Sunday, January 4, 2015

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Sanity Clause

Early questions nag at you whenever you embark on a new reading venture: How reliable is the narrator?  Is the narrator reliable at all?  Whom should you trust?  If you're not sure, how can you read on with any sense of security?

If these questions persist, you are justified in asking yet another question:  Why continue?  You could just as well retreat to an atmosphere less unsettling, more certain, a landscape where you've already dug in to those first fifty or so pages without any outward signs of critical intervention.  Hasn't, in fact, this newer, safer version already pulled you in with its certainty?

Perhaps not.  Perhaps you do not read for anything approaching safety.  Perhaps you read for the same reasons the younger you took so many risky choices.  Perhaps.

If you continue, not certain where you place your trust, aren't you in fact heeding the call of curiosity that drives you to read in the first place?  Look about you.  Whom among those you see in reality should you trust? 

You can, of course, trust X, except when he talks about Y.  Z is often a delightful conversationalist, causing unexpected things to time-lapse-photography bloom into startling dimension, but don't get her started on politics, and find some excuse to leave the room--fast--when she begins talking about her ex-husband. In fact, aren't you drawn to question your own reliability as a narrator when you are describing a book you've read, a meal you've eaten, a trip you've made, an investigation you've initiated?

Rather than believe you've just committed several acts of nihilism (which seems shabby to you) with these pre-trial jury interrogations, you find the qualities you seek--reliability, comfort and trust--in the belief that Reality is too busy doing, producing, and causing events for it to have time left over to be purposeful.  

Look hard enough and you'll see traces of logic, even to the point where, when a river overruns its banks, then floods the surrounding countryside, there are traces of a number of triggering events.  But you have to look for these traces, then fit them together in the manner of composing a jig-saw puzzle from its pieces.  You'll in effect be working to produce some framework of order against a background of willful chaos.

This is your world,  Others have theirs.  Far from insisting on the correctness and aptness of yours over any others, you are open in your curiosity of the worlds of others, admiring many, and convinced all the more by yet others of the aptness of your own vision.

Rational or not, your vision becomes a necessary ingredient in the hash of sanity.  Ah, yes; sanity.  You could return to your litany of questions, beginning with the one that challenges sanity to define itself.  Then, depending on the satisfaction your definition affords you, ask if sanity is something you need.  If you have spent enough time constructing your vision and the voice with which to articulate it, what challenges will sanity have for your world?  

From your world, reliable or not, sane or not, you go forth, seeking answers to these questions and seeking new questions to ask the terrain and attitudes about you.

The current culture in which you live depends on the technology that got the Explorer to Mars, confident the information it sent back was trustworthy, and our ability to make use of it neither flawed by logic nor politics.  Technology has also produced the mechanism to land an Explorer-type device on, of all things a comet, whence it will presumably send data in various formats.  We trust the technology, but is the data reliable?

When you, within your world, are in extreme situations, gulping in data with hopes of reaching some ability to interpret, will your conclusions be reliable?

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