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And the Magic Eight Ball Says... - an If collab

2001-08-28

feeling kinda how a girl feels

this month's collab for If...:

If you were offered the answer to one of life's mysteries, which one would you choose to have solved? What would you do with the information?

And the Magic Eight Ball Says...

oh, lordy. *twiddles thumbs* one of life's mysteries? huh. now how am i supposed to pick just one?

i mean, there are so many mysteries. why do women always go to the bathroom in twos? (actually, i know the answer to that one.) why do lightbulbs always blow when you've run out of spares? why do we always forget names just when we have to introduce someone? why is there air? (and Bill Cosby has the answer to that one.) why do we yawn when someone else does? why does the washing machine eat only one sock at a time?

i'm being a bit flip, but quite honestly, there are lots and lots of small mysteries. the temptation is to pick one of the big ones. is there life after death? is there other intelligent life in the universe? where did this creation that we call home come from? and how can you pick any one of those?

if you were to get an answer to some huge question like that, what would you do with the information? how would you feel about knowing what you knew?

you might feel frightened. maybe it wasn't the answer you wanted. maybe, secretly, you were hoping that the answer you thought was right was, in fact, true. what if you found out that there is no life after death? if you've lived your live with faith in God (or whatever you term your higher power) and the hereafter, only to be told that it was all a bunch of hokum, how could you get up in the morning? it would take the wind right out of your sails. you might end up feeling that life is useless.

and would you choose to get up again? or would you end it all, jump off a bridge and call it quits? maybe. maybe knowing that answer would be too much for you to live with. consequences be damned.

or would you tell someone what you had discovered? how could you? think about that one. it's not like you can sit down over a cup of tea, and say 'look here. this is all there is. there is no There over There. you just have to trust me on this one.' who would listen to that?

well, some people would. our minds are often open to hearing just what we want to hear. and for some people, this would make sense. but you'd want to convince everyone of this Big, Horrible Truth you'd discovered. and it wouldn't fly. some people just wouldn't listen, or if they did, they'd tell you that you must be mistaken. they write you off as a crackpot. you'd end up frustrated, and sadder than you were when it was just you that knew this fact.

so, fine. pick any big mystery. even if you knew the 'truth' (and by whose definition is it the truth?), you might end up doubting yourself because no one would listen. unless you had scads and scads of proof... but mysteries are just that because there is no proof. and with some mysteries, there are people for whom all the proof in the world would not be enough.

or maybe you pick one of the Big Questions, and you get the answer that you want. it thrills you beyond belief. all is right with the world, because it runs according to the plan that makes sense to you. so you try to share it with everyone. would the outcome be any different?

i think not. what makes sense to you will fly in the face of reason for others, regardless of proof. you could talk yourself blue in the face, and it wouldn't change anything.

perhaps i'm too cynical. that could be true. it's just that it seems to me that there is no one answer to any of life's biggest questions. we all have our filters, our world views, and there's nothing wrong with that. we all approach life differently. and as a result, the answer that each of us needs will be as individual as the person asking the question. human nature being what it is, if any one of us *did* get the definitive answer (by our parameters), i think that we'd feel compelled to try and share it. that is the root cause of so much hurt and misunderstanding in the world.

i don't want to add to any of that strife. i know that if i found out definitively that there was or was not other intelligent life in the universe (by which i mean sentient beings elsewhere than our planet, as what we humans do is not often all that intelligent) that i wouldn't be able to sit with that. i'd have to talk about it. hell, i can't even trip over my own feet without needing to make it into a story and entertain people with it. i certainly wouldn't be able to keep quiet about something like that.

no, i think maybe i'd like the answer to one of the small things in life that baffles us. or me, anyway. like, for example, why we yawn. if you're talking with someone and they yawn, chances are you will too. you can often get someone else to yawn just by talking about it. the word has wonderful powers of suggestion. i'd guess that the odds are pretty good that while you're sitting there reading this paragraph, and i keep mentioning the word yawn, that you've done just that. big, uncontrolled yawn, and you're not even tired. just happened.

and i'd like to understand why that is. figuring out that little part of the brain that responds to the power of suggestion would be interesting. and yawning is pretty uncontroversial. it would be a neat fact to share with friends and family. i wouldn't have to shave my head, move to Nepal, and live on top of a mountain to avoid world hysteria. couldn't really hurt anyone, right? *yawn*

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