Monday, August 11, 2008

Surfacing Thoughts

On Surfaces

There's so much to be said about surfaces, but the essence of what I want to say is that we are all too often confused by surfaces or too obligated to surfaces. It's one thing to use a surface to walk, but if you tried to pluck a picture from a magazine people would think you very ignorant. Yet we try to pluck truth from spoken words every day, and we trust that what we see is what we got. One of our religions, for instance, says that surfaces imply truths which are false, i.e.,the top of a table is solid matter. We have faith through this religion that the table itself is mostly vacuum and electrical activity, tiny wavelengths buzzing along at incredible speeds. We trust this is true yet we still put our beer on the table top, never expecting the atoms of the beer and glass to slip past the atoms of the table top and drop to the floor, or even continue onwards to the center of the earth. That would be just silly. The contradiction might make you crazy, but we adopt an unspoken rule that surfaces are real, they mean what they say. We are always getting blindsided by rules like this, as our beer crashes to the floor.

Let me try an example of surfaces not being what they are. Down in the Other America there's a spot on the map where people live who raise Guinea pigs. They have a ritual celebration where they dress up the rodents in doll clothes, party hardy and then kill and eat them. After cooking them. Funny thing is, reporters, writers and tourists from the Real America travel to that spot to watch, write about and eat the pigs. How do surfaces lie here, you ask? Well, looking at Barbie Pig and Elvis Pig you'd not realize you were looking at lunch unless you looked past the surfaces and see the red meat and organs in there, and maybe beyond that the protein, fats and liquids you need to survive.

Yet, if you did that sort of thing every day to every thing, you'd have to be put down like they did that nice boy, Jeffery Dahmer. It's just that surfaces lie, and they also tell a truth, but sometimes because they tell many truths we get confused and pick just a few to believe in, and dismiss the rest. For instance, the soldiers protecting Germany in the 1940's were called monsters by the people they were taking over, yet when the Nazi's killed a young boy to the best of my knowledge they did not then eat the child. I don't think they generally ate many of their captives either, unlike Jeff. They did cook millions of their captives, and that was monstrous. Yet their Leader did rebuild the economy, on a war footing perhaps, but still vibrant and up and running. He simply was stark staring mad, and he surrounded himself with similar people, or people who had no ethical, moral stances which would preclude making a great deal of money in the mean time. The people who simply went to work at their old same jobs and fed their families as best they could, these Germans are treated with an ambivalent observation. We might say they were only following orders, or that they never really believed it could happen in their own back yards, by people who were freely elected under a democratic system of government. Couldn't happen here.

In late summer I walk on slowly dying plants, gasping out their last oxygen breath as I trample on by, pulling my little mauve wagon. I never knew about the plant, nor the bug, nor the skeeter. So life is taken, although we never saw, and life is moved around as Mok jumps on and eats a grasshopper. At what point did one become the other? Yet I see it happen and am not put out by the contradiction. As long as there is some steady bit of surface I can stand on I find it hard to worry about the far edges of my reality. This all changes when I pass a mirror.

If in the mirror I see an aging man with a tired look in his eyes, I am myself more tired. So I fool myself. I fool myself at first into thinking that other guy is me, but look! He's left handed, and I am right handed. Oh, he's about the right age I suppose, but I take better care of myself clearly. I suppose I should say something, but maybe I'll just wave or extend my hand. And then the illusion of a solid piece of glass, a solid which is actually mostly vacuum, intrudes on the illusion of my own mortal coil and I recoil, having hit my index finger, the one with the steel screw in the ex-joint. I come to understand some physics here and some neurobiology as well. The vacuum I thought was empty was actually filled with what was invisible to me, perhaps some energy without mass or particle. Some relationship, a mathematics or geometry, but it repels me and I jump back. My universe changes and I see myself again: eyes wide, mouth slightly open and some pain between the brows from hitting the mirror with my bad finger. It's me, I guess, and I am who I am, yet I know that for an instant I was myself observing my image in the mirror and the person being reflected, for the “I” was not reflected, just the “me”.

I walk down my street in the county of and state of, in this country of, and I look around. It looks almost the same, yet that's just on the surface. Overnight, and even now, it changes and I am fooled not a whit by the surface. I take a step, I feel with my foot, I take another. One at a time I trust in this old earth to support me and keep me afloat about this swirling sea of energy and particles in motion.