2017年6月13日 星期二

1. a. The World

Days/Hours Until My Flight: About 5 days and 12 hours.



The world is very big.  The world is also very small.  People like to say that the world is getting smaller, but very few say the opposite.  I think that the world is only larger or smaller depending on how much hope you have for it, and whether you choose to define "big" and "small" in positive or negative terms.

When I say that the world is big, perhaps I mean that the world is full of many possibilities, many kinds of people, and many places I have yet to explore.  Or perhaps I mean that the world is too complicated, that I'm drowning in a sea of anonymity, or that I feel very small, and very unimportant.

When I say the world is small, perhaps I mean that the future is more set than was previously the case.  Perhaps I mean that people are becoming more similar.  Perhaps I mean that I've already been everywhere important, and that the parts of the globe I haven't explored aren't worth visiting.  Or maybe I mean that the world is growing safer, and more interconnected.  Maybe I mean that people everywhere share the same dreams, and the same hopes.  Maybe I mean that travel is easier now, and no place is so far away.

With regard to the future of the world, we could hold one of three points of view, and these points of view will determine our attitude towards most of human history.  These points of view are: 1) The future is going to be worse than the present, 2) The future will be largely similar to the present, and 3) The future will be better than the present.

In the first instance, the specters of global warming and global politics naturally come into play.  This is where we start commiserating over Trump, climate accords, and global economic downturns.  This is also where we throw our hands up and say, "What can be done?"  Perhaps, in our ambition, we decide that something can be done, and that WE are the deciding factor.  Or perhaps we choose pessimism, and decide to adopt a fatalistic attitude toward the coming end of the world.

In the second instance, we must either grow philosophical or adopt a cyclical view of nature.  Regarding the whole of human history as a process of ebb and flow, we can grow either despondent or hopeful from the fact that tomorrow will either be better or worse, and that after that the wheel will turn yet again.  We might even try to move beyond categories, beyond hope and fear, beyond good and evil, and beyond contradictions.

In the third instance, optimism prevails.  Our faith in humanity (or at least the natural order of things) triumphs.  It's going to be a good day.  Don't worry.



But when all is said and done, do we really know the world?  Is it possible for us to know it?  The world is, semantics aside, a very large piece of real estate, and there are many people, states, climates, animals, styles of music, foods, buildings, schools of religious thought, and domesticated animals populating its surface.  Not to mention the imminent arrival of vampires and werewolves.  There's a lot going on in the world, and what we are dealing in whenever we speak of it are generalizations.  This is due to the simple fact that nearly any statement made about the world - whether confined to the terrestrial globe or not - is a generalization, failing to take into account a host of particulars.

And besides all of the above, I think there is something to the argument that the world exists only inside our head, in the form of bits of information filtered through faulty senses of perception.  In this sense the world is far more "in here" than "out there," though, I feel, it's unhealthy to pursue this line of argument too far.  In the end you'll come to doubt the reality of just about anything, and more than a few people have lost their marbles as a result.  Better, perhaps, to take it for granted that most of what we see is really what we are seeing.  Even skepticism has its limits, and one has to come to a conclusion about something, at one point or another.

Option 1: The Scientific Account: the Big Bang, the formation of galaxies, the formation of the solar system, the formation of the Earth and its twin, Theia, the collision of Earth and Theia, the ejection of the Earth's mantle into orbit and the formation of the moon, the origins of life, aquatic life, terrestrial life, the dinosaurs, birds, mammals, human evolution, the development of human culture, Man vs. Nature, Man and Nature, the coming of the star-travelers, the war with various alien civilizations (yes, involving time travel and cybernetic love interests), and the slow extinction of the human race through boredom and/or Internet porn.

Option 2: The Biblical Account.  Take a pinch of Assyrian/Babylonian cosmology, and stir well over low heat.  Add a hint of Stoicism and other Greco-Roman schools of thought.  Elect a pope, burn whatever idols are handy, and pray for the best.

Option 3: The Eastern Alternative.  "It's all like, you know, in your mind man.  It's not out there, you know.  It's in here!"  Put it all on a wheel and spin it around.  You're bound to come back to the place where you started from... sooner or later.

Option 4: Wicca, Scientology, or any other cult-like behavior.  But are you lonely enough?  How desperate are you, really?

Option 5: Whatever the world is, it's all a conspiracy.



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