Saturday, July 9, 2016

How I Blew My Mind

I have an acquaintance, a very nice woman with a decent job in a field that requires a certain minimum of documented education, as well as the accumulation of continuing education credits in order to keep her occupational license. Her job is very stressful/very important and she firmly believes the Earth is flat.

She believes that this information is withheld from us by the same folks that stand behind the curtain manipulating us all for their own nefarious purposes. I tend to disagree. However, I think no less of her for what she believes.

There's no religion, that I'm aware of, organized or otherwise, that has a lock on the truth. Then again, I question the certitude of my atheist acquaintances, but I don't peer down my nose at either group. I do confess to a certain ironic satisfaction in noting how dogmatic atheists can be as well as the willingness of my religious friends to ignore or rationalize a given tenet of their particular creed.

Me? I'm agnostic because I firmly believe an open mind is the only way to roll. If God, or more likely, one of its messengers (I've got to assume I'm not on its to-do list) should suddenly appear to me as I sit here cranking out my feeble scribbles, I'd want to make the most of such an honor. Rather than freak out and assume I'd lost my mind, I would hope to remain clearheaded enough to start asking questions. I'd try to evaluate the answers with an open mind, even if they contradicted my basic beliefs. I mean, what if the Earth is flat wouldn't you want to know?

"Wow, she's right? It is flat? Listen, if you can spare a few minutes, could I trouble you for the who/what/when/where/why of that fascinating bit of news?  Also, I've always wondered..."

[It? You refer to God as it ?!? asks Dana. Marie-Louise is making the sign of the cross over and over again and praying softly in French.]

I'm just trying to make a point, because God, by definition, is undefinable. To call whomever/whatever it is he, she, or even for that matter, it, serves to prove that words are only convenient symbols for reality, not reality itself. Pick your pronoun, it ain't God, it's a language convention. It's like saying, it's raining. Just who or what is it that's raining?

When I look up on a clear night I'm often reminded of lying on my back in my yard as a child and trying to wrap my brain around the concept of infinity. I don't remember which of my grade school teachers first presented the concept, or even in what context, but it "blew my mind" and it remains blown to this day.

[Which explains a lot! exclaims Dana, unsympathetically. Marie-Louise is giggling but scratching my back, sympathetically.]

Blushing slightly, I continue.

Unless you reject the current (more or less consistent) scientific consensus, the one that has helped to give us the modern world (including the computer I'm composing this on) as does the friend of mine mentioned above (which is fine, as long as she doesn't form a cult and declare jihad on me) -- consider the following.

For all intents and purposes, from our perspective, the universe goes on forever. Even if we could somehow travel at the speed of light we could never reach the end of it because it's unimaginably large, expanding, and picking up speed as it does so. Also, bleeding edge science suggests there may be an infinity of universes. And in case you missed the news, the known universe consists mostly of dark matter and dark energy, and we don't know what they are.

Let's reverse perspectives and contemplate the fact that if we could perceive reality at the atomic and subatomic level, all we would find are infinitesimally small bits of matter with vast amounts of space between them.

If there's an unimaginable being of some sort that created all this out of nothing, pronouns such as he, she, or it seem not only inadequate but almost offensive, even disrespectful. But if your belief system provides a way for you to deal with this, good on ya. If you promise not to declare jihad on me, I'll return the favor.

If you're a hard-nosed atheist that believes believers are bonkers and agnostics are psychotics, I sorta/kinda envy your certitude. I'll refrain from pointing out that the believers that you mock are often as certain as you are, which would seem to indicate you have a lot in common, because that would be rude.

If you're a hard-nosed _______ that tends to peer down your nose at any and all notions offered up by any of the other kids on the playground that aren't or can't be proven by the application of the scientific method (with the possible exception of the unscientific ones that I have no doubt you embrace), be careful.

Everyone knows that something can't be in two places at once, except that it can. Quantum mechanics (the branch of science that makes your cell phone possible) has posited this for decades. In 2012 the Nobel prize for physics was awarded to Serge Haroche and David J. Winland for finding a way to prove that atoms and electrons can indeed be in two places at once.

Personally, I know for a fact that Beethoven and Duke Ellington, neither a saint, found a way to reproduce the voice of God in a dumb-downed way, so that even we mere humans could hear it.

"I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here. I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is a far as I can tell." -Richard Feynman (Nobel prize in Physics, 1965)

"Look up from your life!" -James Taylor

Have an OK day

.©Mark Mehlmauer 2016

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