Thursday, May 17, 2012

As my eyes open to a new world emerging, unfolding...

In the year 400 BC, Plato realized that were you to drag someone out of a cave who had lived there all their life, facing a wall the whole time and seeing only shadows cast by a flame behind them, this person would probably not recognize real objects. Instead, they would likely believe that the shadows, which were all they had ever seen until then, were real and the objects illusory. And if you were to tell this cave prisoner otherwise, they would not think to remark "You're very wise. I'm going to listen to you," but rather "What a fool you are. You have no grasp on reality. Stop embarrassing yourself."

Immolation by Scott Kirschner

In the year 415 AD, Hypatia realized philosophy, mathematics and science were better ways of understanding the universe and man's place within it than faithful adherence to works of genocidal fiction. Alas, the angry mob that brutally murdered her did not think to remark "You're very wise, we're going to listen to you," but rather "What a fool you are. Now we, your intellectual and moral superiors, will show our devotion to the teachings of Christ by tearing you to pieces. Ho ho!"
Hypatia by Charles William Mitchell

In the year 1610 AD, Galileo realized the earth was not the motionless center of the universe. As it happened, his ideas did not make him a particularly popular chap. And like Hypatia before him, his peers did not think to remark "You're very wise, we're going to listen to you," but rather "What a fool you are. This is heresy!" Thankfully, unlike the wretched Hypatia, Galileo avoided a ghastly demise at the hands of a bloodthirsty mob and "only" spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

In the year 2012 AD, if you tell a creationist—that is, 25% of Americans—we're all from the same Lucy despite differences you see, they will not respond "You're very wise, I'm going to listen to you," but rather "What a fool you are. Everyone knows Yahweh/Xenu/other created humans/thetans/other!"

It seems to me that now more than ever, people don't really choose shadows or physical objects exclusively. Instead they sort of switch back and forth between believing the objects are real and the shadows are all there is as it suits their needs at any given moment. Technology is now serving up naive realism in 31 flavors:

"We're all going to die? I'll find the Heaven shadow. But now I'm bored. Hey, fuck shadows, what's on MTV? Hmm, wasting my life watching other people's wasted lives on The Real World is forcing a confrontation with existential angst. Not sure if want. I guess I'll find the God shadow now. No, that's not doing the trick, maybe try heroin? Let me text my dealer. Wait, maybe iPhone has a heroin app."

I tend to assume rather cynically we will destroy ourselves and 99% of all other species within the next 100 years or so. I'm just hoping we're at least collectively standing outside the cave by the time the whole popsicle stand goes kabloom. That is, as opposed to just staying in the cave and installing satellite television. And if we make it that far, who knows, maybe we'll decide against leaving the earth to cockroaches after all.

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