So far I’ve used this term a little loosely, but relied on the capitols to convey my meaning. Let me attempt to clarify a little.
When I say “reality,” I don’t mean it. I mean what we THINK of as reality or, in other words, the whole constructed universe. In other words, I’m using YOUR definition of reality.
When I say Real Truth, I’m talking about the opposite thing. That basic essence which is unconstructed, the God-breathed foundation on which our ephemeral fantasy is built.
Everything in our reality is a pale reflection of some Real Truth, although generally so distrorted as to be unrecognizable. Here’s why:
We expect the world to make sense.
On a basic level, there’s no good reason to expect this. The Rationalists reasoned that God had made Man greater than all the rest of Creation by giving him Reason, and therefore it only made sense that a loving God would cause the rest of Creation to be inherently reasonable.
God never promised that, though. And, until the Rationalists, Reason wasn’t really all that prized by Man, so even that expectation is a fairly new one. Naturally, all of modern Western Science is BUILT upon that assumption (which originated in the Catholic church, naturally), and we worship modern Western Science, so we tend to make the same assumption.
However, Science without God must admit that there’s no good reason to expect the universe to be reasonable and ordered and, moreover, God himself never promised it would be. In fact, nature is, itself, plenty testamental to the fact that it ain’t. For this simple reason: things don’t start out ordered and reasonable, they have to be made that way by Science.
Now, in my effort to clarify Real Truth, I’m obfuscating Science a little, and I apologize for that. Science is, essentially, the codification of Social Constructionism. Outside of Science, Social Constructionism just happens. Within the Scientific community, however, it is pursued as a constant, all-out crusade.
No, Nicki, I’m not talking about Science as a political agenda. Yet. I’m just saying, the very principles that are foundational to Science also generate a constant, dramatic and altogether proactive Social Constructionism, whereas most Constructionism through the course of history has been reactive.
Real Truth is fickle, chaotic, inscrutable. Real Truth is far greater than physical existence, than our temporal shells. You can imagine it as a hundred-dimensional entity that we are trying to observe from our three (or four, or five, or whatever you want to call it). What we glimpse of Real Truth makes no sense to us, and leaves us feeling uneasy.
So we call it a Thunder God or a Phoenix or a dragon. Real Truth is chaos within our ordered world, and irritates us so, as Creators in our own right, we begin trying to make sense out of the chaos. We react to Real Truth in exactly the way a clam (oyster? whatever) reacts to a mote of sand — we begin wrapping it in layers to make it easier to deal with.
Our first step is to give it a name. Remember what I said yesterday about Symbols? A name is the first Symbol of a thing. We name it, and use that name to try to understand it. Not only that, but to share our understanding of it with others. Once we have named the thing, we begin the process of taming it. We construct little realities which can contain it, and see how it behaves within them. With each test, we drape a new layer of understanding over it (the Thing behaves like this, and THAT makes sense, so we’ll consider the Thing normal). Once we’ve reasoned away a sufficient amount of the Thing, we can accept the minor irritations of its quirks, until it finally settles quietly into our reality.
Electricity is like this today. Electricity is an excellent example of a Real Thing, because it still has some vestiges thereof. Scientists feel like they have a pretty good grasp of what electricity is and how it works (they’ve mostly tamed it), and so for the most part we consider it normal. It’s definitely got its quirks, though. Sometimes, against all reason, it will misbehave. And, of course, its great-granddaddy — Lightning — is still more mystery than not.
As recently as a hundred years ago, I think, you could argue the same thing about Heat. And human blood. As little as two hundred years ago it could have been dragons.
Our world is an ocean of mother-of-pearl. Our world a massive, extremely complex facade that we have built to make the thin threads of Real Truth fit into a reasonable pattern. It is ASTONISHING how well Science works, how well the pieces fit together to be SO accessible to the human mind — until, of course, you consider that perhaps the human mind built the structure it’s seeking to understand.
I think we rob Real Truth of some of its potency with each layer we drape over it. Then again, we make it something we can use. Consider how Man trembled at Thor’s thunder, and the significance it bore in his world whenever it flew. Then, it was not just a dangerous thing, it MATTERED.
That’s not true anymore. There are some people who still give it strength, but we’ve made thunder safer by naming it and beginning to describe it — we’ve robbed it of its moral significance but we’ve learned from it and made electricity of our own, which serves our purposes instead of us serving its.
We take the big “F” out of Prometheus’s Fire, that lit the darkness and gave Man the power to rival the Gods, and turn it into little fire, which can be used to temper steel and from tools and weapons and make everyday life a little bit easier. That is what we do to Real Truth whenever we find it — we tame it, bury its essence beneath layers of utility, and use it to make our Constructed lives easier.
That’s what I mean when I say Science is a magic — it’s the last magic. It has tamed every beast, it has conquered every land. There are still threads of Real Truth out there — quarks, strings, even fusion — and new ones will constantly appear. But we’ve given up on prophets and soothsayers, on Oracles and story-tellers to examine the Real Truth and give us something Meaningful for our lives. Instead, we immediately rush it off to the Scientists and ask them to make something useful out of it.
That gets me down. More than being a tech writer, more than 18 months straight of writer’s block, more than the children hurting and dying in Dan’s sad Number 5 — more than anything else, I hurt for our constant, overwhelming desire to understand, rather than to be amazed.