The lamp post
The joke is familiar. Man searches diligently under lamp-post at night. Explains to a passerby that he has lost his keys. ‘Did you lose them under the lamp post?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then why are you looking under the lamp-post?’ ‘Because there is no light anywhere else.’
Science in the soul , Richard Dawkins, Penguin Randomhouse, 2017
Apparently people with anxiety disorders can’t watch… or maybe just really struggle to watch new series on television. They often just end up re-watching series they’ve already seen. It’s postulated that it’s because they know how the series they’ve seen will end, and that is more comforting than watching something new and daunting.
My wife is watching Atypical while I’m reading in the other room. I managed about two episodes before I firmly stated that I couldn’t handle it anymore and exited myself from the pain of the next… however many seasons there are now.
It’s not that I think I have an anxiety disorder. Or maybe I do. I just seem to struggle with cringe these days… and Atypical just seems to ooze it from every single character interaction and scene.
I off handedly mentioned to someone the other day that I thought the lead actress in Atypical (Brigette Lundy-Paine) was quite pretty. ‘You know she’s identifies as non-binary’, came the retort.
I mull over this…
Can non-binary people not be pretty I wonder vaguely? Or maybe I have committed some sort of faux pas commenting out loud on someone’s aesthetics. Maybe it’s because I’m a heterosexual male and since they don’t identify as either they are kinda off limits in terms of being classified by me as one thing or another. Wait, is any form of opinion on somebodies pleasing symmetry actually allowed anymore? Or do all forms of sexualizing need to happen only in ones mind behind the veneer of the new social contract? Is saying someone is pretty sexualizing them? God this is all so complicated.
I end up changing the subject because… well who has the the energy for robust discussions like this in real life… still my conscious has a go at me for taking the cowardly exit… I shrug… my conscious doesn’t live in the realpolitik of modernity and all it’s kookiness. There is always the very real danger of making people angry and losing friends over unsecured comments and/or loose cannons. It’s easier just to apologize and awkwardly move on right?
In any event. I really like this ‘joke’. The one Richard Dawkins quotes in his book I mean. It’s the first time I’ve heard it. It’s a chapter (or maybe an essay is more accurate) about… *exhales* broadly DNA based life forms and how we wouldn’t expect life that evolved elsewhere (ie off planet) to have a 64 triplet genetic code and how we often go looking for things (in this case extraterrestrial life) in the ‘circle of light’… instead off in the darkness. (I’m not sure this brief synopsis does the chapter justice… but I CBF to rehash the whole chapter here in a coherent manner, lets be honest coherency isn’t really my thing).
This analogy resonates with me. The circle of light is comfortable and familiar… and well… light. Even though we know we won’t find what we are looking for…. we like to keep to what we know. Well… I do. I often feel like the dumbass looking for his keys in the pool of light. Although I’m probably also looking for my phone and my wallet. And my sunglasses. And often my shoes. God and my buff (which after a year of being masked up every day you’d imagine would now be a habitual accessory).
I haven’t read any Dawkins in ages. I think mostly because I’ve been Dawk’d out. I’ve consumed so much of his literature (and media) over the years… eventually, just like peach schnapps or jaeger bombs you just can’t take it anymore… and even the smell of it invokes a reaction like biting down on tin foil.
Although having said that I’m really into (and enjoying) Science in the Soul. I think it’s because it’s a collection of science themed essays and ripostes more than the usual Dawkins staples of Evolution and/or (new) Atheism. Plus Dawkins writes well (I had forgotten). He doesn’t have Hitchens… I want to say flair… but maybe that’s not entirely accurate… Hitchens can be a tough reading experience. Dawkins is more middle of the road… easy going maybe. It’s rare for me to have to go back and re read one his paragraphs… whereas Hitchens is often a slow cognitive process involving frustration and a figurative machete. (Not through any fault of Hitchens but more because I am quite stupid). Hitchens is fuckoff sexy though… once you can bend your mind around it.
Science in the soul was one of my two holiday reads. The other being… Jordan B Petersons new book. Which I am actually embarrassed to admit having bought. I didn’t like 12 rules, so why I thought Beyond Order would somehow (magically) appeal to me I have no idea. I think I got caught up into the huge Peterson stack in the center of the bookstore and the giant posters proclaiming its amazingness. I’ve only struggled through the first new chapters so far and its been hard work… there is something really weird about Jordan… I think he might actually be mad.
Mad, in a HP Lovecraftian staring too long into R’lyeh kinda way, and less of a cutesy tea-party with Dormice and a March Hare.
A post for another time perhaps, if I can grit my teeth and get through it.