Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Good Deeds Or?

And now, as they say, for something completely different - a bit of fiction. 

I'm not feeble (yet) but I am getting on, so generally I take my time when walking along a sidewalk. If I have to cross a street, I usually go out of my way to use a traffic light crossing, but not always. 

On this particular day, I wanted to get across at a spot where the nearest traffic light was a bit too far, so I was standing on the sidewalk, clearly waiting to cross when there was a break in the traffic. A small crowd of folks were coming along and when they reached me, a pre-teen in the group asked if she could help me get across the road. Figuring she needed to get her badge or some such thing, I said "sure, that would be lovely". She took my elbow and we started across. I did notice another other person who was also crossing at the same time, but didn't think anything of it until afterward.

The young lady was chatting to me about the day and the weather. Finally we got to the other side and as I was about to say goodbye and carry on in my errand, the adult who had crossed with us, yelled "Cut!" 

No, none of that happened. Yet something similar might have happened to some other older woman, given the recent flood of Good Samaritan videos that are appearing on social media. 

In the latest online example, a chap carrying a backpack and pushing a baby in a stroller is shown trying to get everything up to the top of the stairs in a subway exit. As he is almost t0 the top carrying the backpack and the baby, another chap rushes up the stairs grabs the backpack out of the man's arms and keeps going. "Oh no!" you might think, that guy just stole the backpack, but no, he drops the pack at the top then rushes down to the bottom where he picks up the stroller and carries it up to the street level to re-unite the stroller, parent, baby, and backpack in an "oh-isn't-that-wonderful" moment.

Have we in media-land just witnessed a random act of kindness? Well, yes and no. Clearly the video was not from a security camera. Someone was holding that camera. Well, actually, two someones were holding the cameras. Either that or everyone went back downstairs and they shot the whole thing again from the top of the stairs so that it could all be spliced together into a well-composed vid. What we have really witnessed was a staged good deed. 

In my generous moments, I figure these videos might simply be an attempt to convince us that helping others in need is a good thing. I am not sure, but even though I have a suspicious nature there doesn't seem to be any subversion going on here. It might be, as K suggests, that these things actually happened and these videos are just dramatizing the event to put something good on the internet. There is always lots of bad news. 

In those suspicious moments, I ask "where is the money coming from to produce these very professional looking vignettes?"

For now, I shall file it all under the heading "things that make me say hmm... "

Sunday, February 4, 2024

How Many Monkeys?

Almost eleven years ago, in another blog, I introduced several fictional characters to the world. What often amazes me is how characters who we imagine are our creation sometimes turn out to be at least as real as we are. In some senses, they choose us. In the case of one, Aadi, her choice to reveal herself might have saved my life.  

In that post, calling my curiosity an endearing quality (s)he confirmed an idea that I had somehow discovered by intuition - the idea that the world that our consciousness resides in is but one of a seemingly infinite collection. She told me that I should "Stop by and visit again" if I got stuck. I did visit her again, but never with knowledge that physicists are now widely accepting a theory of reality known as the "Many-Worlds Theory of Quantum Mechanics"*. 

The idea proposed, in a paper entitled "The Theory of the Universal Wave Function" by doctoral candidate Hugh Everett in 1957 was an elegant solution to many problems that had bothered the minds of physicists, such as Albert Einstein, among others. Yet, at the time of its publishing, most rejected Everett's thesis.

I recall seeing somewhere the idea that if you had enough monkeys playing with typewriters (yes, it was that long ago) one of them would eventually type out the complete works of Shakespeare. Clearly this sort of mind game requires a very large number of monkeys yet this seems to be the answer to a great number of puzzles in the world. 

For example, we could ask how it could be that an animal could be created that had the ability to fly silently at night, to detect food on the ground below, and to catch it. For a very long time, we reasoned that a god was responsible. There might indeed be a god or goddess at work as well, but a great number of us now believe that a fellow named Charles Darwin got it right with his natural selection theory. Given enough time, creatures 'evolve', because genetic mutations that give them some small or large advantage (like flight or night vision) will tend to breed and pass these advantages along. Given enough time, and small mutations, you end up with an owl. 

Another example is 'the miracle' that is planet Earth. How could we be so lucky as to be placed upon a planet that has all of the advantages of Earth? The simple answer is that if we hadn't been evolving on this planet, but instead on Mars say, we would never have survived. We only exist because we are here. No supernatural force is needed in this explanation. We know very well now that there are billions of other planets circling billions of stars in billions of galaxies (thank you, Carl Sagan). We might be the only 'lucky' ones. But is it really lucky or supernatural that we are here and being here means having life?

I recall a particularly religious family member saying to us "everything happens for a reason". Over the decades since, many of the seemingly religion-associated ideas have managed to turn themselves into ideas that make sense in very different ways from what those family members could have thought. For example, the admonition "Thou Shalt Not Kill" was converted in my mind to "Thou Cannot Kill", a promise that while we have a body that decays (even while we are in it) we are not our body. An essential part of us won't die when that body is no longer able to support us. 

In the case of everything happens for a reason, the fact (strange as it seems) is that everything does happen but we are only conscious of one particular version of the universe. We are blissfully unaware of the others where we are either very different from who we think we are or where we don't exist at all. 

*If you are an avid reader here, you might remember another post on the "Many Worlds Theory". Get entangled here