If I may wax prosaic for one blog, I'd like to address the demise of something very dear and special to all of Humankind. I don't know when or even if it died, precisely, but I'll know why when it does.
I'm talking about our Human enchantment with The Miraculous. Our sense of wonder, of outright awe —and even terror — in the face of the unknown. The sheer thrill of mystery is what makes Life worth living, yes?
Love doesn't make Life worth living. Love drives people insane, they go too far and literally kill each other in the name of Love. Hope doesn't make Life worth living. Hope fills us with regret and dulls our senses with dreams dreamt in vain.
But Mystery is what keeps us moving, it's what keeps us alive and vital and sharp.
I remember my childhood in very exquisite detail, which I'm told is something of a gift — most people can't remember their childhood, which has always puzzled me tremendously. How can you forget the most amazing time in your life, when every experience is new, every sensation fresh and unfiltered, when it was just you and mystery all day long?
Those days, for boys, were made for projects and planning and clanning, like junior war games. God, I remember all they boys on our street gathering together in groups to build forts out of cardboard and wood paneling in the abandoned properties, the "old lots." Those lots were perfectly terraformed for us boys and our bicycles, with mounds of earth and piles of undergrowth left from a half-hearted clear-cutting project years earlier.
When I think back on the recreation we boys pursued in the 1960s, I'm astounded that we survived.
The old lots were our proving grounds for all manner of bicycle torture tests, gasoline-powered bonfires, slingshot skirmishes, and the inevitable dirt-clod wars. If anyone tells you that war is not ingrained into the very essence of our Human DNA, you may tell him to go eat a fig.
Little boys know all about war, make no mistake, without any help from political analysts or radical activists or military strategists, okay? Little boys INVENTED war. We instinctively knew things about war that were only written by the Spartans and Greeks and Romans in ancient times. Yeah, we knew how to build forts, we knew how to make concrete using only gravel and mud and straw, we built moats filled by somebody's garden hose.
We knew how to cut cane grass into pikes, we built catapults, and we used furniture boxes for armored personnel vehicles.
For godsake, we didn't need a television program to tell us how to wage war on each other. War is what Humans DO naturally as we DEFY Nature. We drive our enemies before us using mysteries otherwise known as "top secret weapons," right?
The one who brings the greatest Mystery to the field is the victor.
Whatever those mysteries are — be they slings or stone bows or ballistas or trebuchets or Howitzers or tactical two-stage thermonuclear devices — their intended purpose is not merely to kill the enemy. The ultimate purpose of any weapon is to instill FEAR in the enemy, because FEAR is the greatest weapon, it's the weapon that actually changes the course of history.
Fear of the Unknown. We intimidate the enemy into submission by confronting him with Mystery.
When everyone samples the technology, when the corrupt little despots in corrupt little regimes all over the world fill their arsenals with cruise missiles and remote assault drones, then the mystery is dispelled, and a new mystery must be created.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and so WAR is the engine of civilization. Aggression drives our Magic.
But I think that the Miraculous is being deliberately targeted for extinction by our increasingly theatrical and arrogant edutainment media.
Edutainment is the Science Channel and the Discovery Channel and the History Channel and the Military Channel and the Biography Channel and the Travel Channel and on and on, and it's the essence of Reality Television, too, right. Like, if we stick a camera crew and a sound crew and a lighting crew and a couple of assistant producers with a "popping" script in the MOST MUNDANE little niches of everyday Life, this is somehow REALITY? Is it educational, learning how pawnshops consistently screw people on loans, learning how tattoo artists are narcissistic sadomasochists, learning how a bunch of no-talent, spoiled-brat housewives spend their husbands' fortunes?
It's hardly uplifting.
Some call this "transparency" a unifying campaign that's eventually gonna reveal everybody on Earth to each other, and then we can all hold hands and sing Kumbaya and We Are The World.
I call it a destruction of our sense of wonder. We NEED a sense of wonder, as Humans.
I mean, I remember when I was four years old, on a warm, humid October night in southeast Texas. It was a big, broad, quiet night, one of those nights in the dim past when you knew people were out there, but they were isolated in little pockets of family or friendship wherever they were, without an Internet or even 24-hour television to keep them company, so they had to rely on each other and maybe a faint yellow bug light on a back porch and a little transistor radio playing Buddy Holly in the darkness.
We didn't have air conditioning back then because we couldn't afford it. What we had, rather, was a great 4-foot attic fan that pulled such a vacuum on the house, you could feel a dynamic air pressure change when Daddy flipped the switch in the hall. Kind of a thunderous pomp that shook the whole house.
It was a mysterious pleasure for a 4-year-old back then to lay across the foot of the bed with my face peering out the open bedroom window in the warm darkness, and feel the air drawn into the house in a rushing breeze over my face, that air scented so deliciously by the pale gardenias in the garden outside.
There were people walking the dark streets, and I could see them out there, but they couldn't see me. I was a silent observer on those silent figures in the night, trudging their mysterious ways with unclear intentions to unknown destinations.
I take comfort in the thought of that sort of isolation. That's why I love thunderstorms, too. Because they're mysterious phenomena that descend on us with power and fury, isolating the humans into little huddling clutches.
We used such gatherings to share information in prehistoric times, when the natural forces and climate change steered us into confrontation with other remote clans. We'd duck into our shelters and share stories with strangers until the weather cleared.
In my 4-year-old mind on a clear October night in Texas, I was contemplating miraculous things such as Halloween, just a few weeks away, and the little plastic skull with the spring-loaded snapping jaw that I had "won" from a gumball machine earlier that day. I was thinking about spooky ghosts and the macabre illustrations inside the the cover of Alfred Hitchcock's Ghostly Gallery (a fairly new book, at the time, that I had just read with great delight).
Yeah, I was thinking about spirituality even at that age, even before I was able to comprehend mortality. Well... I was pondering spirituality at the moment of my conception, come to think of it, and undoubtedly prior to it. I don't think I've ever really completely crossed over into this corporeal world, frankly.
I always kept that door open.
How can people not remember their childhoods, unless it's a deliberate decision NOT to perceive the world from an innocent perspective? We NEED the miraculous. We NEED magic and mystery and, yes, good old superstitions in our lives.
We're not emotionless insects, okay? As a species, Humanity shouldn't be striving to organize ourselves into a HIVE of uniformity. We function BETTER when we huddle together in tribes and clans and families, okay? That's how we evolved.
Everything that we perceive as "wrong" with our human world is all in our heads, right? We hold all of this extraordinarily frail infrastructure together by consensus, by agreement; but the Natural world — indeed, the Universe — doesn't give a flying fuck about our most pressing Human concerns.
The Natural world doesn't wonder at itself, the Natural world is not a mystery to itself. See, we have this extraordinary opportunity as Humans with a uniquely Human perspective to experience the Miraculous, and it's the most valuable thing in the Universe, I'm telling you.
That sense of wonder is the RESPONSE God was expecting when he CREATED the Universe.
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