|RANT FROM JANUARY 2006
"The Natural World Is Comforting"
'Tis the season to look for something positive in the midst of a remarkable quantity of phoniness and disappointment, something real in the midst of all this pretense. I think I found it. It is the dependability of the natural world. Nature is consistent. Nature doesn't lie.
I reach for a tool and it isn't there. Where's my hammer? Preposterous hypotheses bubble to the surface. "It moved." "A gremlin moved it." "It wandered off on its own." "I left it right here, but it is not here now."
No, Harry. In the real factual, physical world, your hammer is where you left it, or some real person moved it. The problem is almost certainly your memory, not self-winding hammers or gremlins. When I do find it, it is somehow comforting to see that it is indeed right where I left it.
Rocks and bees and trees and galaxies don't lie. Decades ago a Mennonite acquaintance told me that the devil buried the fossils in the ground "to deceive man." Recently Spencer Lucas, while showing me the racks and racks of fossils in the back rooms of the New Mexico Natural History Museum, exclaimed, waving his arms, "All this is not a hoax!" What he was waving at did display a stubborn, stony reality, and I was comforted, knowing that reality triumphs over mythology.
There's a section of my novella, THIS'LL KILL YA THE LAST WORD ON CENSORSHIP, called "The Finding Out Pages." This is the book, which, if you read it, after being warned, it'll kill ya. The Finding Out Pages include the following "Caution! If you believe that ignorance is bliss and 'tis folly to be wise, reading these pages may be hazardous to your health. Further Caution! If you believe that what you don't know won't hurt you, reading these pages may be hazardous to your health." Then the book lets loose.
"William Blake used the term, 'Nobodaddy,' long before Freud was born, to indicate that the projected father-figure was not really there. Nobodaddy knows all your trouble. Nobodaddy is in charge of things. The will of Nobodaddy shall be done. The whole world is in Nobodaddy's hands. Nobodaddy is Creator and Lord of the Cosmos."
So -- here we are, in a world without all those invisible mythological beings, a world in which strong reality can be comforting, because Reality is real. Also, we have our own untapped powers. And we have a bunch of fellow humans, some of whom are very smart, not all of whom have totally unworthy motives, not all of whom have bowed the knee to Mammon [money, profit], some of whom are pure altruists. Let's find them, and be good to them, and honor them. Let's be like them.
There's no need to waste our loyalty and devotion on imaginary beings, who are undependable to say the least. They aren't there. Let's not let the likes of Pat Robertson deceive us. God hasn't abandoned Dover, Pennsylvania. Dover is doing just fine, and God isn't there or anywhere at all. Persons who claim to represent him, like "Reverend Ridiculous," as someone so tellingly labeled Robertson recently, are phoneys, frauds, liars and hypocrites.
And think of this. Our fellow humans, taken en masse, may be part of that reality which stubbornly resists all the lying. Lincoln said it some while ago "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." We do have an alarming number of those who can be fooled all of the time. Polls say 37% of those polled [if you dare believe it - I must admit that I don't]. These people do vote, however, blatantly in opposition to their own best enlightened self-interest. This is the group which the lying smirking acting president calls his "base."
"All the people some of the time" is an exaggeration. Some of us were never fooled at all. I wasn't. I spotted him as a liar the first time I saw him, and I'm convinced he's been lying ever since. "See his eyes! See that smirk! Hear him falter and stammer and backpedal. Those are signs that he's lying. Don't tell me you don't see it. If he's exhaling, he's lying." The problem is those who could be fooled all the time, or some of the time, seemed to outnumber those of us who weren't fooled.
But now reality is coming home to roost. Nature resists him. He can pooh-pooh science, and even buy some who call themselves "scientists," but he can't alter nature by lying.
So, when predictable things happen, according to careful observation and correct inferences from observed facts, we can be comforted. The natural world is still functioning, according to observable and comprehensible generalizations which we can make. Even when it's a broken levee, which results in a dismaying amount of misery for many, it is still the natural world, being its dependable self. And we can take comfort in the dependability of the physical world.