Am I completely out of my mind? Or is it true that the world is a strange, strange place where people who claim to understand how things work are delusional at best? The “stranger in a strange land” is such a cliché d concept. But it’s how I feel sometimes - and sometimes it’s how I feel most of the time. Things that most people accept most of the time, without question, as just the way things are (a phrase I despise), I find to be completely absurd. Conversely, things that I am interested in are looked at by many other people as marginal, if not completely subversive. If I had a nickel for every time someone has told me I think too much, I’d be a rich woman.
The thing is, things lately seem to be getting stranger and stranger al the time, and at an increasing rate. Sometimes I don’t recognize the world as the same one I grew up in. As silly as it sounds - and believe me, I realize how silly it sounds - I occasionally wonder if someone up in the future developed time travel, got back into the past at some point, and changed history. Forget the fact that even if time travel is possible (and some physicists seem to be coming around to the idea that it might be), I believe that there must be a mechanism that makes event-changing paradoxes impossible. I know, of course, that there are people who would be happy, even eager, to tell me that even just thinking about things like time travel is a sign of instability. Those would be the same folks who think having an imagination is a dangerous thing. But never mind.
What I am tempted to do is study the world for a while, to try to figure out what is really going on. Not to try to figure out the world. I’m pretty sure that’s not possible. That is like men trying to figure out women. Or vice versa. (By the way, that’s one of the things that puzzle me about the world: Why do male and female H. sapiens so often behave as if they are separate species?) No, my aim is more to find out about myself in the world. Am I nuts? Or is it the world that is crazy? By the numbers, it must be me who has the problem. I’m vastly outnumbered, after all. But I’ve also heard it said many times that if you wonder if you’re crazy, you aren’t. So, I figure it’s a legitimate field of study. Call it an anthropological (sociological? psychological?) study of myself in the world. Maybe the first one ever. Nah. I wouldn’t be so lucky as to have that original a thought.
Perhaps, as my first speculation, my whole problem has to do with the fact that I came to awareness of the world as a social and political entity in the 1960s. More and more, I see that decade (or at least the essence of it) as a sweet anomaly, where the expectations for the world were different than they ever had been, different than they ever will be, for that short time. Not that I have an utopian vision of the sixties as a golden age or anything. It started ugly and ended uglier. But for a brief time it seemed like more folks than usual took the ideas of peace freedom and equality as seriously achievable. God knows that hardly anyone does anymore. Oh, lots of people say they do, but most of them seem to have pretty peculiar (as least from my point of view) definitions of what peace is, who should get how much freedom, and what really constitutes equality.
Perhaps I come to this at least partly out of frustration over the writing project that this blog was created to serve. I set out to write about the things people believe, why they believe them, and the things that their beliefs lead them to do. Only the biggest thing I’ve figured out so far is that all most people have in common over belief is a shared attitude that anyone who doesn’t believe what they do is either evil, deluded, or psychotic, and probably deserves what ever bad comes their way. This is not a pretty state of affairs. And, more to the point here, this is not the way I remember things from when I was growing up, I wouldn’t say that this realization has disillusioned me, if only because it was something I already suspected. It’s a hard point to miss, especially in the post-9/11 world. It does disappoint me, though. I had hoped we had gotten smarter than that. But it is starting to seem to me that rigid dogmatism is an inborn trait in H. sapiens. Some individuals have overcome it, but the vast majority have not. I cannot even say that I have gotten completely over it on some levels, but at least I’m trying.
That leads me to another thing I’d like to figure out about the world in relation to my own attitudes. I can admit that I might be wrong. I do that readily and fairly frequently, although it I know I’m right I’ll do everything I can to prove it. Still, I’ve been told that this ability to admit error is odd, and I suspect that a lot of people see such admissions as a sign of weakness. For my part, I just cannot understand how people can be so certain of things that there are no solid proofs for. Things like, but certainly not limited to, the nature of God or even that God, or the gods, actually exist. I want to understand that disconnect. Why can I say, “I don’t know” where other people cannot. Why can I see logic in most sides of most arguments, even when I don’t agree with them? Most people, at least in my native culture, seem to think that understanding an argument is the same thing as believing it. Admitting that the other guy has a point, much less admitting he is right, is seen as a betrayal of one’s own dogma.
Another puzzle, brought up - and definitely not for the first time - by something I saw in a news report a few days ago. Why do so many people get into a position where they have the authority to tell others what to do along with the power to enforce those orders? This extends even to the wish to be able to control the personal habits of others. It would never cross my mind to want to do that. Of course there are perfectly legal things that other people do that bother me or that I think are stupid or unwise (and there is a difference there). That doesn’t mean that I want the power to prohibit them from doing these things.
Another thing (that sometimes ties into belief and sometimes does not) that I cannot understand is the urge to secrecy. It is something I’ve been know to refer to as the “I know something you don’t know, neener, neener, neener” syndrome. Don’t laugh. It’s pervasive. I can, of course, understand the personal wish for privacy. I’m a pretty private person myself, and some things are just on one else’s business. I can even understand the concept of industrial secrets, even though I think that gets carried way too far at times. Same thing with government secrets. I suppose there are some things that it is better for those with nefarious purposes not to know, but I often think that classified information is classified so that our own citizens won’t discover them. The Pentagon Papers are a case in point. The thing is, most of the things that are classified are probably already old news to our international opponents.
All of those kinds of secrets are, however, at least partly understandable. What I don’t get are the secret sorority and fraternity initiations, the secret societies that keep all kinds of secrets - I’m talking all the way from the Masons to the Moose to the top leaders who go to Bohemian Grove once a year - to the religions that very seriously and strictly protect their secret rituals, all the while denying that they are secret at all, but are simply sacred. As far as I can see, all that is just childish. And I say that as someone who once went through a sorority initiation. God knows, nothing immoral went on there, nothing illegal, not even anything particularly embarrassing. As I recall after all these years, there was some passing of candles, some religious content as it was associated with a religious group that I associated with at the time, and some sort of pledge sworn to. Oh, and we all wore white dresses that were supposed to signify purity or something like that. No big deal. But supposedly secret. I thought it was silly even at the time.
I could go on and on about all this. This essay as I originally wrote it made at least a couple more points. But I think I’ve gotten my point across by now. No need to belabor it further, even though I didn’t get to all the stuff I can’t understand that gets done in the name of governmental and social control. It’s pretty clear, I’m sure, that I’m pretty much of a malcontent.
Or, maybe I haven’t made any point at all. Perhaps I’ve just rambled on about all the things that bug me. Maybe this will get all the frustrations out of my system and I can just get back to my original writing plan or some variation of it. I kind of doubt that, though. I know that at a certain point - and I know right where that point is - my train of thought seems to veer off on a kind of parallel tangent. But as I see it, it is all related and comes down to what I said at the beginning - the world seems to be much stranger than it used to be. Or maybe it’s just the people in it. This stuff, or most of it, didn’t used to seem to go on as much as it does now. Or if it did, it didn’t seem to matter if some folks chose not to play. There seemed to be room for individuality, while now it seems like any sort of difference from what is considered “normal” is seen as pathological. At least that’s so where I come from. But that is another rant, and I won’t go there now.