Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Wherever I Find It

"There is no problem so big that it cannot be run away from."... 
"You're quoting Snoopy the dog, I believe?" 
"I'll quote the truth wherever I find it thank you."

- Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

“It says in the brochure," said Arthur, pulling it out of his pocket and looking at it again, "that I can have a special prayer, individually tailored to me and my special needs." 
- "Oh, all right," said the old man. "Here's a prayer for you. Got a pencil?"
- "Yes," said Arthur. 
- "It goes like this. Let's see now: "Protect me from knowing what I don't need to know. Protect me from even knowing that there are things to know that I don't know. Protect me from knowing that I decided not to know about the things that I decided not to know about. Amen." That's it. It's what you pray silently inside yourself anyway, so you may as well have it out in the open." 
- "Hmmm," said Arthur. "Well, thank you"
- "There's another prayer that goes with it that's very important," continued the old man, "so you'd better jot this down, too, just in case. You can never be too sure. "Lord, lord, lord. Protect me from the consequences of the above prayer. Amen." And that's it. Most of the trouble people get into in life comes from missing out that last part.”

― Douglas Adams

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Ends of the Earth

I often wonder why it is that we, as a species, spend so much energy thinking about things that only matter when we imagine ourselves to be in some sort of extreme situation, even though we spend most of our time nowhere near the ends of the earth.

On his television program The Day The Universe Changed, James Burke repeated a story. It seems that someone once observed to the philosopher Wittgenstein how stupid medieval Europeans living before the time of Copernicus must have been that they could have looked up at the sky and thought that the sun was going around the earth. Wittgenstein was said to have replied yes, but I wonder what it would have looked like if the sun had been going around the earth? The answer is, of course, that it would have looked identical. It is only because we are told what is "actually going on" that makes us think as we do.

There are some folks who still believe the earth is flat. For the most part, observation would agree with them. I've been in a plane at 30,000 feet and it only seems to be slightly curved, but I suspect I noticed that because I believe we live on a huge globe. It must be discouraging for that group that nobody has ever taken snaps while standing at the ends of the earth, which I think they believe to be along the Antarctic ridge that circles the earth with a circumference of ... oh well, never mind that. And let's not even get started on the great space program hoax that has been foisted on us all. The National Enquirer is missing a trick there for sure.

Darwin's observations on the origin of species caused an uproar because they eventually changed the way most of us think about natural history. I do have to wonder, though, for the average person, why it matters whether species have evolved or species were created in an instant by some supernatural power.

The belief that the earth is a globe doesn't make us do anything differently, apart from airline pilots who plot great circle routes believing it will save fuel. The sun still "rises" and "sets" for everyone apart from those who live in the far north or south, and that circling about phenomenon can be explained - somehow - I guess.

More particularly, I often wonder why I spend so much energy wondering about those sort of things, when, quite obviously, so many of my fellow travellers on this orb seem to be absorbed by more immediate and important things; things such as what some movie star is wearing, or who they are courting, or what team is winning on some "reality" game show, or how a favourite sports team is doing.

At the moment, two young men who are the subject of a manhunt in northern Manitoba desperately need an epiphany to help them live a bit longer. If we believe the news, just for kicks, they murdered three people along highways in British Columbia, then fled in a stolen SUV across the prairies toward the east. I'm not really sure what to do with that information.

I believe all of this stuff (about how planets move because of the curvature of space-time for instance), and yet for all the wonderful-yet-not-very-applicable beliefs I have, none of it does me a bit of good when trying to help my children and the rest of humanity cope with this crazy world.

I do have some spiritual beliefs that protect me, in the very long term, from falling into despair, but they are ends of the earth beliefs, not here-and-now-I-can-help-everyone-get-through-this-trauma beliefs.

Just in case you need to escape from reality (some fuzzy bunny distraction as Coline and I call it) here is a link to a topic that is so unimportant to the daily lives of people on the planet as to be laughable. I will admit to being fascinated by it all. It makes me happy to visualize the planets circling about - the earth rotating once a day with its moon slowly circling. It helps me to think there are things I might actually understand. I definitely cannot fathom a world where those two young people managed to come to this end; hiding from death at the hands of so many soldiers and police, somewhere near the ends of the earth.