This new video features music from my album: Nightmare Castle. Like all of the music on that album, I composed Enter the Underworld using a collection of unique musical instruments I created from recycled materials and found objects I call “The Orchestra of the Unwanted.” Most of these instruments have very quiet voices that I amplify using piezoelectric transducers. Piezoelectric transducers turn vibrations in solid objects into electrical signals that amplifiers and speakers then turn into sound. Still, the sound retains the qualities of a vibrating solid object, with completely different resonance characteristics than if the instrument were recorded acoustically, with a microphone.
A solid object is its own world, acoustically. The vibrations inside a solid object are not affected by room acoustics. When we hear the vibrations in solid objects, it gives us a sense of what it might feel like to be a solid object. That sense of being within a solid object, I think, gives electro-acoustic music in general, and my album, Nightmare Castle, in specific, an other-worldly and under-worldly quality. Enter the Underworld invites you enter the world of solid objects.
I shot the video for Enter the Underworld in Slovenia. The Dragon in the title shot adorns a bridge in the capital city, Ljubljana, and I shot the rest of the footage underground, mostly from a moving train in the dimly lit caverns of Postojnska Jama, possibly Slovenia’s most popular tourist attraction. Slovenia has thousands of caves, and they discover a couple hundred new ones every year, but Postojnska Jama has become the Disneyland of Slovenian caves.
Above ground, they’ve capitalized and merchandised to the hilt. They’ve even turned one of the species discovered living there, the blind cave olm, a pasty, beige, eyeless salamander, into their own “Mickey Mouse,” and you can find its likeness on every imaginable kind of swag. Instead of fake ears that make you look like the famous cartoon rat, they sell fake gills that make you look more like a pallid amphibious troglodyte.
They offer tours every half-hour, seven days a week, in three languages. The tour took us underground, through several miles of amazing rock formations, by train, to a grand gallery deep in the mountain where we got out and walked for about a mile to see some of the largest stalactite and stalagmite formations. After that, we got back on the train and returned to the surface.
It made my jaw drop. Despite the extreme commercialism above ground, the natural beauty of Postojnska Jama, underground, totally blew my mind. I would recommend it to anyone. The video I shot there does not do it justice. However, I really like the visual texture, and the disorienting, nightmarish quality of the footage I took at Postojnska Jama. I think it matches the mood evoked by this music. I hope you enjoy this little video, but I also hope you get to see Postojnska Jama for yourself.
Biologists have found 27 different species of pseudo-scorpion living in the twiggy mounds which dusky-footed wood-rats build to raise their young. 27 different species of pseudoscorpion!
That just boggles my mind. First off, a pseudoscorpion is a tiny little arachnid, about the size of a tick, but a pseudoscorpion is not a parasite. Pseudoscorpions hunt and eat small parasites and mites that the rats attract. That explains why scientists find so many pseudo-scorpions in a rat’s nest, but it doesn’t explain why they find 27 distinct species of pseudo-scorpion in rats’ nests.
All pseudo-scorpions look pretty much the same. They look a little bit like ticks, except that instead of the long pointed mouth parts, a pseudoscorpion has a pair of large pincers on it’s foremost appendages, like a scorpion.
In fact, a pseudoscorpion looks just like a scorpion, except for its tiny size, and the fact that pseudo-scorpions have no tail, and no venomous sting. They are harmless little creatures who spend their time in dark shadowy places, like rats’ nests. Besides that, they can barely see with their very tiny eyes.
When two pseudoscorpions meet, they do a sort of dance where they face each other and engage each other’s large front claws.
If the dance goes well, they might mate.
If the dance does not go well, one pseudoscorpion, the larger, usually, will drive the other away. Most of the time, the dance does not go well, and this amazes me. How did pseudo-scorpions get to be so particular about who they fuck?
What makes one pseudoscorpion clasp claws with another, gender-compatible, pseudoscorpion, and go “Eewwww, yuck, gross! I wouldn’t fuck you in a hundred-million years!”? I don’t understand that at all. I’m like, “Come on, it’s dark. We’re both pseudoscorpions, We’re both horny. Let’s do it!”
To get 27 species of pseudoscorpion, the female pseudo-scorpion, and you know it’s the female pseudoscorpion, has to say, “You’re not my type.” categorically, at least 26 out of 27 times.
That tells me that female pseudoscorpions strongly disagree with each other about what they find attractive in a male pseudoscorpion.
Apparently, these strong preferences have almost no effect on the species’ ability to survive, since they all continue to thrive together, as they’ve done, through multiple extinction events, changes in the composition of the earth’s atmosphere, and climatic shifts, for something like 400 million years.
Pseudoscorpions can be counted as some of the earliest known terrestrial animals on Planet Earth and their descendants have changed very little in the ensuing eons.
Probably only a female pseudoscorpion or a knowledgeable aracnologist would recognize the difference between a 400 million year old fossilized pseudoscorpion and a modern living specimen. To the rest of us, they’re just another bug.
What could a pseudoscorpion possibly be so picky about?
It’s not like one of them has a nicer pad, or takes them to better restaurants. They all live in the same rat’s nest, and they all eat the same mites and parasites. They’ve lived together, side by side, for eons, and endured many global changes, but they’ve never learned to find each other any more attractive, so each species continues to pursue it’s own aesthetic, it’s own habits and it’s own proclivities, and each individual pseudoscorpion selectively chooses from individuals of the same species, even if that means a pseudoscorpion has to endure 27 categorical rejections, just to get one real rejection.
That’s got to be rough on those little guys, who already kind of look like ticks, which can’t help their self-esteem any. You might even say that pseudoscorpions kind of look like ticks who work out too much to compensate for how little they are.
By being so particular, they practically guarantee themselves a lifetime of loneliness and I suppose that’s why, when you see a pseudoscorpion, say in the bathroom, behind the toilet tank, they are usually alone. If you do see a pseudoscorpion, however, take a close look, because they are really quite cute, and you should tell them so, because I’m sure they don’t hear it enough.
(This post concludes a trilogy which began with:
but it is not necessary to read parts 1 and 2 first)
Music is a strange thing. I don’t understand it and I don’t pretend to understand it, I simply recognize it as an interesting characteristic of human life. I don’t rationalize it or objectify it. Instead, I explore it for the mystery it presents, and as a means of learning about myself, my relationship with my community, and our relationship with the world we inhabit. For me, the exploration of music is a way of studying the world aesthetically.
When you study something aesthetically, you acquire an appreciation for the beauty of it. It is not enough to understand the science of physics to make music. That knowledge must be incorporated into practice and presented in a form that makes it irresistible to the ear. Music makes the science of physics real, in a way that math never will, and reducing physics to math, strips our world of its natural beauty and aesthetic appeal. Aesthetically, we have the capacity to appreciate the beauty of things we do not completely understand, like music, while music itself teaches us directly, what we can understand about physics, and the physical world around us.
Science, on the other hand, ignores aesthetics, and strives for emotional disconnectedness. That’s how scientists are able to dispassionately conduct all kinds of cruel experiments on animals and brew up persistently toxic chemicals without regard for their long term impacts on the ecosystem. Science has no appreciation for beauty, nor does it feel any connectedness with the rest of life on Earth. Science is essentially psychopathic and tone deaf, which is why so little of what it tells us about the world really means anything to us, and why science mostly enables the development of deadly weapons, toxic pollution, and high-tech surveillance systems.
Music can teach us a lot about the world around us, ourselves and each other, without killing anyone, or poisoning a single stream, and our aesthetic sensitivities, when sufficiently developed, make much better guides as to how to live in the world than does our, so called, “scientific understanding.” Our failure, as a culture, to recognize this basic fact of life is the primary reason our society has gotten so ugly, crass and dysfunctional, and why we have no idea what to do about it. The more ugly, crass and dysfunctional our society gets, the less real beauty we see around us, and the less aesthetically sensitive we become. The internet has only magnified and accelerated the process.
We explore music to develop our aesthetic sensitivities, and to find out what we really like. I kinda liked “Country and Western” music when my dad played it on the radio in the car when I was 12, but I don’t care much for it now that I choose the music. In fact, I’m kinda tired of guitar music altogether. If you’ve read my last post, you know that I’m pretty well done with classical music too. Honestly, we’ve all heard it all before, haven’t we? I’m as sick of it as you are.
I still feel nostalgic for a lot of early electronic music, but modern EDM mostly leaves me cold. I heard Paul Oakenfold live at Burning Man in 2000. To me, his set sounded oppressive, impersonal and empty. A lot of people will say that Paul Oakenfold no longer counts as modern EDM, but he was the last EDM artist I heard that stood out enough to make an impression on me. Back in the ’70s, synthesizers were brand new, the future looked bright, and technology held so much promise. Today, technology dominates our lives, and it spits music at us in a million different flavors 24-7-365. To me, it all sounds oppressive, impersonal and empty.
Besides that, there’s been an explosion in the number, and variety, of high-tech gadgets for making music, and for making new music out of old music. High-tech machines don’t interest me as much as they once did. Machines have let me down too many times already. I know that “Intuitive user interface” means the designer thinks they know how I intend to make music, and that those machines will be full of sounds that instrument designers think I want to hear, based on what is popular in music today. That’s not what I want to hear, and I don’t want to “interface” with my music.
I don’t want to sit at a computer and assemble my music graphically with a mouse or from a panel of illuminated buttons; I want to play music directly, in real time, in real life. I think that’s important. I don’t think music is a purely conceptual thing. It’s not something you dream up in your head, and transfer to the real world by means of technology. Music comes from that physical relationship between the musician and the instrument, the subject, to the object. Music is about how we relate to the real world. Working in a DAW and composing music graphically is one particular way of relating to the world, but that is not how I relate to it.
It’s also about economics and the environment. I love my high-tech, digital, multi-track recorder, but I can’t really justify spending a lot of money on electronic gadgets that just make noise. Besides that, I live off grid, so any electricity I use, I have to make out of sunlight, which I don’t see much of, especially in the Winter, when I have the most time to make music. Besides that, the thought of spending a bunch of money on another electronic gadget that’s just going to end up in the e-waste pile just makes me sick.
I say it’s about economics and environment, but really, it’s about aesthetics. I went off grid because I thought it more beautiful and elegant to make a little bit of electricity from sunlight, and use it efficiently, rather than have an unlimited supply of high-voltage juice delivered to my home by wires connected to nuclear power plants. I don’t find most of those new machines attractive because I know that they contain toxic compounds and heavy metals that cause a lot of environmental destruction that destroys rural communities and kills people, in their manufacture, and that those machines create further environmental problems when they stop working. It’s hard for me to imagine, and it seems a burdensome responsibility to me, to attempt to make enough beautiful music with one of these machines, to compensate for all of the ugliness involved in producing, distributing and disposing of it.
My music is about my relationship with the world, so increasingly, I incorporate things I find in the real world into my music, especially the oddball detritus of our industrial society that I find scattered across the landscape. Geologically we live at a very unique time for the kind of things you are likely to find in the world around you. Even deep in the woods where I live, the bizarre collection of exotic man-made materials I find out here would surprise you.
Where the piano demonstrates the power of empire, with elegance, the ubiquity of manufactured garbage shows off the inelegant side of empire, but making musical instruments out of recycled materials is not a political statement about empire, so much as it is the reality of my time and place in history. I make music from the stuff I find around me because I want to cultivate my relationship with the real world and the unique sonic palette it makes available to me, rather than use the power of empire to take from the world whatever new gizmos I can afford.
I discovered a primal link to music, that bypassed a lot of cultural conditioning for me, about 15 years ago, when I learned to play the didgeridoo. The didgeridoo short-circuited my musical relationship with civilization and empire and completely changed the way I think about music The didgeridoo is a very simple instrument that produces a very complex sound. While the didgeridoo only plays one fundamental note, the player can vary the timbre of the sound fluidly, and in a number of dimensions, much like an analog synthesizer.
Learning to play the didgeridoo opened my mind to a very different approach to music. Playing the didgeridoo feels good, and it changed the way I experience music. Playing didgeridoo made me realize that music is not about melody and harmony and notes and keys, but that music is about sound and our direct connection to the Earth. I realized that music is not about precision crafted musical instruments or brilliant compositions. Music is about listening to the Earth directly, which is essential to finding an elegant and beautiful way of inhabiting it.
Scientists speculate that music preceded language in our early human ancestors, and that singing together in groups may have spawned the development of the earliest human language. I say “speculate” because very little of those ancient human cultures has survived the ravages of time, so we paint the portraits of these ancestors from the pile of stone tools we’ve recovered, some skeletons, and a few carvings, sculptures and cave paintings. Among those very early artifacts, however, archeologists in Europe have unearthed several bone flutes that they estimate to be about 40,000 years old, give or take a millennium or two.
Here we see the earliest incontrovertible evidence of music in humans, and it predates the earliest evidence of language by many thousands of years. We will probably never know whether these flutes were played as solo instruments, or what other instruments may have accompanied them, because instruments made of wood, skin or plant material would not have survived the eons, but we can tell what key they played in, and what their scale sounded like. Today, we can, pretty accurately, recreate the sounds of those early instruments because we understand the physics of sound and have made careful replicas of these early instruments.
In those days, however, people made music with whatever sounds they could make, and they must have thought about music differently that we do today. Anthropologists have not found any indigenous cultures which do not incorporate music. However, they have found that the music of indigenous people around the world varies widely, and that different cultures use music in very different ways and for different purposes. For tens of thousands of years, thousands of distinctly different ancestral cultures each developed their own musical tradition, along with their own instruments and scales, for their own purposes.
For indigenous people, and for our ancient ancestors, music was simply the audible portion of their culture. The song and the dance were not different things. Music entwined itself into these cultures in many different ways. Many cultures, including ours, use music for war. Nobody makes war quite like we do, but lots of cultures make music for it. Many cultures use music for healing and for medicine. Many cultures use music for ribald celebrations, but also for sacred rituals and magic.
In Australia, some cultures use music to connect their cultural history to the geography of the land in a way that allows them to navigate long distances, by song. We have plenty of evidence that indigenous people incorporate music into their culture in ways that civilized people simply do not understand. I think that this is an important point to make here. As I describe what happens to music as it becomes more “civilized,” please understand that I do not believe that modern civilization constitutes an “advance” in human culture in any way, over any other way of life.
While music probably had a lot to do with the development of language in humans, I see no evidence that music gave us the idea to start farming. Adopting the farming lifestyle, was undoubtedly the stupidest decision in the history of civilization, and I believe that it was something our ancestors did when they were drunk. That’s not to say that they didn’t sing, and make music about that too, but in the cultural transformation that lead to modern civilization, we lost a lot of the world’s musical diversity, as well as cultural diversity, not to mention biological diversity.
As early farmers burned the forests and exhausted the soil beneath them to grow grain crops to make beer, they displaced, and assimilated what was left of those indigenous hunter-gatherer cultures. Farmers destroyed the habitat that hunter-gatherer tribes needed to survive. When those indigenous tribes could no longer find enough game to hunt, they either starved to death, or went to work for the farmers and started drinking beer. That is the story of civilization. Ancient language scholars tell us that civilized farming people in the Nile River Valley, developed the first written language, primarily to keep track of people’s bar tabs, establishing a tradition for civilized people that continues to this day. No longer do we hunt and gather. Civilized people build pyramids and drink beer.
Civilization became a melting pot where all of these, once functional, self-sustaining cultural entities, became assimilated by this new way of life. Through this assimilation, functional cultures get reduced to ethnicities. Through assimilation, a way of seeing the world, and all of the subtle knowledge about how to live in it, gets reduced to a recognizable costume, some quaint customs and a few catchy tunes or favorite recipes. This happened to thousands of distinct and unique human cultures as civilization continued to expand around the world.
Fast forward to about 2,500 years ago, in Greece, where Pythagoras has just discovered the Golden Mean by mapping the harmonic overtone series on his monochord. Ancient Athens must have been a pretty quiet place back then because a monochord, a simple, one-string, musical instrument/physics experiment, is not very loud.
Pythagoras would have had to listen very closely to hear the upper harmonics he mapped out on that string. By now, too many of us live in environments so loud that we probably would have never heard those upper overtones, had not Jimi Hendrix introduced us to them at earsplitting sound levels with his electric guitar.
But Pythagoras listened closely to his very quiet instrument, and by mapping the harmonic overtone series, he unlocked the key to understanding all of the different scales he heard in the folk songs sung by his slaves, or by the nomadic people who sometimes came through town, or of the songs he learned to sing as a child. These idiosyncratic musical idioms being all that was left many, once thriving hunter-gatherer cultures, that got subsumed by this new way of doing things.
The Greeks figured out that if they added five half-steps into their seven-note harmonically derived scale, they could recreate all of the folk scales they heard around them. In so doing, the Greeks gave us modes and keys and music theory and harmony, but the problem was, music theory was still mostly theoretical. You could dream of an instrument that would allow you to play music in any key, but in reality, you didn’t have many options, except singing.
You can play a string instrument in any key, and you can tune a string to any pitch, but string instruments of the day were not very loud. A flute can make a louder noise than a string, but no flautist has enough fingers to cover twelve holes, as is necessary to play in this new, “chromatic,” 12 tone scale, so Greek discoveries about music theory mostly presented technological challenges to future instrument makers and musicians.
I’m sure singers took it all in stride, and percussionists just ignored it, but besides changing the way we thought about music, the Greeks also gave us another way of looking at the world, and at music. Before Pythagoras and the Greeks, people happily played the traditional music of their ancestor’s culture with traditional instruments, because that culture nourished them and kept them alive. After Pythagoras, however, the Greeks saw music in an entirely new way. People still played and sang old folk songs, but they began to think about music as something new and hi-tech, with serious potential for development. Music’s appeal had transcended it’s tribal cultural roots, captured the imagination of civilized people, and began to shape our vision of the future.
The Greeks ushered in the age of classical thinking, which eventually brought us the age of classical music. Since then, music has continued on two tracks. On one hand, we have folk music, what’s left of our traditional indigenous music, as interpreted and expressed by their assimilated descendants, and passed on, generation to generation. On the other hand, the Greeks adopted this new approach to music, and taught it, along with geometry and philosophy as part of a classical education.
The Greeks taught music as a strict discipline, not unlike geometry or logic, but with an added emotional dimension, and they understood that learning to sing and/or play a musical instrument was prerequisite to understanding the important knowledge to be uncovered through the study of music. Thus, the classical approach to music education was born. Soon, little kids started carrying violins to school and quickly learned to hate practicing.
Over the following centuries luthiers rose to the challenge of developing louder string instruments that project a clear tone, and wind instrument makers developed mechanical contraptions to enable wind instruments to play the chromatic scale. Flutes and reed instruments sprouted a system of finely crafted keys that allowed players to cover several tone holes with one finger.
Most brass instruments added a few valves that lengthened the air column when depressed.
One notable exception, the trombone, evolved a continuous fast-action slide, allowing it to change pitch fluidly, despite inhabiting an increasingly fixed-pitch musical world.
The physics of sound are unforgiving, and the demands of music, uncompromising. Together, they motivated instrument makers to create some of the first precision crafted machines the world has ever seen. At the same time, musical scholars developed a way of writing music that all classically trained musicians learned to read, called “Standard Notation.”
With these new precision instruments, Standard Notation, and a pool of classically trained musicians, creative composers could show off, not only their own creativity, but also the discipline of the musicians as well as the precision craftsmanship of the instruments, with a brand new form of musical expression that must have blown people’s minds.
Classical music demonstrated the potential of this rigidly structured, strictly disciplined and precision crafted approach to making music, first in chamber music, then in larger ensembles, and eventually in huge symphony orchestras with more than 100 musicians. Classical music so wowed audiences with the seemingly magical potential of this classical approach to music, that it inspired the development of a whole wave of precision machines for every possible application, as well as the disciplined workforce that worked a highly structured schedule to create them. In this way, classical music inspired the Industrial Revolution, leading to the next major transformation in civilized society, away from the farm, and towards an urban manufacturing and service oriented economy.
As civilized humans, inspired by classical music, continued to produce ever more precise machines for more and more purposes, they eventually developed a machine that could faithfully reproduce, mechanically, a live musical performance. Suddenly, an event in time could instantly be transformed into an object in space. Eventually, we had machines that could reproduce music faithfully, and allow it to be edited after the fact, and we developed the means to amplify even the smallest sound to room-filling volume.
Having met the technological challenges that classical music demanded of early instrument makers, and having fulfilled the promise of classical music, by impressing audiences everywhere with tight harmonies, clear intonation and rhythmic precision, classical music then inspired a whole culture to go absolutely apeshit in developing new precision machinery for every imaginable purpose, including, eventually, the tape recorder, microphone, amplifier and speaker, which would eventually push classical music itself to the sidelines of cultural relevance.
That’s enough for this week. Next week, I’ll explain why classical music no longer inspires us as much as it once did, and why fewer of us know how to read music anymore. I’ll also talk about how technology has changed the way we experience music and perceive the world, and finally, I’ll talk about how music continues to shape our future, and why it continues to inspire me.
Facts don’t make writing good, and facts don’t make a story true. Mostly, facts provide an excuse for bad writing, and distract us from the truth about our own lives. Media outlets like to hype the factuality of their news reports, as incentive for you to ingest their bland, decontextualized descriptions of the day’s most violent events, but facts, by themselves, mean nothing. Divorced from perspective, facts have no power.
We tend to overemphasize the importance of facts in our culture, in the same way we over-value material objects. In reality, facts don’t lead to the truth any more than buying a Bowflex machine leads to the perfect physique. Nothing prevented you from exercising your muscles before you bought the machine. The machine just offers you a specific way to do something that you obviously prefer to avoid. Similarly, nothing prevented you from thinking deeply about your existential condition before The News started feeding you “the facts you need to understand your world.” Watching the News feels like you are doing something edifying, but really, it takes up way too much space for something we’re just not that involved with.
Journalists meticulously strip perspective out of their stories, leaving nothing but impotent rubbish to take up all of the space between the ads. “Unbiased and impartial” really means “disinterested and uncaring.” That’s how corporate advertisers like it, and that’s how corporate domination becomes the predominant perspective of all media. Advertisers pay for the right to present their perspective in their own words, against a neutral background of disconnected, irrelevant and objectified facts. That’s why “fact based journalism” is so popular in modern media.
For some reason, we believe in this myth about facts. We believe that exposing them and broadcasting them to every corner of the world will somehow make things better. We say: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” but today we see how the worst kind of scum thrives in bright light, so long as nothing taller or stronger can take root. Scum thrives because The News scorches the Earth with irrelevant, disembodied facts.
The News fills your head with irrelevancies that distract, subvert and belittle your own thought process, while it consumes all of the space where you might actually talk to your peers. Watching The News is not how you become an informed citizen; watching The News is how you become a brainwashed drone, and that’s not what anyone really aspires to become.
Information can be inspiring, relevant and powerful, but rarely is it so. Mostly, especially today, information distracts us, saps our energy, and wastes our time. The News becomes addictive, not because it provides an essential nutrient to intellectual and civic life, but because it masks the angst, confusion and general unease of alienation. Facts, as they come from to us from the media, amount to little more than an endless trail of breadcrumbs leading us nowhere except toward obesity, malnutrition and death.
To find the very worst fact-based writing, however, you have to read science. Science, as a whole, amounts to an immense edifice of the worst published writing in the history of human language, which unscrupulous men use in their quest to dominate the Earth. In that way, modern science is very much like the medieval Catholic Church.
Few of us read much real science. Mostly, this indecipherable gobbledygook gets filed away in back rooms of libraries or in ungoogleable internet servers, where no one ever reads it, but it becomes part of this enormous edifice of sacred texts into which all learned people have invested large portions of their lives, with the promise that if they did, they would earn more money than the rest of us.
In reality, nothing in that edifice of so-called knowledge helps us, or them, understand the world we live in. Instead, it amounts to an encyclopedia of violence and a compendium of oppression. The edifice we call “Science” contains the formula for every toxic chemical on Earth. It tells you everything you need to know to build a thermonuclear weapon, and it contains every study ever conducted for the purpose of learning how to influence consumer behavior and effectively brainwash a population. The truth of the matter is that the only thing educated people really learn, in all their years of study, is the dynamics of civilized political power, and by the time they understand that, they’re already too deeply invested in it to quit.
Scientists further deny the basic truth of our lived experience by telling us that the only facts that matter, have to be carefully chosen according to complex statistical algorithms that only scientists understand, or they have to be gathered in a laboratory setting. Scientists will be the first to dismiss the facts of your life as irrelevant, anecdotal and statistically insignificant. They’ll tell you to base your decisions on the proven probabilities of verifiable science, and to calculate, rather than feel your way through life. That’s how scientists tell you that they think they should make your decisions for you, and that’s another way that modern science resembles the Catholic Church.
All of the facts in the world don’t make bad writing worth reading. Facts are just a sleazy tool to sell empty words, and too many empty words can bury you. On the other hand, writing that speaks to you, has truth in it, and you will find the facts that support it because there is more truth in the facts of your life, than you will ever find in all of the news media and science writing on Earth.
They say “You can’t fix stupid.” and “You can’t help being wrong once in a while.” Truer words have probably never been spoken. On the other hand, one of the dumbest things that human beings have ever said is: “Human intelligence, backed by sound objective science, allows us to understand the universe.” I know that sounds like a smarter thing to say, and educated people say crap like that all the time, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong.
We live at a time where we worship objective science as our new religion. We believe that we understand the universe and have the intelligence to reshape it in such a way that it will serve us better. That idea has become the foundation of our culture. We’ve ditched the whole mythology of original sin, miracles and virgin birth, and ordained theoretical physicists like Niel DeGrasse-Tyson and Stephen Hawking and their equally ridiculous story of the Big Bang, quantum mechanics and string theory. In truth, we’re no closer to understanding how the universe works than we were three million years ago. We just have a new story that everyone believes, but no one understands.
E=MC² is a very useful equation. It helped us build nuclear bombs and land men on the moon, among other things. We know how to use it, but we don’t really comprehend it. Everyone thinks they understand it. Everyone thinks they understand relativity, but then they talk about squishy space and tell us how gravity bends light as it travels through space. In fact, relativity tells us that light doesn’t travel through space, and that space is never squishy.
Even physicists don’t understand relativity. The best physicists understand that squishy space and the Big Bang form part of a model of the objective universe that allows us to make predictions about how things in it will behave. The best physicists understand that the model is not the universe, because relativity reminds them that the universe is put together in a fundamentally different way than it appears to us.
Relativity tells us that space and time originate with the perceiver, and that there is no scientific reason to believe that space and time exist anywhere else in the universe except within the perceptions of the perceivers who perceive that way. This is where it gets incomprehensible. If anything exists outside of our perceptions, it must therefore exist outside of space and time. What would that look like? How would you describe it? How can you even imagine something without dimension or duration, let alone study it?
It’s impossible to even imagine, because it is beyond comprehension. Relativity drops us at the edge of the incomprehensible, and the best physicists stop there, peer over the edge a moment, then turn around, and get back to work on that model of an objective universe, even though they realize that the universe is not put together that way at all.
Human beings were not meant to understand how the universe works. Our intelligence was not shaped by a driving thirst to understand metaphysics, or by an innate drive to penetrate the cosmos. Human intelligence was shaped by our constant interactions with other humans. Our intelligence was shaped by constantly trying to outsmart and take advantage of each other. We became the cleverest animal on the globe because we challenge each other, intellectually, in a way that no other animal does, and we do that by being sneaky and dishonest with each other.
Human beings constantly deceive each other. It takes a keen intelligence to find flaws in an argument or tell when someone is lying, but it takes an even keener intelligence to concoct a convincing deception and pull it off effectively. We got to be this smart, not because of our driving curiosity to understand the cosmos, but because of our propensity to lie, cheat and steal from each other, and our need to unravel these deceptions to survive and thrive socially. That’s a lot more complicated than rocket science, and rocket science doesn’t explain the universe.
We might as well face the fact that stupid and wrong is the natural human condition. We have always been stupid and wrong about how the universe works, and we will never get any closer to understanding it than we are right now. Being stupid and wrong about how the universe works didn’t stop us from becoming the most successful predator on Planet Earth, and being stupid and wrong about how the universe works isn’t what’s causing us to overheat the planet or driving the extinction crisis, and being stupid and wrong about how the universe works doesn’t stop us from changing the way that we live and responding to the planetary crisis we face.
Quite the opposite: Our whole culture is built on the belief that in just a matter of days, we will unravel the universe’s few remaining secrets, and create an artificial intelligence that is incapable of error. Armed with this knowledge and technology we will remake every atom of the universe to serve us and our limitless understanding, and it will all work flawlessly. This global idea that we must be on the right track in our quest to remake the whole world in our image is so stupid and wrong, and so widely held by so many people despite so much evidence to the contrary, that this toxic stupidity and stubbornly held wrongness now imminently threatens our very survival as a species.
We don’t need more science; we need a new way to be stupid and wrong. Maybe we need 10,000 new ways to be stupid and wrong, because nothing has ever been so convincingly proven, with science, as the wrongness of our current brand of stupid. Forget about objective science, and forget about knowledge and understanding. We’re not built to understand the universe. We just need a new, more functional, brand of stupid and wrong.
We’re looking for a new way to be stupid and wrong that doesn’t obliterate all of the other intelligence on the planet. We need a new brand of stupid and wrong if we want to survive on planet Earth, and we need it yesterday. We don’t need the Large Hadron Collider, and we don’t need to understand gravitational waves. We need a new kind of stupid that hasn’t already been proven so fatally and disastrously wrong that it threatens our very survival as a species, and I’m just the idiot to bring it to you.