What There Isn’t Is What There Is

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Content advisory 18+ There is a song called "The Boxer" by a once-famous duo (and deservedly so) in America known as Simon & Garfunkel. One line goes as follows: "... Still, a man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest." Another valuable (for me) insight is provided by William Blake: "The eye, altering, alters all" -- the beautiful language of which can be a bit confusing until you understand that Blake is simply stating that, as our perception of things changes, the things themselves seem to change (which in reality they most likely do not.)

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To my mind, the wittiest observation along these lines is attributed (perhaps erroneously, but who cares?) to Mark Twain. "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."

The point of these references? I guess it is because at this stage of my life I have begun, consciously or otherwise, to sum things up, and to ask myself the question: How much do I really know? Now you may laugh (people often do when I am being completely serious), but I sometimes wonder the same things about the other forms of life I see in the forests and fields of Bliznatsi. What do the insects know? They know SOMETHING, that's for sure. The ants build better houses than a lot of people do. Take any bug or rodent, or even one of those accursed mosquitoes, and act like you are going to kill it...and watch it flee in order to survive. The next time you crush some tiny being under your foot, maybe you will ask yourself: does it experience anything similar to what YOU would feel if you saw a giant boot towering over you, about to stomp the life out of you? Does the cockroach feel the same terror? What about the bird being clawed by a cat? The mouse in the gullet of a snake? The fly in the spider's web?

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"We are to the gods as flies to wanton boys./ They kill us for their sport." Shakespeare.
So...the fly, the cockroach, the mouse...they know SOMETHING. But what? Very little in comparison to us humans, of course, but then again, what do WE really know if we try to imagine some higher life form that may exist in one of the trillion galaxies that possibly spread out forever and ever? Maybe our own knowledge compared to such advanced organisms (or machines) would be something in proportion to that of a simple ant or fly in relation to you and me.
Moreover, consider how we think of the prehistoric "cavemen" as our inferiors. Yet, given the exponential rate of advances in current technology, in 1000 years will WE -- smart-phones and all -- be remembered only as the cavemen of an earlier, primitive age? Try to imagine that if you can. But I doubt if you will be able to -- I know I can't.
After all, nobody in 'ancient' Rome sat around drinking wine or splashing each other in the common baths, and saying, "Oh well, just another day in ANCIENT Rome." That's because, far from being ancient, they were the most modern, upbeat, and justifiably self-satisfied civilization the world had ever known. And if you could, by some magic dust or the granted wish of a genii, jump into a time machine and go back there and head for a tavern along the Appian Way on a Saturday night, imagine flirting with one of those sexy Roman girls (maybe wearing trendy gladiator sandals attached to crotch-climbing fishnet cords) who lived 2000 years ago and being told to "Piss Off" because you weren't "cool" enough to entice her.

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You would try, tactfully, to explain yourself, "Hey Hotcakes, don't you know who you're talking to? I'm from the year 2018. I live in The Big Apple and I work on Wall Street, Wannado a couple of lines and party ?"
Or, if you came from Russia: "Just call me Vadim the Oligarch!. Ever heard of the Kremlin, Красотка? Я хотел тебя весь день!"
Her answer: "Fottiti, Frocio!"
And you would wander off, defeated and deflated, back to your time machine, muttering "What the hell would SHE know about Trump and Putin anyway?"
A fish out of water, as they say. The moral of the story is this: if you went back in time, far enough, you would be the 'mystery man' and probably be charged with sorcery and burnt as a witch. But if you turned to the future and took it to the limit, arriving amid the virtual byways of Super Nova Megapolis, you might even lose your mind from the sheer bewilderment of it all.

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Yet, never mind going backward or forward -- just head to a desert island and try living there alone for a few months without any human company whatsoever -- only the glittering fish and exotic birds. With your best girl at your side, the flamingos would be an aphrodisiac; left alone with them, to you they soon would become as vultures. Or, as has been the case in scientific experiments designed to explore the effects of ‘sensory deprivation’, let yourself be locked inside a completely dark room for as long as you can stand it without pushing the panic button. How fast in either place would you reach the swaying and macabre doors of insanity?
We are social creatures and we live in a mirror-resembling wilderness of relativity. As it states in the Book Corinthians, we see "in part." Thus it follows that all but the very select few among us who not only comprehend but truly embrace both the unfathomable realities and also the vistas and minefields of infinite possibility that soar beyond these limitations can arrive at the appropriate level of wonder…. and ultimate humility. The rest of us are simply left to our impressions, biases, feeble conclusions, and video games.

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I find nothing to jeer at when I reflect on our plight. We are ignorant, yes, but not necessarily stupid. However, the bare bones of the truth are this: we don't remember where we came from, we have no idea where we are going, and -- the clincher -- we have no means of understanding WHY we are even here in the first place. Religion has always tried to solve these problems, and Science (plus Technology) continues the quest, but no one really knows -- especially not the demagogues and brutes who are always trying to cram their doctrines of "absolute truth" down our throats -- if not with words, then with bayonets.

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As Gandhi said of the Christians: "I think I like their Jesus. It's his followers I have a problem with."
My thoughts exactly. To assume that many a person, gazing into the mirror, arrives at the conclusion that somewhere in the cosmos there must be, there simply MUST be, a power higher than the feckless and dumbfounded bulb of eyeball and flesh staring back from the surface of the looking glass does not surprise me. I feel the same. Rather, it's when those who claim to have solved all riddles in a pentecostal tent or a barroom insist on explaining the deal to me and would, if possible, put me to the sword when I refuse to believe them --- those are the ones I try to avoid.
As for Technology...well, it is zooming along on its cyber-boulevard and well into the process of exchanging the world we have always KNOWN for a new one we DON’T KNOW. The obvious perils of plunging ahead so recklessly notwithstanding, it’s where we are going, like it or not. I consider myself among the blessed when I think that the only way I might become acquainted with that STRANGE PLACE would be if one of your grandchildren, larking about in whatever passes for reality THEN, digs up my bones and tells the tale to my fossilized remains.

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Yet, believe it or not, I have comfort to offer my reader. Try this sometime, if you haven't already. Go to an art museum and find the rooms where the paintings of the Impressionists are kept. Go stand up very close to a work by Claude Monet and evaluate what you see. I guarantee it will just look like a lot of blobs of long-dried oil. Back away from it, and gradually you will see it take shape and become something you can recognize. Dare I say, something wonderful.
Or even better, find a very large canvas and make a photo of a tiny corner it of. Take the picture of the tiny corner home, enlarge it and place it on the wall. Then go away until you have forgotten the original painting that the clipped and partial particular came from. Look at it carefully and adopt the mindset that THIS is the whole painting, THIS is all there is, and from THIS, all apprehension of ultimate Reality must come. Each of your conclusions and judgments, projections and predictions, and all of your frustration and gratitude, must emanate from this vision of reality. Not from the whole painting, but from a minute segment of it.
You have decided that because this is all you can SEE, then this must be all there IS.

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It's the trap we set for ourselves.
It’s the reason that the more I stare into the mirror, the more I view, not the head and face of a man, but an electric current zipping about in a heavy gray and pinkish sponge that sits, sort of like something someone might have left behind in a wet locker room or a high school science lab-- poised there, rather clumsily, atop a rack of bones. I am in there somewhere -- yes, it's me -- what I am -- darting around like bees in a burning hive or, more precisely, like atoms in popcorn machine -- while....
......out there, somewhere in the Great Beyond, are at least a few of the answers I will never know, and in the next Great Beyond beyond THAT ONE, a few more answers. And so on and so on.

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God.
Or Whatever.
Galloping away like The Lone Ranger to the farthest reaches of the Big Bang. Or The Dalton Gang, having robbed the bank and needing to stay one step ahead of the intergalactic posse. Ride, boldly, ride.

===Eric Richard Leroy===

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