It’s difficult to emphathize with a protest against racism if empathy, at it’s core, is projection. To my knowledge, I have never been the victim of racism, nor have I ever victimized another on the basis racism. I do not believe that I have a racist bone in my body, but I have been, according to my perception, brutalized. No, not by the police, but certainly by authority figures, and mostly from early in life. Plus, I loathe authoritarianism. A protest against police brutality I can get behind and support and empathize with, but it’s driving me crazy that the narrative surrounding the current episodes of protests are focusing on racism, and not the authoritarianism inherent in monopolistic policing practices. Minneapolis City Council is pledging to dismantle their police department. Let’s hope this reduces the disgusting and shameful authoritarian impulse and spreads around the country. And that’s today two cents.Open This Content
The world’s economy is being damaged by this pandemic, or, more accurately, it’s being damaged by government reactions to the pandemic.
The damage is adding up; getting worse with time. The only questions are: How bad is the damage going to be? And how long will it take to recover?
I don’t know the answers; no one does.
The economy will show scars of this time for years to come. Maybe forever. There are businesses that were forcibly closed and are never coming back. Whole sectors of the economy may die off from the damage. Sure, deadwood and weak branches were pruned away by the event, but there are some previously healthy limbs being torn off as well.
The authoritarian shut-down was just more than some businesses could survive.
The shutdown may turn out to be an economic extinction event, like an asteroid wiping out the dinosaurs, and, if so, there will be lots of vacant economic niches waiting to be filled. Perhaps they are waiting for you to fill them.
So it’s not all bad news.
The automobile may have killed off the buggy-whip market, but look at all the new markets it created. We wouldn’t have rear-view mirror pine tree air fresheners and thousands of other products if cars hadn’t reshaped the market.
Things change. We will recover. We will be different; stronger.
Some economic barriers have fallen away during this pandemic. Mostly bureaucratic nonsense like licensing and such — one example is letting doctors practice across state lines.
Government may try to put the barriers up again when this is over. Don’t let them. Anything that gets in the way during a pandemic also gets in the way during normal times, although it may not be as obvious.
Use your new knowledge to oppose those barriers being restored and notice other barriers that should be removed.
Those who can adapt will do better than those who can’t. Some people may be surprised to discover whether or not they are good at adapting.
There are always opportunities around you. Learn to spot them, and find ways to act on them.
This is something I’m not especially good at — my hope is that you are better at it than I am and that I can learn to do better.
The market will prevail if allowed to flourish in freedom. Only political parasites would try to hold it back. Watch carefully to see which side those with political power choose.Open This Content
The instant, simultaneous, total state takeover of the “civilized” world revealed how dire our situation is.
The battle of this generation is liberty against technocratic control; living, organic order vs. dead, clean chaos.
Order is natural, emergent, dynamic, unpredictable, useful, creative, and meaningful. It can’t be wholly contained, but it can be harnessed, guided, played with, adjusted to, and discovered in a continual dance. It is moving into the future. It is an infinite, positive-sum game.
Chaos is stripped down, unnatural, incapable of growth or change, dead or decaying, empty, and devoid of depth. Once natural order is made wholly legible and containable, it has been killed. Life and control are anathema. Chaos is the result of attempting total control. It freezes the present and reverts to stagnate snapshots of the past. It is a finite, zero-sum game.
Chaos is not the result of freedom or the state of nature, order is. Chaos is the result of efforts to defy the freedom of the state of nature. Chaos results when liberty and life are stripped from the world and all that remains are sanitized elements easily countable, reducible, and containable.
Architect and philosopher Christopher Alexander made a life’s work of studying the concept of “aliveness” in footpaths, windowsills, buildings, neighborhoods, and natural and designed systems of all kinds. His books offer many side-by-side photos of homes or other scenes, and ask the reader to, on a gut level, decide which is more “alive”. Every single person agrees easily and quickly. We know the more living from the more dead when we see it, but understanding why is difficult. Alexander made great progress. Living systems are in harmony with natural human tendency. For example, humans are phototropic. We also like to sit after more than a few minutes. So a chair placed near a window harmonizes with these subconscious patterns, while a chair facing a windowless wall does not.
Social architects (who dwell in brutalist buildings that suck all life from the ground where they stand) do not observe and contemplate life. They calculate and scheme control. They want legible, definable utility, based on static definitions and stale answers without questions. They kill the human spirit the way a giant parking lot kills the view.
The Great Sanitizer
The state and the obsessive, maladjusted, soul-dead busybodies who pull its levers are always seeking to remove impurity and unpredictability from the world. That is the same as removing life itself. This is what Ayn Rand meant when she called collectivist, command and control philosophies “anti-life”. That is the essence of what they are. To control is to kill.
The state wants to aggregate, categorize, sort, label, and track. James Scott describes in his several works the driving force of the state to make all persons and property “legible”. If they cannot be defined into conceptual submission and measured until all surprise is extinguished, how can they be controlled? So states set about to kill the creative, generative forces that make life worth living.
C.S. Lewis, in the final installment of his sci-fi space trilogy, That Hideous Strength, describes a scientific institution (called N.I.C.E.) with aims at global domination. The reason isn’t a lust for power per se, but a desire to make the world clean, free of germs and dirt and bugs and unpredictability, and all the shifting variables which make complete legibility impossible. In other words, they want to snuff out that pesky thing fueled by liberty that we call life.
Stranger Than Stories
These ideas used to seem a bit much to me.
Sure, some people are control freaks. Yeah, religious devotion to science is a contradiction to all reason and sometimes gets nasty. Yes, unspeakably awful ideas like eugenics have been a major part of every government in modern history (much as they might now deny it), but total rule by technicians whose greatest foe is unpredictability? Isn’t that the stuff of bad Bond villains?
It is the outlook I see as the greatest present threat to all that is good and true and just and humane.
Total global lockdown – the literal imprisonment of entire populations without even the pretense of wrongdoing by the state’s own absurd and shifting standards – and introduction and embrace of oxymoronic phrases like, “Social distancing” came about not out of fear of some feigned foreign enemy or revolt against some unpopular dictator. They came about in an instant solely because the idea of planned chaos (to quote Ludwig von Mises) has so overcome the notion of spontaneous order.
Devotion to the fiction that men with guns and laws and stolen money can control microscopic pathogens we barely understand animated the acquiescence to complete boot-licking servitude. Anything – anything! – but unpredictable organic nature in all it’s life-giving danger and beauty. We must collectively pretend we can eradicate uncertainty, all physical and spiritual casualties be damned.
When Science Died
The oxymorons in the air are rooted in a deeper one.
“Belief in science”.
That’s a phrase people have been unironically uttering with increased frequency for at least a few decades.
“I believe in science” is a contradiction in concepts. It is meaningless, used only to signal superiority by unthinking people who are scared of unknowns.
Belief means to assume the truth of something and act on that assumption without fail. Science means to assume the fallibility of everything and never stop trying to prove it false. I would like to be charitable and say that people simply mean this in a tongue-in-cheek way, to say they are religiously devoted to questioning everything.
Except the complete opposite is true everywhere you see “belief in science” trotted out, or true skeptics called “deniers of science”. The scientific process is nothing if it is not a perpetual threat to the consensus view. Yet the word has come to mean nothing more than blind defense of the consensus view. Scientism is antithetical to science.
Similarly, those who question mainstream ideas (not merely ideas, but the violent imposition of those ideas) are called “believers”, and those who crouch and lick the hand that whips them are called “skeptics”. If Orwell never seemed relevant before, he surely does now.
A History of Inhumanity
Those with rabid, hateful, desperate, lurching faith in state agents to neatly destroy organic order and replace it with clean chaos are naive about the power of the state to do harm. Even granting stupidly charitable assumptions about the state’s goals being good to begin with, bureaucracies being capable of carrying them out perfectly, and no unintended consequences resulting, there is no instance in the history of the organized crime that calls itself government where states did not venture far beyond what the public knew or desired.
Did you know every single state in the United States had forced sterilization programs at one point? Health departments with an explicit goal of reducing the population of blacks, handicapped persons, poor people, and other “undesirable” individuals surreptitiously injected people to prevent them from procreating. The last state to finally end the practice was North Carolina, and it didn’t end until the 1980s.
Citizens are aghast at the atrocities of Stalin, Mao, and Hitler. We would’ve resisted such horrors! Except most of the time we don’t know they’re happening. Because we trust the scientific central planners.
Liberty is Life
We don’t understand reality.
Hayek famously said the “curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design”.
Not just economics. The task of every thinking person is to discover the limits of our knowledge. To replace answers with questions, arrogance with curiosity, intellectual death with life.
One of the greatest casualties in rule by diktat is experimentation and discovery. We don’t know anything about the human body, virology, epidemiology, or any of the other specialized fields of human health. The absurdity of assuming one small body can accurately surmise and prescribe a single path for all people in all places and times is beyond the pale.
Millions of messy experiments. People with dramatically different risk tolerances, trying dramatically different approaches. Sharing their feedback. Profiting from effectiveness, losing from error. This dynamic churn is the source of all progress. To decree a single plan backed by the threat of murder (as every single government law is) is to destroy humanity’s best hope of flourishing.
Julian Simon famously shot down the doomsdayers who fear human life and liberty above all (excepting of course their own) by winning a bet about the availability of resources as population expands. But his bet was a gimmick compared to the profound insight of his masterful book, The Ultimate Resource. Simon points out that individual humans, free to explore and try and fail and succeed and compete, are the source of progress not only for the human race, but the entire natural world.
We are relentless problem solvers. But we do it in messy ways not fun to watch and even harder to catalog in textbooks. We teach and learn through experience and consequences. We progress when we do the most outlandish things all the smart people thought were pointless. Our glories and triumphs are utterly illegible. Historians and bureaucrats have no choice but to guess, fudge, lie, and misinform, because to accurately chart the true path and nature of progress is impossible.
We don’t know what ingredients matter most or what will work best. That is precisely why we need the free and open contest of liberty to discover it.
It is the same with ideas. John Milton said it is best to let truth and falsehood grapple, because truth is the stronger in the long run. The sycophantic obeisance by every major media outlet and online platform to moronic political power-seekers is the opposite of this dynamic discovery process. Labels and warnings about “fake news”, removing ideas that deviate from those spouted by humanity’s lowest lifeforms (politicians and bureaucrats), and propping up “official” ideas are bad for curiosity, bad for liberty, bad for progress, and bad for life.
Historian Thaddeus Russell (driven from academia by the mindless literatti) documents how the least reputable people tend to expand human freedom, and thereby progress, opportunity, happiness, and meaning. I don’t think you have to be a deviant or a scoundrel in order to enhance liberty, but I do think those who resist the drive for a sanitized world will be labelled as such, and those already labelled as such are less likely to cave to prestige and pressure.
The cold dead hand of Communism could no longer control Poland, not because respectable ideologues educated enough people on the virtues of freedom, but because the illegal underground market became bigger than the respectable above ground one.
Humanity needs gray markets, black markets, shady people, fringey people, all kinds of people running all kinds of experiments. Ideas bumping into ideas and exploding into new ideas. Bad ones. Good ones. Easy ones. Hard ones. Dangerous ones. Safe ones.
Unpredictability, unknowability, dynamism, the organic nature of emergent phenomena, entrepreneurship at the edges, opposition to expert consensus – that is human liberty. That is life.
We don’t need more experts. We don’t need more controls. We don’t need to eradicate variability. We need gritty, dirty, messy, imperfect, unpredictable, wild, untamed, dangerous, beautiful human freedom.
Fuck the cold metallic gloved dead hand of human chess playing technocratic ghouls who want to squelch and contain and document and track and sterilize it to death.
The man who knows freedom will find a way to be free.Open This Content
“I’m so sorry for the way I acted. I was a fool.”
I’ve had some times when I’ve had to admit to other people (or to myself) my foolishness. I’ve looked back on times in my life when I was so sure I was wise and so wrong about that – and tried to admit my mistake.
Exhibit A: high school, when I was too cool and too smart for my town, my church, family, etc.
When I meet folks from this time, I sometimes feel compelled to apologize for how I acted or seemed back then. Usually when I’ve had these conversations, though, I’ve made a mistake. I’ve said “I was a fool.”
The mistake here is not saying (accurately) that I *am* a fool now. I’ve seen enough revolutions around the sun to know that my understanding is constantly developing, and that every six months I can look back with embarrassment on the “me” of six months ago.
Given that embarrassment and growth in self-knowledge is coming down the line, I probably shouldn’t speak in any way to suggest that foolishness is a one-time mistake on my part. Instead, when I apologize for my foolishness, I should recognize the foolishness of now as well as the foolishness of the past.
“I’m so sorry for the way I acted. I am a fool.”
This is probably the most honest way to put it, and the most realistic. As even Socrates is said to have understood, we know nothing or very close to it. No use pretending that our path to wisdom is a one-failure-and-done kind of affair.Open This Content
As the COVID-19 pandemic ran its deadly course in New York, governor Andrew Cuomo affirmed a state policy forbidding nursing homes to reject suffering from the disease.
At least partially as a result (Cuomo himself acknowledged early on that the virus spreads through such facilities “like fire through dry grass”), nearly 6,000 long-term care residents have died so far.
Cuomo, of course, denies any personal responsibility in the matter. He blames the homes (“Do you believe a nursing home operator would accept a patient who they knew they couldn’t care for? Why would a nursing home operator do that?”). He blames the CDC. He blames US president Donald Trump.
Cuomo’s usual “large and in charge” act seems to be crumbling under the weight of the body count. Suddenly, he was “just doing his job,” maybe even “just following orders.” Sound familiar?
Hannah Arendt, Stanley Milgram observes in his classic study of obedience to authority, “contended that the prosecution’s effort to depict [Adolf] Eichmann as a sadistic monster was fundamentally wrong, that he came closer to being an uninspired bureaucrat who simply sat at his desk and did his job. … This is, perhaps, the most fundamental lesson of our study: ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.”
The policies Eichmann executed and enforced — policies aimed at the extermination of the Jews — were intentionally murderous.
The policies Cuomo executed and enforced were deadly too, but in a grossly negligent rather than openly intentional, way.
That’s the DIFFERENCE between Cuomo and Eichmann.
The SIMILARITY between the two is in their shared defense: The idea that those who execute and enforce state policy aren’t responsible for their actions BECAUSE they are executing and enforcing state policy.
The Nuremberg trials — and Eichmann’s later trial in Israel — quashed such defenses when it came to German war crimes in general and the Holocaust in particular.
Unfortunately, US law lags the Nuremberg/Eichmann precedents by decades: “Sovereign immunity” and “qualified immunity” shield governments, and those who act on their behalves, from liability for their actions.
The worst punishment Andrew Cuomo likely faces for killing thousands of New Yorkers is maybe — just maybe — not getting re-elected governor of New York, or promoted to a cabinet position, or ever winning the presidency.
If there’s any justice in the world at all, he’ll suffer at least THOSE penalties.Open This Content
Curiosity is the master impulse behind all human progress and good things.
Every dominant belief and political structure are optimized as the antithesis of curiosity.
Curiosity is the greatest threat to concentrated power and prestige, so those who have power and prestige labor endlessly to create the mind-killing opposite of all curiosity. Consensus. Obedience. Being seen as “normal”, “in the know”, “respectable”.
Curiosity doesn’t care about reputations and rules. That’s why it’s the only impulse with the power to cut through the human bullshit matrix and create progress and discovery.
The least respectable ideas often have more curiosity behind them than the most respected. It doesn’t make the specific ideas any better or more true, but you can be sure that the curious impulse behind wacky ideas is more beneficial to humanity than the obedient prestige-seeking behind consensus.
It’s impossible to overestimate the unpredictable power of raw curiosity unencumbered by the need to be seen as serious.
Death and Awakening
Curiosity is the ultimate flame of progress, growth, and meaning. It’s what makes us most human, and pushes us closest to the divine.
Curiosity is what leads to breakthroughs.
If you look at the history of man you see a relentless curiosity. The same curiosity that turns people into martyrs and heretics brings humanity forward.
If there is a “great stagnation” as Peter Thiel, Tyler Cowen, and others believe, it is the stagnation of curiosity. The battle against curiosity has been waged since the beginning of time by tyrants, despots, authoritarians, and fear-mongers. And for the last 100 years or so, curiosity has been losing. The entire schooling system is one gigantic effort to contain curiosity. Credentialism, official bodies and bureaucrats, licenses, unified master plans, oustings and labelings are systematic battles against curiosity.
Obedience is the antithesis of curiosity. Curiosity is dangerous. Curiosity, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, is not safe, but it’s good.
You can see the dominant impulses today are the opposite of curiosity. Climate change fear and the idea of “consensus” is the enemy and opposite of all curiosity. It’s a mind killer. It’s a progress killer. It leads to death and stagnation. Unmitigated trust in scientific and medical professionals is a curiosity killer. There is a lot of dead curiosity lingering in the heart of every human on the planet.
Or maybe it’s just dormant. And maybe it’s awakening just a bit.
In fact, there is a lot of hope right now.
Curiosity has new vistas as wide ranging as a renewed interest in spirituality and Jordan Peterson to conspiracy theories that spread on 4chan and Reddit. These are good, whether or not they’re true. Forget the specifics of individual claims or beliefs. The fact that people are yearning for and exploring ideas considered wacky and out of bounds by the curiousless consensus is good.
Curiosity is good. Curiosity is ready to have a new dawn. And humanity is desperate for its master impulse to awaken again.
Ancient aliens. The flat earth. Political conspiracy. Religious resurgence. Jung. Archetypes. Alchemy. Astrology. Myths. UFOs. The “Invisible College”. The Mandela Effect. Time travel. Simulation theory. Planetary colonization.
What do they have in common?
They live only in a world where curiosity is not dead. Even as the cost of exploration outside the curiosity killing norms grows, so too do the number of people playing around with heretical ideas.
Again I emphasize, it’s not important what percentage of these ideas are “correct”. What’s important is the courage to play with the ideas. Those who play with crazy ideas are the R&D arm for humanity. They move us forward not only with their discoveries, but with their attitude. Nothing is more deeply human than relentless curiosity.
Unbridled curiosity is the root of all breakthroughs. Slavish repetition and rule-following kills it. Typically a few generations after a breakthrough by a curious tinkerer, a school of soul-dead followers canonize the details and fear deviation. The spirit through which disciplines are born are smothered by the formalization of the disciples.
If you think wild, crazy, weird, mystical, politically, socially, and philosophically dangerous ideas aren’t behind the progress of humanity, think again.
Here is a passage on the heroes of science, and their obsession with forbidden knowledge, secret societies, and mysticism:
WHEN WE PEER INTO THE HIDDEN LIVES of the heroes of science, the people who forged the mechanical world-view and made the great leaps forward in technology that have made our lives so much safer, easier and more pleasant, we often find they are deeply immersed in esoteric thought – particularly alchemy.
We might also consider the lesser but related paradox that many of the world’s most notorious occultists and outlandish visionaries were also in their own way practically minded men, often responsible for smaller but nevertheless significant inventions.
Looking at both groups together, it is difficult to see a clear distinction between scientists and occultists, even as we move into modern times. Rather there is a spectrum in which the individual is a bit of both, albeit to varying degrees.
Paracelsus, perhaps the most revered of occultists, revolutionized medicine by introducing the experimental method. He was also the first to isolate and name zinc, made great breakthroughs in the importance to medicine of hygiene and also was the first to formulate principles which would come to underlie homeopathy.
Giordano Bruno is a great hero of science because he was burned at the stake in 1600 for insisting that the solar system is heliocentric. But as we have already seen, this was because he believed fervently in the ancient wisdom of the Egyptians. He believed that the earth goes round the sun because, in the first instance, so too did the initiate priests of the ancient world.
Robert Fludd, the occult author and defender of the Rosicrucians, also invented the barometer.
Jan Baptiste van Helmont, the Flemish alchemist, was important in the secret societies for reintroducing into Western esotericism ideas of reincarnation – which he called ‘the revolution of humane souls’. He also separated gases in the course of his alchemical experiments, coined the word ‘gas’, and in the course of experiments on the healing powers of magnets, coined the word ‘electricity’.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the German mathematician, was Newton’s rival in the devising of the calculus. In Leibniz’s case his discoveries arose out of fascination with cabalistic number mysticism which he shared with his close friend, the Jesuit scholar of the occult Athanasius Kircher. In 1687 Kircher, an alchemical student of the properties of the vegetable dimension, resurrected a rose from its ashes in front of the Queen of Sweden. Leibniz himself has also provided us with the most detailed and credible account of the alchemical transformation of base metals into gold.
The Royal Society was the great intellectual engine of modern science and technological invention. Among Newton’s contemporaries, Sir Robert Moray published the world’s first ever scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions – and was a fervent researcher into Rosicrucian teaching. The strange monk-like figure of Robert Boyle, whose law of thermodynamics paved the way for the internal combustion engine, was a practising alchemist. In his youth he wrote of having been initiated into an ‘invisible college’. Also practising alchemists were Robert Hooke, inventor of the microscope, and William Harvey, discoverer of the circulation of the blood.
Descartes, who fathered rationalism in the mid-seventeenth century, spent a considerable amount of time trying to track down the Rosicrucians and in researching their philosophy. He rediscovered the ancient, esoteric idea of the pineal gland as the gateway to consciousness, the inner eye, and his philosophical breakthrough came to him all of a piece while in a visionary state. His most famous dictum may be seen as a recasting of the Rosicrucian teaching intended to help foster the evolution of an independent, intellectual faculty: I must think in order to be.
Frontispiece, designed by John Evelyn, to the official history of the Royal Society, published in 1667. Francis Bacon is depicted as the founding father. He sits under the wing of an angel in a way that echoes the closing phrase of the Fama Fraternitatis of the Rosicrucians.
Blaise Pascal, one of the great mathematicians of his day and an eminent philosopher, was discovered after his death to have sewn into his cloak a piece of paper on which was written: ‘The year of grace 1654, Monday 23 November, day of St Clement, Pope and Martyr. From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past twelve at night, FIRE.’ Pascal achieved the illumination that the monks of Mount Athos sought.
In 1726 Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels predicted the existence and orbital periods of the two moons of Mars, which were not discovered by astronomers using telescopes until 1877. The astronomer, who then saw how accurate Swift had been, named the moons Phobos and Deimos – fear and terror – so awestruck was he by Swift’s evident supernatural powers.
Emmanuel Swedenborg, the great eighteenth-century Swedish visionary, wrote detailed accounts of his journeys into the spirit worlds. His reports of what the disembodied beings he met there told him inspired the esoteric Freemasonry of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He was also the first to discover the cerebral cortex and the ductless glands, and also engineered what is still the largest dry dock in the world.
As we have already seen, Charles Darwin attended séances. He may have had the opportunity to learn the esoteric doctrine of the evolution from fish to amphibian to land animal to human from his close association with Max Müller, early translator of sacred Sanskrit texts.
Nicholas Tesla, recently described by a historian of science as ‘the ultimate visionary crank’, was a Serbian Croat who became a naturalized American. There he patented some seven hundred inventions including fluorescent lights and the Tesla coil that generates an alternating current. Like Newton’s most important breakthroughs, this last arose out of his belief in an etheric dimension between the mental and physical planes.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries many leading scientists thought it worthwhile to pursue a scientific approach to occult phenomena, believing that it would ultimately be possible to measure and predict occult forces such as etheric currents that seemed only a shade more elusive than electromagnetism, sound waves or x-rays. Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph and therefore the godfather of all recorded sound, and Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, both supposed that psychic phenomena were perfectly respectable areas of research for science, involving themselves in esoteric Freemasonry and theosophy. Edison tried to make a radio that would tune into the spirit worlds. Their great scientific discoveries arose out of this research into the supernatural. Even the television was invented as a result of trying to capture psychic influences on gases fluctuating in front of a cathode ray tube.
(From chapter 23 of, A Secret History of the World, by Mark Booth.)
This is not accident or coincidence. Curious people follow the white rabbit down strange paths. Because their desire for answers is stronger than their desire to fit in.
Fitting in is a shackle on the mind.
You are the enemy of curiosity.
Your desire to gain prestige and status from others. Your desire to “win” the games created by others. Career games. Education games. Title games. Awards games. Fame games. Money games.
The only game worth playing is the game of chasing down your questions and desires. But it’s easy to forget that. We want to feel alive, and a quick hit of respectability from strangers does the trick. For a minute. Then we need more. And the more we prioritize it the deeper enslaved we become.
When pursuing prestige, our mind becomes our enemy. We must restrain it and bend and form it to the collective blob of drooling thoughtless belief in “What we all know”.
No! Every theory deserves questioning. Every assumption deserves scrutiny. Nothing is out of bounds.
The enemies of curiosity never tell you why pursuing magic or faith healing or inter-dimensional travel or religion or moon landing conspiracies is a waste of time. They don’t make arguments about the ideas themselves. They only appeal to prestige. They tell you people who chase those rabbits are dumb. They tell you of the social cost you’ll endure. They tell you it’s a waste of time because “they” have already settled these things. Why repeat the work of getting answers “we” already have?
The enemies of curiosity think the only things worth pursuing are new additions to the body of accepted knowledge. Examining the foundations is silly. But the foundations are always wrong. Questioning everything, all that is established, known, sacred, and solid; that is the role of curiosity.
It doesn’t help to blame others. The enemy within who desires respectability over truth is the one you need to defeat.
Stoke the Flame
Crazy ideas reveal thought processes.
Most people shut down crazy questions because it would be too much work to refute them point-by-point. Not because they cannot be refuted – most can, because few crazy ideas turn out to be true – but because most of us have never done the work necessary to justify the beliefs we hold.
“Prove to me the earth isn’t flat” is the question of a curious mind. It is a good question. It’s good because it forces us to think through how we know what we know. It exposes our direct experience as the pathetic sliver it is. If you can’t prove it through direct observation, how can you? What if appealing to experts or second-hand accounts doesn’t count? Can you reason to it? These questions stimulate real thought.
Embracing such questions brings humility. It reveals how silly absolute thinking is in most cases. It uncovers incentives and probabilities. You begin to analyze the likelihood that person X is correct, or why person Y might benefit by exaggerating. It shows complexity and uncertainty and the amount of knowledge that is guesswork.
The kinds of questions small children ask are pure curiosity. “Why is the sky blue?” How many adults still ask that? Did they stop asking because they completely understand the answer, or because they stopped being curious? Because it would be “weird” to ask such questions?
Kids want to know why all the myths and stories and movies are full of super powers, but they don’t see anyone leaping buildings or reading minds around them. Do you know why? Are you fully satisfied with your answers? Why? Because it seems like a waste of time to think about it, or because you have a thorough understanding of what’s possible? Did answers come, or did curiosity leave?
We Don’t Know Anything
Take archaeology. Archaeologists have no idea what to make of their field.
There are thousands of ancient structures that no one knows anything about.
From elaborate underground cities to buried megaliths, there are countless pieces of the past that no one knows who created, when, why, or how. We are utterly stumped. Hundreds of times over.
And that’s just with the stuff that’s been found.
New amazing things are discovered all the time. Not just little things that add detail to notions of the past. Things that make previous theories impossible.
Only twenty years ago, an entire Egyptian city declared by all the academic experts to be a myth, was found at the bottom of the Mediterranean. Much like the city of Troy, it was found not by a “professional”, but a hobbyist who was more dedicated than any tenure-seeking conservative with little curiosity. A businessman from France raised the funds and spent years combing the seafloor while the academics sat on their asses. He found temples, statues, jewelry, pottery, canals, docks, and hundreds of ships. The find proved that Egyptians were seafaring and robust trade with Greece was ongoing.
A few decades ago in Turkey a site was found 50 times larger than Stonehenge. It’s still 95% buried, but what has been uncovered is a complete knockdown of all previous textbook history. It looks to be nearly 12,000 years old and way more sophisticated than anything that age is supposed to be. Nobody really understands it.
Also recently discovered was the largest yet crater from an apparent asteroid strike under the ice in Greenland. This thing was bigger than the one thought to have killed off the dinosaurs, but appears to have occurred much more recently.
This is just scratching the surface. How many places under the ocean or buried in earth are there? Whale bones have been found in the Sahara. Virtually none of the Sahara has ever been explored or excavated. What else could be there?
We know so little about our own history, let alone the history of plants, animals, and the climate of this planet. Accepted history covers a laughable sliver and does a laughable job even of that.
Accuracy is Impossible
I’ll never forget when I worked in the Michigan state capitol and would see various events and protests. The next day I’d read coverage in the newspaper. More often than not, the coverage described (and sometimes even depicted with fudged photos) events that were nothing at all like what I witnessed firsthand. That was one day later, from a source of the same language with a shared culture in an age of internet access. And still, what was printed was accepted by the majority of Michiganders yet it was woefully inaccurate.
Remove any ability for counter-narratives. Throw in different, even dead languages. Throw in radically different cultural contexts and ways of describing things. Oh, and add not a few days or weeks or even years, but centuries or millennia.
The idea that history paints an accurate picture or that archaeology can map out the details of the past is beyond ludicrous.
Of course we must try! But we should be humble enough to see these as best guesses given current information, never as “consensus” (a word that does not belong in a serious and ongoing intellectual discipline, but to religions and dead lines of thought).
A curious mind should rejoice at all this mystery. Somehow the most credentialed are almost without exception threatened by it. They gave up the journey of discovery when they got on the road to status and tenure.
So Much More
That’s just a glimpse into one discipline.
We don’t know what gravity is, why the moon orbits like it does, what the billions of bacteria in our bodies do, how viruses work or whether they are living, or why we experience time as flowing forward.
No question or theory is out of bounds. Explore them all. Ask why old theories got dropped and what made current “consensus” win. (The answers are unflattering to the consensus peddlers.) Ask what would happen if we scrapped all our assumptions. Ask.
Curiosity doesn’t just lead to knowledge for humanity. It leads to being fully alive on the individual level.
Stay curious.Open This Content