd like that. Maybe afterwards you can tell me about Vi or whatever." I tried to laugh to lighten the mood, but my father just returned to staring at the grass in silence.
Eventually, he said, "I would like that, son. If only..." He took a deep breath and began walking towards his house. "Well. I'll see you around."
"Yeah... I'll see you around." I opened my car door and sat there for a minute with my key in the ignition. Was he ok? Why didn't he look into my eyes? What was going on?
I felt I was being irrational at the time. It was probably just the stress of his new job, but I felt there was something more going on, so that night, I googled Vi and found it had a rather surprising history. Apparently, after the reformation of the Church of Emacs, some developers created a separate religion altogether: the Cult of Vi. Though it started as a joke between two text editors, it became something more -- a network for those with common beliefs. A way to get ahead in the industry and ensure prestigious positions. Apparently, it grew from there as well, with members meeting regularly to share their devotion to the text editor. That was all I could find online, but I somehow had the feeling my father was swept up in the movement.
That evening, I drove to his neighborhood and parked a few houses down before quietly creeping up to his window and looking inside through a window. The living room furniture had been removed entirely and there was a ring of people wearing green robes, holding candles, and chanting:
%s/old/new/g %s/me/us/g %s/serve/rule/g
I could only imagine these were the arcane commands of the text editor. I truly did not understand how anyone could use it effectively with that syntax, but that was beside the point. The whole thing was was somewhat ridiculous as they had to pronounce "%" as "percent" and "/" as "slash", but this continued for a few minutes until one member took a step towards the center of the circle. The leader then called my father and said:
After a brief moment of silence, one of the hooded figures, presumably my father, responded:
The central figure nodded before stepping out of the circle. They then said:
and the circle responded
I honestly had trouble understanding everything fully, but I caught the gist. My father became the chief technical officer because of his incorporation with the help of this cult, and as such the cult required the sacrifice of his first-born. Me.
Another member of the circle then said:
to which the circle again responded:
Wait, was that how you quit the text editor? That must be the least intuitive key binding imaginable!
As the circle began moving towards the door, and I stumbled a bit from my window view before running to my car. I didn't know what to do, but I knew I had to get out of there, and fast.
From that point further, no matter how many times my father invited me to his house, I never went. He was no longer the father I loved so much. The cult had warped him into someone else entirely -- someone who was willing to throw away his common sense to embrace the facade of efficiency.
It just goes to show that there are crazy people in every profession. If you happen to know a developer who talks to you about text editing, please encourage them to take a more righteous path.
-- Paid for by the Church of Emacs.