Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll wrote about his leading character, Alice, finding herself essentially in an alternate reality when she fell into and through a mirror. Those who are much smarter than I am described Carroll’s entire book as a statement on the politics of his day. Dumb as I may be, I tend to agree. Recently, I remembered the entire “falling through the looking glass” scenario as I watched first a bit of a TV program (Fargo – love it!), then bunches of commercials, then a bit of the program, then bunches of commercials – you get the idea, right?

But that’s not the “looking glass” part, though getting to the meat of a program is like cutting through the fat and gristle on a very overdone and extremely cheap steak. No, I became fascinated with how a couple of items are marketed.

First, let’s take cell phones, for instance: I’ve always understood cell phones to be primarily for the purpose of voice communication, haven’t you? Then, text messaging cropped up, followed by emails. But that’s not at all how today’s generation of cell phones are marketed; in fact, voice, text, and email communication is rarely mentioned. Now the ads are all about camera and video capability, remote access to cars, houses, and security systems. I do get a kick out of watching adolescent 20-year-olds jump moguls, but come on, people. These are PHONES, aren’t they? Well, maybe not any more. Now they’re video cams that incidentally include phones.

Automobiles are another product that is very strangely advertised on TV. (Trucks, too, folks.)  The purpose of cars is for transportation, isn’t it? To get us from here to there and maybe back again? Once more, I must say that I really love the erotic element of many car commercials – who doesn’t like a little bit of romantic whimsy, but even that is fleeting. The primary focus of the ads no longer seems to involve transportation, but rather the Bose sound system, the Cue infotainment center, Pandora and Sirius, etcetera, etc.  All these extraneous extras that will make us more powerful and attractive to others, and more relaxed and comfortable in our moving shell. Sorta makes me scared that drivers will be so relaxed they’ll snooze right off.

So when phones aren’t talked about as phones but as cameras, and cars aren’t talked about as cars but as nearly something else entirely, does that mean I have already fallen through the looking glass, but didn’t even know it?

Help! How do I get away from this nonsensical place and back to the land of reason? Or is it too late………

 

Prognostications and Pigeonholes

What IS it about the United States? It seems as though everyone and his Uncle Tim tries mightily to cram each and every one of us into some kind of category, as though they themselves will not feel comfortable until their little (or big) pigeonholes have ingested another being. Put in conversational terms, it could go like this:

    “That’s right, darlin’, ease in right over there next to that big fella, why don’t ya? I think y’all believe most of what I believe. No, no, I’m sending that guy to another pigeonhole. I can tell he don’t have no idea about what is true or what is real, anyway. I have a SPECIAL place for him and others like him. You know what I mean?”

     “No, I DON’T know what you mean. My personal opinion is that most of what you believe is ca ca poule. Besides, the bottoms of your pigeonholes are slimy with crud-o-la. And I LIKE that other dude. Not only does his intellect challenge mine, his ideas are helping me refine my personal philosophy.”

     “If you refuse to be pigeonholed, then there must be something dangerous and very wrong with you. You have to accept the inevitable or there will be predictable consequences.”

     “And what might those predictable consequences be?”

     “You will be ostracized, criticized, mortified, horrified – called loony, called different, called alien, called an awful person.”

     “Wow!  I’d probably like that.  That would make me pretty special. I wouldn’t have to believe, nor would I have to disbelieve. The atoms and molecules that house my consciousness can do their own thing, and…… Best of all, I could stay out of the slime.

The Cosmos TV show on Fox

The reiteration of Carl Sagan’s original series on the Cosmos has me hooked.  I wait eagerly from one week to the next until the next program airs.  The graphics are stunning, and Neil Tyson, the astrophysicist, is great in his job as the apologist (if you can call him that in this context).

Why am I enjoying this so? For one thing, it is a refresher course of scientific history that hearkens to man’s earliest curiosity about the world(s) we inhabit. The program telescopes the centuries of discovery in a way that allows us to marvel about how a few men’s ideas lead other men to hypothesize about greater ideas and grander theorems.

Much of the program is understandable by nearly everyone, but there are tiny bits that provoke thought in even those who have already scratched the surface of astrophysics.

As I watch and listen, I think of the creationists I know, one of whom insists that Earth and the living organisms on it is no more than 6,000 years old. I doubt any of them bother to watch Cosmos, but if they did, the suppositions would probably horrify them as terrible blasphemy.

What I finally take away with awe from each consecutive airing of the Cosmos is that, regardless of one’s position in regard to the universe and humanity’s position in it, the program reaffirms each person’s beliefs. Yet another paradox for believers and nonbelievers…

Musing

When my youngest brother was a small child, he would take the smallest circumstance and extrapolate it into a huge calamity.

“What if (this tiny cut on my finger) were wrapped in a great big bandage”, he’d say, for instance, “and a big flood came down the river, and the levee sprang a leak, and the only way we could live is if I could use both hands fast enough to pack the leak with dirt.”

“And I couldn’t do it because my finger is bandaged, and we would all drown”, and he would sob uncontrollably. 

My other siblings and I would stare at him in awe, amazed that he was creative enough to imagine a future full of catastrophe.

Flash forward another generation, and another family member has developed similar scenarios, but now, not only on a grander scale, but also in the greater company of like-minded individuals who will tolerate only their own mindset.  For now, the end of existence of nonbelievers is just around the corner and only they, and others who come to their same understanding, will experience everlasting life.  

They will brook no debate on the issue, but instead drown out any objections or other points of view by referring to their own interpretations of written sources or internet truths.  

This is uncomfortable for me to be around. First, I flat don’t like to be wrong, and I find it impossible to buy into the thought that I MUST believe a certain way, or be lost to eternal nothingness. Second, I don’t like controversy (Mom said, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”), so I prefer not to try to discuss the matter. Third, what if I AM wrong? What can I do to adjust my thinking? There seems no way at all to hitch my wagon to the right star, here, because I will obviously be caught out as a hypocrite. When that truth comes out, will my fate be even worse?

The more I muse about these things, the more I am reminded of my little brother and his ability to catastrophize the smallest incident. That memory snaps me back to the rhythm of my daily life, where I appreciate the miracles around me and where I anticipate with joy the moments next to come…whatever they may be.