“Artists are people who are not at all interested in the facts—only in the truth. You get the facts from outside. The truth you get from inside.” --Ursula K. LeGuin

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Once Upon a Time

 Once upon a time, there was a land where people had a precious device sitting in their homes, on the table, in their study, their office, in their kid's rooms, out on the porch—wherever they were.

They called it a computer. Once it computed. Now, not only can it compute, it can help people write, read, research, play music, watch movies, and about whatever the minds of men could conger. And their device is growing in information and changing daily, like the people.

A group of six people left their devices at home alone one day to gather outside and sit under a maple tree. Ollie, the tree's supporter and waterer, popped the cork on a bottle of Vino, "Time to switch from coffee," she said and filled six glasses on the tray atop the round coffee table before them."To truth," she said. The rest of the group chose a glass and clicked each other's. "To truth."

"But, how do we find the truth?" said Tweekie, "hold on one minute, I'll be right back," and disappeared into the house.

Shortly after, she appeared with a platter of cheese, crackers, and grapes. "Okay, guys, no feet on the table, food's here."

"We were on hold until you returned, Tweekie. Thanks for the snacks." Sally picked up a cracker and slice of cheese and, while waving about, said, "Here we are drinking to something I have no clue about."

"Well," says Shal, "You know some things to be true, your dog here, us as friends, the weather, the kindness of people."

"Do you think people are kind?"

"Most are. Most want to assist their fellow man. Really, you see how boundaries drop in a crisis, or if someone has an accident, how they rush to help?"

"But we don't want a crisis to bring out the good in people."

"No, but we see it there. And most people want a better world; we just disagree on ways to do that.

"Finding the good is an admirable goal. That may be our first step.

"I believe Mr. X is accurate," says Harvey.

"Really? I don't think so," says Tweekie, "He says the world is flat."

"Oh, for heaven's sake," chimes in Sally, "hasn't he ever traveled in an airplane--you can see the curvature of the Earth. And what about objects in space? Planets are round. Our sun is round. The moon is round. Why would the Earth not follow the pattern of round objects traveling in a circle around a round sun?

"It is illogical," says Shal, but Mr. X wants to be unique."

"Well, he's got that, and people listen to him, but what he is spouting is nonsense."

"I guess it's true for him," says Shal.

"So, what do we do with people who have influence and are spouting garbage."

"Some people like to ingest garbage."

"Oh, Shal, that's disgusting."

"Well, you know that 'What is one man's meat is another man's poison.'"

"That goes way back to the 1500s, so I guess they had the same problem then, but, whoa, do we just let people believe whatever they want?'

"Won't they?"

Sally laughs, "I guess we have no control over that. But we should try to have factual information."

Shal refills her glass and offers to top off the others. "People don't want the facts. The facts are dry. They want sensationalism. It makes them feel."

"Then the problem lies in people's feelings?" says Ollie pulling over a foot stool and propping her feet on it. 

"I guess so. That's why headlines are so alluring—Their writers want them read. And you know the old adage, "If it bleeds, it leads." Sensationalism works. So does fear."

"Yeah, fear is built into us. But, we've had fear up to our eyeballs," said Ollie. "Our reptilian brain has become a raging crocodile. Hells bells, we don't even know if what sets off the reptilian brain was written by a person or a robot."

"You're right; it's funny when you really look at it."

"Like Forrest Gump's run and his followers not knowing what to do when he stops?"

"Yeah, like that."

"I don't think it's funny at all," says Sally, "we're being deceived, lied to, facts are distorted, and many are ignored."

"Yeah, I know. But look at it this way, we are adventuring beings. We like the unusual, the absurd, the outrageous. The blow-hard gets attention."

Ollie laughed. "Ain't that the truth."

Hey, we found a truth," says Sally.

"Only Shal, "What do you think? Do we throw out all Mr. X says because he has some cuckoo ideas?"

"Well, it does make me question his judgment."

"What evidence does he have that makes him believe that way?"

"Maybe he lives on a flat planet."

 "I get it," said the quiet one, Simad, "He's living by a different set of rules. If you don't throw in some absurdities, you're boring."

"You think it's hype? Could he have information he's withholding from us, or is he speaking allegorically? Maybe ‘plains of existence,’ or something like that.”

"I don't know. You will have to ask him. If aliens abducted you and you are here to tell of it, you might get some attention. If you've visited Mars, you might be listened to. If you have a brain anomaly and see everything as flat, we might cut you some slack."

“Some would. Others would think you should be put out of your misery."

"If you got rid of all the people who disagreed with you. You'd be alone on a lonely planet."

"I will let you disagree with me. I want you here."

"Thanks, kiddo."

"We all know that fear gets attention. More medical ads first ask if your toenails ache. And you think, yeah, my toenails are aching; what shall I take?"

"Your toenails are aching?"

"You know what I mean."

"Yeah, I do. But our initial goal was to search for truth."

"Good luck with that. There are some universal truths, like gravity, which we can't explain, and some "truths" we agree to, like E = mc2, matter is neither made nor destroyed. But is that really true? I don't know. But it's accepted until proven wrong. We trusted Einstein."

"So, we believe people we trust?"

 "Pretty much."

Many people didn't trust Darwin.

"No. His theory of evolution threatened the established view of a Creator being. Like Copernicus telling people, the Earth isn't the center of our solar system. The sun is."

"Then they were thinking too small. Instead of understanding that species change over time, they went to the bottom line. Darwin threatened my idea of Creation. Instead of saying that information from the pantry of life is not going into my pie, you try to keep everyone else from putting it into their pie."

"Well said, Shal."

"I do get a little testy when someone challenges my thinking," Sally said.

"Don't we all."

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal"…we can't even agree to honor that."

"A lofty goal, though."

"Yeah, maybe goals should be it, instead of searching for truths, for it seems that people have their own 'truths" of which there are many."

"I'll drink to that." Ollie holds up her glass to be filled.

"How about, instead of frustrating ourselves, such as, if we say gravity is real, somone will counter it with, 'There are places where it isn't.' If we say your dog is real, some will say, 'He is an illusion, as is all life.'"

You must choose what feels right and then be open to changing your opinion if data presents itself. Life is a smorgasbord, and we can choose what to put on our plate."

"You're right, you like anchovies, I don't. You take them. I'll leave them."

"Wise choice."

"But I don't want anyone to give me smelt under the guise that it's an anchovy. I want true anchovies."

"I guess that's for us to dig through the pile and see what rings true.

"That is all well and good, Shal," but I want help finding the truth," Sally sighs.

"Well, we can't find it all in one day. Let's meet next week, same time, same station."

"Here, here."

Shal throws back the remainder of his wine and says, "Did you hear the one about two old couples walking down the street? The two ladies are in front with their husbands trailing behind them. "So," says one man to the other, "what have you done this week?

"We went to a new restaurant. The food was great, the prices good."

"What was the name of the restaurant?"

It was, uh, oh, like a flower."

"A rose?"

"Oh, Rose," he calls to his wife, "What was the name of that restaurant we went to last night?"


 P.S. Listen to Dolly Parton sing Let It Be. It will move you to new realms. Paul McCartney is on the piano, and Ringo Starr on drums.