Tuesday, September 2, 2014

It's elephants all the way down

There's an old no doubt apocryphal story about an Indian boy and his father walking along the road. The son asks: "Papa, we are standing on the world but what is the world standing on?" His father wrinkled his brow in thought and then answered: "Why son, the earth rests on the back of a God in the shape of a huge elephant"

"What does he stand on?"
"An even larger elephant"
"What does he stand on?"
"An even more enormous elephant"
"What does he stand on?"
"Look kid, it's elephants all the way down."

And that in an Elephant's nutshell describes the philosophical problem that we all confront. Where do we come from? God? Gaia? Evolution? It doesn't matter which you believe for none of us can really explain how we got here. We have our theories and doctrines and dogmas but the little boy in the story can overcome the most philosophically sophisticated exigesis with the simplest of questions. It truly is elephants all the way down.

And don't tell me that 'science' has 'proven' anything about the origins or life or the Universe. By definition science can not see beyond our 'time-space envelope' and any pseudo transcendent claims made by 'evolutionary theory' are just that: theories that can't be falsified and therefore are bad scientific theories (but potentially good religious doctrine).

So each of us hew to our own pespective on what Douglas Adams called 'The answer to life, the Universe, everything!" and seek to persuade others of the rightness of our interpretation of the incomprehensible. I'm a great believe in micro-predestination: it seems obvious to me that our genetic makeups predispose us to certain beliefs about the infinite: some of us are very spiritual but unfocuses, some spiritual and dogmatic and some dogmatically hostile to spiritual things. We inherit these stances from our parents and then adjust them to reflect the culture and circumstances that we find ourselves in.

By the time you're my age, 52, almost everyone has decided what they believe and how they will live. Whether it's elephants or DNA strands all the way down. Unless and until the mice of failure, self doubt and confusion begin scurrying around the precarious pachyderm pile and threaten to upend your world.

No comments:

Post a Comment