I love to read, but it’s something I don’t do nearly enough. I’m not talking about gazing long into Facebook or staring at my Samsung so long the screen is burned into my brain, as if my vision begins somewhere out in front of me, in a box, within blinders. I’m talking about cracking open that pressed pulp and surveying ink.
Lately, my personal Jesus has been Daniel Dennett (eyeroll). I know. Here’s the latest tome on why we’re all meat robots. I’m going to get it right this time, I can feel it. Consciousness is a trick, a terrible lie, and you’re all fucking up by believing it (Dennett, 1971, 1978, 1983, 1985, 1994, 1997, 2004, 2014).
Still, it gives me some comfort to wrap my brain around these concepts. When I eschew Cartesian Dualism and start asking questions about things as they are, without roadblocks or shortcuts, it actually delivers relief from my anxiety, which constantly bubbles below the surface. My secret is that I’m always freaking out.
I’d tip my fedora pretty hard to claim I bear the burden of reality. I really don’t know anything, guys. People who tell you they know everything are lying and they want to control you. I can tell you what I’ve seen, which is anecdotal. I can tell you what I’ve read, which is what someone who hopefully knows something wrote, but who knows? Is this beginning to sound like a Trump supporter’s questioning of what the facts really are?
The difference is that I acknowledge the growing list of things we’ve pinned down and the vast universe of things we seek to discover. Even that which we’ve carved into granite is not beyond question. The questions about those questions are not beyond question. Nothing is.
This all probably seems super elementary, absolutely the bare minimum lowest common denominator understanding of our situation. Thing is, I keep running across people who think learning equates to changing your mind, and changing your mind makes you a flip-flopper. Flip-floppers are flighty, overly-emotional babies who cannot be trusted to make decisions. Why can’t you be a man and stick to an idea?
Something keeps picking at me, something that isn’t new under the sun. Over the course of human history the void of ignorance, which used to encompass everything, has shrunken into a ball, a small singularity, a black dot in our senses we’ve learned to feel around. It’s still dense, packed with an unimaginable depth of mysteries to unfold, but we’re out of the dark. It’s our burden to carry, all of us, and some examine it daily in order to decrease its span. Some of them share these secrets, and sometimes it works for others. There are failures, setbacks, but overall the march goes on, and each day we expose more of what’s around us.
I keep encountering people who not only admire the spot, they want it to be bigger. They don’t want to unlock its riddles because it’s always been there, that comforting inky hole. Their reasons differ, be it tradition, superstition, fear, or plain old greed. I’m not breaking any ground with this heavy-handed thing. Dr. Seuss could have done it better, and his would have rhymed.
It’s hard not to go to the place where these guys, who remind me of Junior High bullies (maybe because that was undoubtedly the high point in their mental development and social lives), become philosophical zombies. Something just ain’t right with them, as we say down South.
When I write appeals to the religious, to moderates, to the traditional folk, I feel like a revolutionary failure. It’s not lost on me when the progressive left says we should triage this and engage young people and new voters, throw a statement or two at moderates as a distant second form of a approach, and completely abandon these gruff dudes who’ve been voting Republican their entire lives. I probably spend too much time shooting missives at levels two and three while losing the fresh, hot first category entirely.
There may be a triage within a triage here under the third, previously untouchable section, and I love heuristics, so here we go:
Fascist Trolls get a fuck you. These are the guys who would read this and reply, “Gotcha, you just said you don’t know anything! Why should anyone believe anything you write! Hyuck Hyuck, LIEberals!” even though “I know that I know nothing” is pretty much the hallmark of understanding. It’s the starting point from which we must learn. Swirlie McJockstrap would claim to know everything he needs to know, or at least he’d trust some floppy-haired psycho who pretends to.
Lifelong Republicans are a sad affair, but even conservative brains (which are a thing) can be changed. The issue usually has to hit home and cause them so much cognitive dissonance that they’re forced to make a decision. The Dastardly Dick Cheney, war criminal extraordinaire, is strangely tolerant on LGBT issues because his daughter falls into that category. Hell, my own father went for Obama prior to his death, after voting Republican in every election since Nixon, and it was because he fell ill without insurance. It’s not hard to get in if you can find the key.
Religious Moderates are some of the best allies I’ve run into around here. These guys believe in God, or a god, but they’re brilliant folks who understand the separation of church and state and the importance of education. Almost all of them have stories of persecution at the hands of Southern Theocrats.
I’m not pitching this as political strategy. This fork in the chart is meant mainly for masochists, people like me who, misanthropic as we may seem, also aren’t comfortable writing off 95% of the people they live and work around each and every day. If you’re condemned to red state hell, be it by choice or by circumstance, this is a way to operate without having to role-play comrade Daryl Dixon and brandish your +5 Crossbow of Socialist Smackdown at every single conservative walker that comes lurching your way.
Blue state tactics work out differently, so if you reside in some shining city, regard this as a curiosity. These are letters from the edge of civilization, that’s all. You do you, because what you’re doing is fine. This is how we heathens have to exist down here, in the horde.