Thursday, Sept. 20, 42 A.D.
Maybe We Should Bomb The Hell Out Of Hell?
One of the saddest, most shocking sequences I've ever seen in a movie came in 1997's Contact. In that sequence, a religious fanatic carries out a successful suicide attack on a towering, multi-billion-dollar machine which will provide humanity with a portal to an alien civilization. It wasn't the impressive special effects which made this sequence so chilling for me but the extent to which the thinking and actions of the religious fanatic rang true. The highly combustible mix of fear and religious certainty which led to the monumentally murderous actions I saw on the screen seemed a heart-breakingly accurate reflection of the real world to me.
Alas, recent events have only served to confirm this impression.
And I'm not merely referring to the attacks themselves. The reaction of some people to those attacks echo the ignorant, unscientific views of the fearful people which the scientist played by Jodie Foster has to pass on her way to work.
The rapidity with which fake Nostradamus predictions have spread through cyberspace are one measure of this. If you haven't heard them yet - or if you haven't heard how thoroughly they've been debunked - click here or here.
Another measure is the way faces of Satan have been seen by some people in certain photos of the smoke billowing from the burning World Trade Center towers:
I've been told here and here that the images are unretouched so let's go with that. The first image looks more like a really pissed off Carmen Miranda (complete with fruity headgear) to me. The second - well, I'm not sure, but Satan wasn't my first thought despite my living in a culture which conditions us to filter every such image we see (whether in cloud or on rest room floor) through the dominant Christian mythos. If I grant that these images are actually indicative of Satan's influence, seems I must grant that eggplants were big Nixon fans back in the early '70s when one grew in the exact shape of his face. Or was that Demeter working through an eggplant dupe?
The mind reels. I suppose if I examined the last week's worth of smoke rising from the rubble, tape by tape, frame by frame, I'd find all sorts of faces and things in it. It's a well-known phenomenon anyone who has watched clouds rolling by on a summer's afternoon is quite familiar with. Yet some people seem to habitually ignore this simple fact and irrationally select and attach cosmic significance to a few such images - and my gosh, what a coincidence that those images always seem to confirm what the people want to be true or already "know" to be true or fear. Christians see Satan or Mary or Jesus (or, rather, they see images which conform to pop culture images of these characters, since no one has seen a photo of any of them). Muslims, I'm told, see Islam-confirming images. Last year a Russian air traveler in favor of raising the last czar to sainthood claimed to see a glowing crown in the clouds which he interpreted as God's way of saying, "Yes - do it!" Too bad the images never seem clear enough to convey anything new - the DNA double helix before Francis Crick came up with it, say, or R. Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome - or even the best way to lay out a cloverleaf interchange so as to minimize accidents....
But don't take my sarcastic word for it - check out Stewart Elliott Guthrie's 1993 book, Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion. It's quite the eye - I mean, mind-opening book, I think. And the best place to find an image of Jesus in a plate of spaghetti, if that's what you've been looking for.
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(©Now by DJ Birtcher using a light pen and time-elapsed photography -
you know, like Picasso did when he drew that famous image of a bull)
PS - Yes, I watched Bush's speech tonight. Yes, I have a reaction to it. Yes, there's still a time gap between events, my reaction to them, and my posting my reactions. Unless you're willing to sleep with me so I can whisper my reactions to you in real time as you slumber, I'm afraid you'll just have to learn to wait like everyone else. Sorry!