Understanding the World

OK. I’m going to tell an allegory. This is inspired by a blog post written by Sarah Hoyt. Sarah and I disagree on some things. That’s fine, I disagree with just about everyone.

What matters more than our disagreement, is understanding why we disagree. In my opinion too many people view the world in a simplistic fashion. I suspect that they think I view the world as too complex. Our opinions are based on the sum total of our experiences, and I was looking for a way to explain that. For that, I choose allegory.

My apologies if this is a bit long, but what Sarah said really resonated, but maybe not in the way she expected. I’ve always had a mind which had a tendency to come at problems sideways. That’s what it did here.

For the purposes of this allegory Human Society is roughly divided into two classes of people:

  1. Influencers – those who have ideas and scatter them to the winds
  2. Normals – those who receive the ideas, and hopefully use them to good purpose

There is some transfer between the groups of course. Some Influencers give up and become Normals. Harper Lee wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird” and never wrote another novel.

Some Normals aspire to better things and become Influencers. Many of the early Science Fiction writers were drawn from the ranks of the fans who took part in the letter columns of the magazines. Most writers in any genre are readers who decided that they could do it too. That’s how I started writing.

In my allegory both classes of people are blind. Their eyes have been glued shut by the Gods, who think this is a hilarious, cosmic joke.

All of the population of Earth is in one enormous room that stretches off to infinity. All of the dead are in another room, which contiguous in space, but in another dimension which is only a tiny distance away. When the living die, they are instantly transported to that other dimension. Communications from the dead do arrive sometimes, in the form of letters, manuscripts, etc. found by the heirs.

The Normals are standing passively, and blindly. Every once in a while a piece of paper blows into them. They grab it, and feed it into a badly designed Optical Character Recognition Scanner. The device reads out what the paper says to them through an earbud.

Because the system is badly designed, they often do not understand what the paper says. The Optical Character Recognition Software garbles words. Sometimes the piece of paper is written partly in languages they don’t understand. This causes confusion.

They tell their friends and relatives who are standing close to them, who tell their friends and relatives, and so on. It gets passed along by word of mouth, with the attendent accuracy problems (see Chinese Whispers)

Meanwhile the Influencers, which is to say writers, singer/songwriters, and other creative types are standing around a bunch of beasts. The Influencers believe they are all standing around a single beast.

They are attempting to determine what the beast is, but are suffering a great deal of confusion. Since they are standing around 1,000,000 beasts, both real and phantasmagorical the results they are shouting out at each other make no sense. To make things even worse, some are bare handed, some are wearing thin gloves, some are wearing hockey gloves, baseball mits, astronaut gauntlets, and just about every conceivable type of hand wear. Some aren’t using their hands, they are using their tongues, feet, buttocks, breasts, thighs, and other body parts to feel the beasts, in their attempts at understanding.

As they investigate, each Influencer extrudes sheets of paper which blow away among the normals. How much paper, how many sheets, and how far the paper goes, is determined by popularity, which is often determined by luck rather than skill. Some Influencers cheat in various ways to get their paper into more hands. having bribed some of the Gods.

An added form of confusion is provided by the Gods. Loki and the other tricksters are guiding Influencers from beast to beast, so that an Influencer can be feeling the snout of an elephant, and then the tail of a dragon, and not realize that he/she is feeling a different beast. Odin is really pissed at this, and is trying to head Loki off, but he’s being interfered with by Frigg, who is upset that Odin isn’t paying enough attention to her. Thor is tossing his hammer at Loki, but missing, and hitting Influencers, killing them. All of the other pantheons are there too, having their own problems.

A few Influencers have managed to crack one eye open a bit, and know something is wrong. None of them can see a lot, no more than parts of two or three beasts, and those not clearly, because all of them are wildly myopic. Nothing makes a bit of sense, but at least they know that something is wrong.

From the room of the dead sometimes a piece of paper comes. This happens when someone finds a document in storage, documenting the dead Influencer’s attempt at understanding the beast he/she was facing. Of course that beast may be long dead. Or possibly the Influencer was under the sway of interesting herbs and spices that Colonel Saunders wouldn’t put on his menu. Who knows, and who can prove anything now. The Influencer is dead, so no one can ask. For that matter, it could all be a hoax.

End of Allegory

Effectively what I’m saying is that Sarah is right, and Sarah is wrong. From the data in front of her, she’s right. From the data in front of me, she’s wrong. I’m holding a different part of a different beast, and I’m wearing a different pair of gloves. Or maybe I’m using my buttocks, or my forehead to investigate it, and she’s wearing oven mits. Who can tell?


Wayne Borean

Sunday May 5, 2013


Join the conversation

No comments

  1. Wayne, I’m not sure which blog post you are referring to, but many of the things I see in Sarah’s blog are quite odd. I agree with some of the things she says and others are completely nonsensical, like the idea that all “liberals” are one homogenous group who hold identical opinions such as being wildly crazy about China and wishing to emulate the Chinese government (???), are all brainwashed into agreeing with the “Socialist/Marxist/Fascist [take your pick] beautiful people” who have decided what we must think on various topics (global warming/the environment, helping the needy, HUGE government programs, the need to regulate every aspect of daily life in order to assure conformity, etc.) and that if we keep going on this course, allowing the Obama administration to practice complete anarchy, the country will fall into absolute chaos. I don’t know any two liberals/progressives who agree on everything, and often on almost nothing. It’s as if she, and many people of the same “libertarian” stripe, refuse to, or are not capable of, even considering reality. Some of the more amazing ideas espoused by Sarah and her commenters are sometimes so out on the fringe that the topics are things I have never heard of, and yet they are posited as if “everyone” knows about them, agrees on them, and that the administration has created these situations deliberately in order to deny Americans some right or other. I have actually had to Google some of the things being discussed because I had freaking idea what they were talking about!

    There has never been a War on Women — no, it has been a War on Men that has been going on for decades through our public schools to indoctrinate the male children of this country into a cult of female worship in which women are the only people whose opinions should be considered, that all women should be deferred to in all areas of knowledge, and all the boys should learn to think and behave like women. This “massive conspiracy” has altered the educational system in order to emphasize learning techniques that favor the way the female brain works and deliberately refuse to embrace any learning techniques that would favor the way boys’ brains work, so the boys will have a much harder time in school and end up with a lower overall performance, and will grow up to be confused/guilty as to their sexual identity — all as part of said massive conspiracy to make sure the next generations will go along with the “Socialist/Marxist/Fascist [take your pick]” liberal ideals.

    Okay, I know a few conspiracy theorists on both sides of the political spectrum that fit in the ‘tin-foil hat’ group, but I had never encountered anyone with ideas like what I see discussed in her blog.

    I guess I am just naive when I expect otherwise intelligent people to observe different perspectives on an issue, to gather information from several different sources to take in various information and ideas on it, in order to form their own opinion. I really thought it was just a meme that “some people only get their ‘news’ from Fox News” — not a reality!

    I was stunned to discover that the vast majority of the commenters on her blog were absolutely devastated, in “mourning” as one said, when Mitt Romney did not win the election. They had been completely convinced that it was just a foregone conclusion and they would wake up the day after the election knowing that the horror of the last 4 years was over. Guaranteed, not even a ghost of a chance Obama would be re-elected. As far as I know, the only news outlet that espoused that opinion was Fox News… and even their own polls showed Obama ahead in the polls right up to the morning voting began. I’m not even sure how one could manage to block all other information sources on a topic that overwhelming for months and months. It is mind-boggling…

    I made the mistake of assuming I was dealing with reasonable adults and suggested that now that the election was over, I hoped everyone could calm down and start trying to resolve differences so something could get done in Washington, in an exceptionally reasonable, non-confrontational manner. You would have thought I had suggested publicly castrating Mitt, John Boehner, Mitch and all the republicans in the House and Senate at high noon to be broadcast on every national network!! I was accused of “gloating,” deliberately rubbing their noses in this tragedy of monumental proportions, vilified as if I were a serial rapist, and had one commenter literally wish harm on me, my (supposed) children and (supposed) grandchildren as punishment for having participated in ruining their lives!!

    I think your analogy needs to have creatures from n-dimensional space included, just to make sure everyone has the opportunity to make really wild assumptions about reality.

    1. Sarah is an amazingly intelligent woman, with some amazingly huge blind spots. We disagree on a lot of issues.

      That said, at least she tries to think, which puts her head and shoulders above a lot of people I know. That I treasure.

      I wrote the above to explain to her, and some of her echo chamber that things aren’t always black and white. I don’t think that they understood the explanation. That’s fine. They know that I’m different. I don’t think like them. In fact I don’t think much like anybody else. I’m me, which translated into English means weird. I think you’ve read Grandma. That gives you the sort of idea of what comes out of my mind sometimes.

      The other thing is that Sarah keeps giving me these good ideas. Some of her stuff leads my mind into pathways that have been really useful.

      For instance I’ve got this idea that is going to absolutely freak her, and a lot of other people when they see it. It’s a Space Opera series, with a Wayne style twist. I’ve done meticulous research on it, because I know it’s going to upset a heck of a lot of people. The concepts involved are, well, weird. The background is probably worse, because in some ways it is so bland, but rotated 180 degrees from anything anyone else has done.

      Part of the background for the series came from Sarah’s blog posts. I suspect that she’s going to be horribly amazed with what I’ve done.

      And yes, I do read all of her blog posts. There’s so many good ideas…


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *