By Dr. David Laing Dawson
Some years ago while naively trying to lead a teen girl to the awareness that perhaps she did not yet understand everything there was to understand in this universe, I asked her if she knew how that gadget in her hands wired to buds in her ears turned electronic signals into sound that we experienced as music. She looked at me with that particular teen look of incredulity and answered, “Doh. You just push the on button.” I am sure I heard the word stupid at the end of that sentence, but I think it was implied rather than verbalized.
In those same years to make the same point with a teenage boy I would ask him what keeps an airplane in the air. Occasionally a few surprised with a rudimentary knowledge of air flow, gravity, wing shape and… well, at that point the answer usually faltered.
But now a small glass filament encased in a bit of plastic carries light impulses (photons/waves? modulated how?) to a box in my house that transforms them into electronic signals carried by small copper wires to another box and a screen that transforms these signals into moving images and then by more copper wire to boxes that transform electricity into full vibrant sound. I start this process by sending an infrared signal from a handheld thing that has at least two on buttons. (I do have some idea how that last group of boxes transforms electricity via electromagnets and a flexible cone into sound waves, but that can’t be the way they do it on my Blackberry – there isn’t room)
The garage door opens and closes from an app on my wife’s Apple phone; this same phone tells us when the video (stored God knows where) from our door bell has reached 50% capacity and whether or not this past month we have been good citizens in our use of electricity and gas, though I don’t understand the criteria, for it placed us in the bottom half of our neighbourhood yet congratulated us.
China is ahead of the US in the development of sonic weapons, whatever they are. An “atmospheric river” dumped enough water on BC to flood the Fraser Valley, my phone just pinged a computer generated text to me about my scheduled booster shot tomorrow, which might be Moderna or Pfizer; it seems from studies of past ice ages that a relatively small change in temperature or wobble in orbit can trigger a very large cascade of events, our sun they say is about half-way through its life cycle, we need just the right amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere or we turn into an ice ball or a burning caldron, as Carl Sagan explained in 1985; a complete stranger just asked me if a certain brand of hickory smoke works well when curing bacon, Amazon did give me the option of clicking on “I don’t know”, Big Pharma tells me to talk to my doctor about this new wonder drug and carries me visually hand in hand through a flowered meadow, beaming grandchildren and puffy white clouds while muttering that it might also kill me; apparently I am living on land that was never ceded by the (too many consonants to pronounce) nation, Putin is amassing troops on the Ukraine border, Belarus is sending the Iraqis back to Iraq, but wait, where is the news about Ethiopia and Haiti? Weren’t they in big trouble last week?
Netflix and Amazon tell me what to watch. Youtube is confused after I bounced from Steven Colbert and Bill Maher to Rand Paul challenging Dr. Fauci, followed by a few bits from MASH and some TED talks and an incursion into QANON and this rather brilliant street musician.
“God created the Heavens and the Earth” just doesn’t cut it anymore. That “He has a plan” fails all empirical observation. To say nothing of His appointed acolytes proving to be rather dodgy in their ethical and moral behaviour. (I’m talking all religions here, just to be clear)
But as Mark Vonnegut put it once, when writing about his own mental illness, “Would you rather be chased by a pack of wild dogs that were hungry or a pack of dogs that had a master who could, if he wanted to, call them off?”
Where on earth is this going, you ask about now.
Well, my point is that we live in a world that fewer and fewer of us, perhaps none of us, understand, and while the sun may have 4.6 billion more years in which to shine, it looks like we have only 30 or so before fire, flood and pestilence return our human population to small tribes fighting over the remaining arable land and potable water. And with all that in mind it is easy to understand the existence of people who shout “No” when someone asks if we actually landed on the moon, and “Yes” to COVID being a hoax, and the reincarnation of JFK Junior arising from the dead to pronounce Donald Trump president-for-life, and the possibility a bunch of deep state pedophiles are running the whole thing.
I could use an all-explaining delusion for myself about now.
Still, I will get my booster shot tomorrow and remember something else Mark Vonnegut said:
“We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”
And I will continue to push the on button.