[FoRK] Re: "Thanks for the Facts. Now Sell Them."

Dave Long <dave.long at bluewin.ch> on Tue Apr 17 19:09:09 PDT 2007

>  2.  **Choice of interpretation MATTERS.**
>  Jeff Bone, people should "get a grip."  Well told, and I agree.
>  But what are they going to get a grip ON?
>  A cold, hollow, soulless world?  I see clearly why most
>  people are refusing.
This seems to be the same error that the new Pope makes.  He preaches that  
the only alternative to faith is a cold, hollow, soulless world that leads  
straight to battening down the hatches on the siege bunker.  I would've  
thought (especially after the last guy, who didn't seem all  
vale-of-tears-y) that with all those cardinals they would have been able  
to find someone a little more -- what's that word again? -- *beatific* for  
the job.  One might think that he, of all people, would know that it's  
easy enough (especially with a little hope and a little charity) to find  
joy in this world -- just because the universe is big, and mostly empty,  
and entirely indifferent, it doesn't follow that personal joy is rare[0].

 From the outside, maybe our space-time world-lines, our little bits of an  
indifferent universe will be insignificant -- but as Kimbro points out, we  
don't live life from the outside, we live it from the inside, where our  
world-lines are all tangled up in each other, and our parochial point of  
view magnifies these very local spheres of control and concern  
tremendously[1].  Are people really looking to submerge themselves in a  
"big story" with all the "answers"[2]?  Or should we merely strive to  
treat each other with a little more cishumanity[3]?


:: :: ::

>  1.  **Interpretation is unavoidable.**
>  But the point is-  interpretation is unavoidable, even if you're an
>  atheist.  You may personify the universe as an indifferent, glassy
>  eyed person staring vacantly into the distance, or even as wicked,
>  cruel, and sinful, but personify you must.

Why must we personify?  Every year here, several tourists (mostly those  
without guides, a few with) die from accidents incurred while freeriding,  
off-piste skiing, and just general mountaineering.  If you succumb to  
personification, you might say that the mountain is "out to get" people.   
If you don't succumb, it's clear that the mountain is cold, parts of it  
(if not exactly hollow) are not as solid as the unfortunate departed  
thought they were, and it is quite literally soulless -- it is not some  
animate spirit that cares whether someone lives or dies, and it follows  
that one is much more likely to have a more enjoyable than dramatic alpine  
adventure by treating the mountain as a mountain, and not as some  
personification that can be propitiated or bribed or wheedled or cajoled  
in the ways that one might treat a human functionary.

:: :: ::

[0] I'm not sure why absence gets such a bad rap; one approaches elegance  
by leaving things out, not cramming things in.  For those who prefer  
practical arguments to aesthetic ones, we can always look to Lao-Tzu:
> Thirty spokes unite in one hub
> Where there is nothing, we can turn the wheel
> We fire clay to make pottery
> Where there's no substance, we can fill the jugWe chisel out doors and  
> windows
> Where there's empty space, we can use the room
> Therefore, having something may be helpfulBut having nothing is useful

[1] MKG:
> Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you  
> do it.

[2] Vonnegut:
> Tiger got to hunt; eagle got to fly
> Man got to sit and wonder 'why, why, why?'
> Tiger got to sleep; eagle got to land
> Man got to tell himself he understand
having answers is nice, but it isn't half as interesting as figuring out  
how to ask questions.[0]

[3] Ladies, gentlemen, the text for today is from "Bill and Ted's  
Excellent Adventure":
> Be excellent to each other.Party on, dudes.

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