Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

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Location: New England, United States

Monday, April 16, 2007

Fear and Ignorance Are Not Negotiable

Usually when someone in power tells you that something is "not negotiable" they usually have in mind some very narrowly defined issue that typically is a unique case.

It's hard to generalize from infrequent rare cases.

It happened again a few days ago. Someone told me something was "not negotiable." But this time it was a little different. Because the item in question was a 'Boojum' — an imaginary notion that had no correspondence to anything real. I had made up an expression that not only had no definition, any attempt to come up with a definition resulted in the discovery that no such thing could possibly exist (except in a runaway imagination).

And that, at long last, allowed me to tumble to a generalization of what other people consider "non-negotiable."

Turns out it's fairly simple.

Fear and Ignorance are not negotiable.

End of story.

And so it goes.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Much Ado About Mu

Null: Aleph, you're up early ... or late ...

Aleph: I went to bed around 9 PM, woke up at 3:07 AM. I kid you not.

Null smiles.

Aleph: But, alas, no brilliant insights came with the awakening.

Null: There's a message there somewhere.

Aleph: I'm still in my usual state of perplexity. Mebbe it's someone else's turn to have an epiphany this time.

Null: It's yours — you caught the 3:08 Express.

Aleph: The question is: What is the question?

Aleph: The answer is: There is no answer.

Null nods. So you have to listen for it.

Aleph heard "Mu." No Thing. Much Ado About No Thing. Much Ado About Mu.

Null: So you have to wait patiently. Observe your breath.

Aleph: My breaths are shallow. As are my thoughts.

Aleph yawns.

Aleph: Yawning without Dawning.

Null: That's OK. Insight will come.

Aleph: If I am lucky, it will come to others this time.

Null: The train came into your station...

Aleph: I woke up, looked down the tracks, saw the non-existent ghost train.

Null: Too bad we can't direct it to other places, eh?

Aleph: You recall the Lamed-Vav?

Null: Yep

Aleph: What is the number of the unasked question?

Null: What does it matter? Those are all riddles, not insights.

Aleph: Does "What does it matter?" have a number?

Null: You need a rest from riddles.

Aleph needs someone else to solve a few.

Null: When you're talking, asking questions, you aren't listening.

Aleph: All I hear is irrational fear. Fear of Mu. Fear of No Thing.

Null: That's been around for a long time, maybe forever.

Aleph: It perplexes me that God would make people to be Afraid of No-Thing.

Null: But even now, when you're talking about it, you talk in generalities, not specifics. How can I know what's troubling you if you talk around it?

Aleph: What troubles me is that I don't know what troubles other people, because they talk in generalities rather than specifics.

Null: Pot. Kettle.

Aleph: Fear and Loathing in Lost Vagueness.

Null: See, you use word play to name the problem, but rarely talk clearly about it.

Aleph: It's like the Hunting of the Snark.

Null: Again.

Aleph: The Snark was a Boojum, you see. The Problem is: There is no problem. People just fancy there is one. And that alarms them.

Null: Have you contacted the frightened ones to ask what caused this latest bout of fear of their own shadows? Have they contacted you to volunteer information?

Aleph: No. First, I don't know how to reach them. Second, I haven't been around much for a while. Friday night I was out till 2 AM playing Dungeons and Dragons. Saturday I was at the Museum of Science all day. Saturday night I fell asleep at 9PM.

Null: I'm just guessing that's what's got you going. I don't know. Would you like to know how to contact them? It's listed on the handout they snatched away from you.

Aleph: No. If you want to be helpful, perhaps you can contact the frightened ones and interview them for the story. I am incapable of doing journalism and getting the story. They appear to be too afraid of the bright lights. Doubleplus, if I bother to look any of them up and contact them, they will just say that proves I'm stalking them. They just aren't worth the aggravation.

Null: This is your problem. If you want to solve it, you need to address it directly.

Aleph has no idea how to do an interview to get an accurate story.

Null: This is the same problem you've had countless times before.

Aleph: It is not a problem. I have already solved it. It is another instance of Fear of No Thing. I frequently encounter Fear of No Thing. There is no solution to the problem of Fear of No Thing.

Null: You play clever word games. People enjoy your puns. Then you slip little hints into your puns that scare them, make them think you might be a stalker, because of course they don't actually know you...

Aleph: It is not a problem that I can solve.

Null: And then when they are scared, you blind them with your dazzling lights. And you're surprised they turn their back on you?

Aleph: Like I say, Fear of No Thing. People are scared of their own Imaginations.

Null: It doesn't matter that you're not a stalker. It doesn't matter that there's no cause to fear you.

Aleph: Do you remember that girl who was frightened of her own shadow? And the mother said, "Jump."

Null: Your hints about their appearance, their identities, their location, are an obnoxious thing you do. It's not kind. I realize you're not listening to me.

Aleph: What appearance? I have no clue about their location unless they disclose them. Next thing you'll be telling me is that Claude Dorsel is not really an apple-cheeked adolescent heroine in a series of British adventure stories, but a swaggering soldier of fortune in Brasil, badly overdressed in a musty, ill-fitting uniform.

Null: She'll just hate you for saying that. You can't make people like you if they see you as a threat.

Aleph: And then I usually don't pay all that much attention, anyway.

Null: This is not new information for you. It's the same old groundhog day movie. The one where the groundhog looks for his shadow.

Aleph: That little girl, with her back to the sun, saw her own shadow as a threat.

Null: You refuse to see your own habitual behavior as any part of the problem. So I predict it'll never end. you'll be perplexed and miserable until you die.

Aleph: That mother could not cause her daughter to lose her fear of her own shadow.

Null: I'm sad about that, but there's not a damned thing I can do about it.

Aleph: Do you blame the sun for frightening that child?

Null: You're not listening.

Aleph: There is not a damned thing the sun can do about it either.

Null: That's OK. I'm not talking to hear myself. So I'm going to slip behind a cloud and become invisible again. Perhaps you should consider doing the same, sunny boy.

Aleph: It is not the sun's problem or the mother's problem. Nor is it the shadow's problem.

Null: Maybe you'll have an insight about your own behavior. Maybe not.

Null isn't betting any money on it, after 10 years.

Null hugs you.

Null: Goodnight.

Aleph: Fine. Be that way. Fall asleep on me and be of no help. See if I care. I can always go blogging on my own.

Silence and Darkness.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Lonely In America

About eight years ago, I joined some friends of mine for a pilgrimage to Connecticut to help celebrate the 16th birthday of their eldest niece.

Our plan was to stay overnight and return to Boston the next day.

As it happened, I awoke early the next morning. The only other person who was also awake at that early hour was the youngest daughter, Eliscia, who was about 6. As I sat quietly in the family room, waiting for everyone else to arise, young Eliscia brought in her 'portfolio' to show me. In it were the drawings she had made during the school year, many of which had holiday themes.

When I got to the Thanksgiving series, I asked her about the stories that went with the drawings. I could tell from the contempt in her voice that she wasn't too fond of characters whom we usually call 'Pilgrims' or 'Colonists'.

"What were they like?" I asked her. Her reply made it clear she wanted to have nothing to do with them. She even showed me one drawing in which she pictured herself flying away from the locale in question.

"Would you want to live in the same country as those people?"

"No way," replied Eliscia.

"Would you even want to go visit their land some day?"

Eliscia shook her head no.

Eventually we got through the Thanksgiving set and on to non-political themes in her portfolio.

Later, at breakfast, I mentioned to Eliscia's mother my surprising discovery about her unfavorable attitudes toward the "Land of the Pilgrim's Pride."

Incredulous, Eliscia's mother began to quiz her daughter.

"Is is true that you wouldn't want to live in America?" she asked.

Eliscia nodded her head yes.

"Why not?" asked her mother.

"We learned about the people in America, and they're not very nice."

At this point, her father broke in, "What country do we live in, Eliscia?"

Eliscia shrugged, "I don't know."

Both parents now began to ask similar questions. Eliscia clearly had no idea of the name of state she lived in or the name of her country, but she definitely didn't care for the people or the country they had been teaching her about in school all year.