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Dated 01/01/07

Blogs can be a personal moan or an informative presentation of straight, technical informative. Ours is neither – it is our assessment of what is true.

The philosophical definition of truth, in the minimalist sense, says that there is no such thing as a 'definition of truth' and the only thing you can say about truth is that a sentence like ‘there is a 'camera' there’ is only true because 'there is a 'camera' and it is 'there'. This is a trivial thing to say but it is the only thing to say according to 'minimalist truth'. 'Absolute truth' however, as an 'absolute' is even more difficult to render or to comprehend, so let's not bother...

   
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Extinction – Happy New Year

In the previous blog, the Christmas one, which can still be found as a link on this page, I discussed the importance of good manners and politeness for helping us all understand our existence and get through it. Choose how complicated the world may seem, it all boils down to finding something relatively simple to cheer us up and it’s the small things that really count – such as someone saying “excuse me” and the tiny world of quantum physics.

I thought it might be a good idea, therefore, to follow it up with a sort of sequel to kick off the New Year. So this time I will be discussing the antithesis of existence (no, not being ignored) – extinction.

Throughout the world, animal species are going extinct – this new year alone will see the extinction of many species. This is the work of man, by over-populating the planet we are driving everything else out. Mankind has been likened to a virus or an epidemic, raging through a living body and destroying its natural rhythms like some sort of cancer in a human body. The problem is though that any parasite, unless truly symbiotic, is living on borrowed time – killing the host is not a good idea.

However, it could be argued that without humans, all these species would never have been cataloged in the first place – and they would probably never even notice each other unless they represented a meal. At least humans, some of them, anyway, have higher aspirations than just stuffing their face. For instance, I have never seen an elephant compiling an encyclopedia; choose how good their memory is. For that matter, although some species are exulted for having great intelligence, I have never seen a dolphin designing a safe tuna fishing net that it can’t get accidentally caught in itself, or opening its own version of “Seaworld’ and buying a Beach home in California, or saying to the guys in the military “This is a bomb on my back, isn’t it? I’m not going”; and choose how great whales are at communicating over long distances, I have never heard one offering ideas on how to save itself, let alone the world.

About that tree that falls in the forest that doesn’t exist if no one hears it – in some senses, it would it be just as fanciful as God to an atheist if humans didn’t tramp around in the jungle and take notes.
“Mmm, fallen tree number 4567, Henry, very interesting.”
“Indeed it is, David, very interesting, but according to my notes it’s 4568”
“Really! Are you sure?”
“Reasonably certain, David.”
“Mmm, we will discuss this matter back in camp, later.”
“Did you hear it fall, Henry? That’s the important thing.”
“I did, David”.
“So did I, it's good to be sure”.

Perhaps these explorers will find God one day; perhaps they already have but didn’t recognize him. “Was that God, David?” “No Henry, it was Someone else”. Maybe God need only be a thought anyway and anything else more tangible might be less than comforting? You know how annoying people can be when they think the world revolves around them.

If anything, the only animal that can even attempt to make sense of the universe, and probably even wants to, is a human – that’s why we feel so alone and need God. Most of the time though, God is put to one side and people just pretend to be bewildered, it’s simpler that way. In some ways, God is no longer the Lord of Life, but has taken the probably more enduring role of Lord of Death, or extinction – noticed, or needed, only at funerals, or when there’s a war on – when the need for some sort of extension, or meaning to life becomes more apparent.

Of course, we remember God at Christmas, but I’m never sure whether it is in celebration or in anticipation of all that extinction due in the year ahead. The problem is that humans never take the blame for the mass extinction going on just to make room for more of themselves, or more of their particular race if they can get away with it via war, or even better, genoside. Instead, they blame God – that convenient Lord of Death – the universal fall guy – the one who ‘moves in mysterious ways’ when all rational argument fails as to “what the hell we are doing".

Let’s face it, people are naturally uncomfortable with anything around them and try to elbow it out of the way. I have even heard tales of people being in awe of the size of the universe and feeling small and insignificant by comparison – again they try to fill it with God, or equations, or both in Einstein’s case (even Einstein chose to accept the existence of God over quantum physics, or perhaps he was being naturally protective of his Theory of Relativity and thought it was being elbowed too).

The universe is bigger than any current equations or understanding or even species to fill it. But why feel insignificant when the size of something is it’s only notable attribute. Humans are like that – they need to ‘make sense’ even when there’s no real need for it. My advice is to lighten up and stop taking notes, or as David Byrne of the Talking Heads put it: “Stop Making Sense”. The average size human feels insignificant even beside a taller human, so the unimaginable size of the universe can be a bit daunting if you’re in that frame of mind.

Happy New Year!

Peter Hague, 1st January, 2007 (so far, so good)


   
Postage stamps featuring the famous explorers David Livingstone and Henry Stanley. It begs the question: "If a letter falls into a letterbox and no one hears it fall, is the letterbox quite full?".
 
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