Monday, August 21, 2006

Whistling in the Dark

Just read a long article justifying why group A's system of training is superior to group B's. It's a very long article for the web, very detailed, and in it's own way very logical. But it's not right. Not just the flaws in the arguments but the blind spots and the hidden assumptions and.... yet it is great for affirming things that the believers have already chosen to believe.

Do you ever wonder why we have religion and superstition? It's because the world is a big and scary place. Because without modern technology a quirk of weather could starve your entire village in a year or a bolt of lightning could ignite a fire that would leave you and your tribe dead or homeless. Because it is very cool and macho when you are the hunter and very scary and hopeless when you are the hunted.

Humans can't stand to feel out of control. The feeling of helplessness is one of the most unpleasant imaginable, and one of the key criteria to developing PTSD. So in order to feel some control (it doesn't have to be REAL control, imaginary is better than nothing) we've collected rituals and superstitions that might bring rain or ward off plague and we've invented gods that we can placate or buy off or suck up to.

This is more hidden in our temperature-controlled, waste-removed well supplied modern world. But it still comes up. It comes up especially in the question of violence. Violence is a primal fear and we instinctively know that if we are faced with a certain level of violence, we have no more chance than a coastal tribe hit by a tsunami or a bug hit by a windshield.

There are other levels of violence that can be dealt with, of course... the point is that knowing that there is a level out there beyond that leaves people feeling small and helpless.

So people seek answers. And when they find a person who can convincingly sell them one, they buy it. They invest money and time and effort in this answer to an unanswerable problem.

It becomes a religion. Very few people have faced a hurricane at sea, seen lots of violence up close, or beheld the face of God. Religions are written for the people who haven't seen the thing itself. The people who have seen it consistantly say, "It's not like that." Not like what? What they expected, what they were told, what they believed.

So the people who haven't seen it defend their beliefs. They tell stories about successes and quibble about the logic holes in other people's training. They damn the unbeliever and mock the heretic and heathen... and they poke fingers in their ears when one person, covered with scars, quietly says: "It's not like that."

1 comment:

Kai Jones said...

Maturity consists of being comfortable (able to access your gifts, skills, etc.) with ambiguity, and being able to respond flexibly.

In other words, it's more important to improve your responses than your predictions. (It's also far more achievable.)