Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Avoiding Chaos"

Sometimes I think reason is a game your mind plays, that has nothing to do with reality itself. An interesting DVD “extra.” But it’s not the movie.

I imagine the rational process being invented by a little guy trying to “reason” a bigger, stronger guy out of killing him.

“You’ll feel really bad about it later.”

“You’ll go to jail, and maybe lose your life.”

“If you’re religious, God will punish you. And if you’re not, and God exists, you’re getting punished anyway. Probably worse, for not believing.”

“I may appear to be harmless, but do you really know that for sure?”

Here’s the deal. The guy wants to kill you, he kills you. And reason has nothing to do with it.

“Why are you killing me?”

“Because I likes to.”

And that’s it. You’re bye-bye.

We exist in a condition that is fundamentally chaotic. We have no idea where the world, or the universe, or whatever, came from. We have no idea where we came from, why we’re here, or where we’re going after we’re done. The biggest questions, we have no idea. It’s all entirely up in the air.

That’s what you call chaos.

People don’t like chaos. I don’t. That’s why my office is so orderly. There are three pillows decorating a small bed in my office. The fabric has a cowboy design. (What else?) If one of those pillows has somehow gotten turned upside down, one cowboy standing on his head, then I can’t write. All three pillows have to be right-side-up, or, for me, it’s chaos, and I can’t function.

Okay, that’s extreme. Probably. But the chaos of the human condition, that bothers everyone. You can tell that because, throughout all of time, people have taken action to bring order to the chaos. They couldn’t live with it. They needed all three cowboys right-side-up.

Their solution was religion – you take the chaos and you explain it with a story. Not everyone believes that story – and every religion has its own – but there seems to always have been a human need to have one.

Now, it appears that I’ve jumped from reason to religion. I haven’t. Why? Because religion has a reasonable underpinning. Without religion – and the faith it engenders – people would be frightened. From a fear-relieving standpoint, religion is reasonable response.

But that doesn’t make it true. It could just be a convenient trick, to calm us in the face of the chaos. That’s why some people can’t believe – because it feels like a trick. But those same people believe in reason. Where is the evidence that that’s not also a trick?

Oops, I just made a mistake there. I’m asking for reason to be justified reasonably. I believe that’s cheating. Like proving God’s existence by reference to the Bible.

The thing is, if reason has no value,

We’re back to chaos.

I’m reminded of a show I was working on, which, because its earlier talk-variety format had failed, was revamping itself into a public affairs, interview show.

Early on, a meeting was arranged, where the writers would be introduced to the show’s new host, a middle-aged wannabe, looking to score big with “ripped from the headlines” muckrakery. This was in the seventies, before cable news. The man was like a precursor to the monstrosities we are living with today.

Anyway, Chuck – the host’s name was Chuck – assured us that the new show would be probing, hard-hitting and entirely honest. His first scheduled guest would be Jimmy Hoffa, a controversial labor leader who had recently beaten a wrap for jury tampering, wherein jurors had allegedly been offered money for their votes.

“The interview will be no-holds-barred. Everything on the table. What do you want me to ask him? I’ll hit him with it. Right on the air.”

I raise my hand. I am recognized with a nod.

“Ask him if he bribed the jury.”

I have told similar stories before. On a handful of occasions, I have made comments people didn’t know what to do with. The aftermath is always the same. Dead silence, followed by a continuation of the conversation, moving forward as if what I said had never taken place. Like the Nixon tapes during Watergate, my unmanageable suggestions are simply deleted out of existence.

In the story I just told, I’m the chaos. Reason requires the new show to appear hard-hitting, while not running chaotically off the rails, because the guest got up and left, as a result of a question that is actually hard-hitting.

My suggestion is ignored. Reason prevails. The chaos is subdued.


Reason creates order.

But that’s about it.


YEKIMI said...

I have a feeling that if he had asked Hoffa that question, he would have prefaced it with "one of our writer's, EARL POMERANTZ, [making sure to pointedly enunciate your name] wanted me to ask if you bribed the jury." That way he would have made sure to remain amongst the living while you probably would not be writing this blog today.

Gary said...

Now explain the Chaos Theory.