Think About The Way XVII

Think About The Way XVII

The seventeenth of a never-ending series

By Doctor Gonzo 

3 November 2001

St. Paul — “Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye,” I mumbled automatically.

“What?” somebody asked.

Somewhat jolted out of my cocoon, I said, “Oh, I’ve been listening to Leonard Cohen again.” But I was only somewhat jolted out of my cocoon; for the most part, I still felt as if I was looking at the world at arm’s length, or through binoculars turned backwards.

“Oh, I’ve been listening to Leonard Cohen again,” said as if I was a cocaine junkie who had fallen off the wagon again. The comparison was probably quite apt. No matter what drug, sensation, or experience you inject your body with, it all ends up as a electro-chemical gradient in that ill-understood, alleged seat of consciousness called our brain. It doesn’t surprise me, then, that music can be as potent as any hard drug, although most people who never think of these things fail to see the connection.

Like any good drug, music can even alter existence, leading to dreams of long-lost friends, politics, witchcraft, and even the destruction of tall buildings (though in the time-honored Japanese horror method of large reptile attack, not by human intervention). Or it can cause a stranger to drift by outside of a restaurant, make inane conversation, and then kill himself several days later. The cause-effect connection may not be evident in that case, or it may seem reversed, but we know enough about quantum physics to see that any cause-effect relationship is imagined. As is guilt, which should not be considered in this case.

It is somewhat of a pity that I couldn’t get anything more powerful that music to help me attempt to rotate this world that has gone more and more sideways, but you make do with what you have, and you avoid what will get you imprisoned for life unless you have a rich daddy Senator. So I had to suck “Teachers” through a bong and take a look around. It wasn’t very pretty.

My God, they even stopped writing at! A breath of fresh air on the web, a little oasis of cynicism in a world that was built on a ten million-dollar IPO based on a napkin business model. Gone, like the most wisdom in these troubled times.

It’s not very surprising, especially considering that I am currently hearing a report that Arabs learned to jump out of planes this summer in our country. Those damn Arabs! How dare small business people try to make a living by selling their learning to anybody who doesn’t have a name like Anderson or Carlson! Don’t you know there’s a war going on…

Disjointed, yes. It’s hard to be anything but these days. Logic has flown out the window, and the deductive path from A to B winds its way around Pluto and ends up somewhere in Ireland. A generation of people who have known no other battle than the war at Toys “ß” Us to get the last Tickle-Me-Elmo has suddenly turned on the television to see constant bombing of rocks. A generation that was just getting through the final phases of internalizing racism is suddenly justified in public bigotry. A generation that was somewhat disgusted at a dope-smoking draft dodger is rallying behind a new leader, a coke-sniffing draft dodger.

Where does that leave those of us who have a problem with either being with us or against us? How long will it be until Tom Tomorrow is censored due to the national emergency? In a country where the FBI wants to legitimize torture, why doesn’t anybody care about Carnivore or the fact that we are blindly marching towards 1984? Will my wife ever be able to get residency, or will she and all other immigrants be casualties in the hatred of Other?

Or should we even care? I had a hard enough time before. I haven’t been feeling much like a beginner lately, where there are many possibilities. Nor am I feeling much like an expert. I am in that nasty position of being just far enough to be able to screw things up, but not nearly close enough to being a master at anything. It’s not an unhappiness, it is a closed room. Learning is slowing as the difference between now and theoretical max decreases. The barrier comes up, and I wonder which door leads to advancement.

So while I am hovering three feet above the floor, yet capable of no forward or backward motion, thousands of people die. I got to know death last year, still getting to know it. It hurt, though I knew nobody this time. But all existence is illusory, and there is a reason for everything, so perhaps this would force people to think about the Prometheus they have created. However, there was to be no such luck, and sorrow turned into revenge, a typical but decidedly un-enlightened reaction.

Sometimes, it’s as if humanity acts in ways that mirror my own ability to perceive it. As soon as I realize that people are capable of a new idiocy, it spreads like a wildfire racing over a bone-dry prairie. I don’t know if the phenomenon is a result of my new ability to see it, or if it is a result of my ability to change reality, or if it matters at all (see above paragraph), but it can be a wee bit unsettling. At the same time, my ability to rationalize such behaviour becomes more damaged, and the answers I had just a day before no longer apply to anything. Moral purity is a hard thing to have in this world, and it is even harder when the target is capable of jumping so fast you can’t see it.

But it is darn near impossible when you are moving in opposite directions. As I get used to normalcy for the first time in a good many years, where the streets have curbs and gutters and the trains go more that 20 kilometers an hour, the world outside my window is going to Hell more quickly that even Jerry Falwell could have predicted (for all the wrong reasons, of course). Philosophizing is harder than ever, but probably more necessary in a time when it is well nigh impossible to predict the future. And of course, for me philosophizing is harder as I try to advance in several directions at the same time, with little time for philosophizing a grand map for it all. Which just brings me back to the beginner/expert problem.

Another problem, one that I have had to think about more and more as well. is the problem of exactly what makes a successful organism, in the evolutionary sense. The more I see, the more it becomes obvious that evolution, like democracy, thrives on mediocrity. Anything weird, whether it be good or bad, is a detriment, no matter how ideal it may seem to us. How many kids did Michelangelo have? How did da Vinci help the gene pool? How could Darwin work the fact that we have a history into his theory?

So any notion that we are somehow evolving into some sort of higher being becomes even more ridiculous. Of course, rarely do people worry how their actions or beliefs have an evolutionary impact, but of course there are some of us that do. After all, we have thousands of people studying the past of evolution, but not very many people studying the future. Yes, there were those people who were interested in eugenics, but I wonder about scientifically valid thoughts, not a theory that simply serves as cladding for a racist world view. Has a species ever before turned on itself with such abandon that it could end its own existence?

In a philosophy class on the mind-body problem, it came into discussion one day the evolutionary benefits of consciousness. I don't think we paid very much attention to that; I know that I did, instead preferring to argue over the finer points of quantum mechanics with those who get hives at the sight of a physics book, but it is an important question. When the bombs are falling and people are falling ill for no reason and there are more than a few nuclear warheads unaccounted for, consciousness doesn't seem like such a great idea. And another piece of the jigsaw puzzle falls out instead of in.

Playing with jigsaw puzzles seems rather stupid these days. What is a luxury and what is not? Where are there many possibilities and where are there few? Does any of this make sense? I doubt it. But that has never stopped me, or any other questioner before.


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