Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Replacing One Myth with Another

The human mind is a funny thing. It doesn’t take much to fool it, or to blind it to reality.

What’s even more amazing, however, is how easily one part of the mind can exist happily in some fantasy world of pseudo-reality while another part can be busy earning an advanced degree in physics or learning how to compose masterpieces in music.

It’s only when the pseudo-reality of the naïve part of the mind is challenged from outside that the two parts acknowledge each other. And it is not a comfortable meeting.

Unfortunately, the logically-challenged part of the mind wants so much to continue wallowing in its comfortable naiveté that it most often simply ignores or rejects any intrusion from the part that is grounded in reality.

Well, that’s enough for the generalized introductions. Let’s narrow this down to specific examples.

It’s easier to start with childhood. Take a normal seven-year-old child who is in the first grade and can spell his name, add two simple numbers together, and knows to dial 911 in case of an emergency. He is starting to understand and acknowledge reality, even if it is very simple.

Yet many kids this same age also insist that there really exists a jolly fat man in a red suit and white beard who lives at the North Pole and travels the world once a year bearing gifts. That’s the comfort-giving, naïve part of the mind. And at this young age, there is nothing abnormal or troubling about the coexistence of both parts of the mind.

On the other hand, once a kid reaches 11 years old or so, if he hasn’t started questioning the logic, not to mention the logistics, of a real-life Santa Claus living in his world, it might be a sign that he is having trouble adjusting to reality, even if his parents haven’t broken the bad news yet.

Taken a step further, it becomes almost comical to imagine a grown man who has earned a college degree, has started to raise a family, and who can balance his bank account every month, but who still believes in a literal Santa Claus. Imagine this man refusing to even listen to logical arguments against the existence of such a legendary figure.

Now replace the story of Santa Claus with the equally mythical stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, and the Creation.

Ouch! Did I just pinch a nerve?

Yes, that was me knocking on that enigmatic and reclusive portion of your mind that still believes in fairy tales. You know, it’s the part that has a phobia against reality because it honestly believes you will go to hell if you let any of it seep in.

But don’t worry; you’re far from being alone. The world is full of grown up, mature, educated, and intelligent men and women who can do everything from build a microchip to fly a jet airplane, yet who insist that there once was an 800-year-old man who built a big boat and put two (or seven) of every creature on earth into it just before a giant worldwide deluge.

Somebody hasn’t told them there is no Santa Claus, and they’re all too afraid to believe otherwise.

It might be funny if it weren’t so sad.

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