I just returned from seeing “Jaws”, the movie sensation of over a year ago. It was just a suspense & gore type horror show, with the scientific twist that seems to be a big winner with North American audiences. It was sort of the old man-eating tiger gig popular in the old jungle movies, gone aquatic. For the high price it cost to film it, it was still a picture that gave the impression of having rather fakey special effects. The roles of the old-saw fisherman & the oceanographer were too pat. Only the chief of police was believable.
Such pictures, with their heroes somehow triumphing against the odds, zero in on a basic need we all have though. I guess I would simply call it a need to transcend our insignificance. Yea, the hero will die & be forgotten and all that, but he had a moment when he was in control, in his glory.
An article I read in the “New York Times” yesterday says we are learning to accept death more rationally, talk about it, etc. But doctors are some of the people most scared of death, says the author. He thinks that’s bad & ought to change. I hypothesize that a fear of death probably helped drive them to become doctors. I think an unwillingness to accept the absoluteness of death is a basic part of the character of Western man. Why should a man, who knows he’s going to die, strive for wealth, power, acclaim, if not expecting some measure of immortality with it.
I think modern man has gotten to where he can handle individual deaths, but is he ready to really realize that his whole civilization is just a match burning in the night; in a few seconds it’ll burn itself out? What drives scientists to work feverishly a whole lifetime, just laying the groundwork, maybe, for a theory? Knowing, as they must, that some of the postulates they have the most confidence in can be transcended by new observations, they strive on. They just want to know (all they are capable of, all they can force their minds to absorb, translate, deduce, create!), and they hope against hope that their intellectual descendents will carry on the “good fight”, and maybe some day, one day, the code will be broken; we will actually know what is going on. We’ll have gained along the way lots of methods to deal with natural phenomena, too, as the engineers follow the scientists along.
And then will we be able to fold our arms, say that’s all very well & accept it? Hell no, if there was no legitimate science, we would invent a pseudoscience to keep searching for an out! I believe with Thomas Wolfe that man’s destiny is to die with defiance on his lips. “Science is an active response to the world.” (Tom Robbins) It’s a defiant response really, systematic defiance, resistance.
Count me among the resistance. If I were ready to accept the Bible or any other written work on faith, I guess I’d be a priest. If I was ready to accept the brief insignificance of my life for what it is, I guess I would be content in sociology or psychology - trying to impart my indefatigable sense of calm and the rightness & logic of it all to others. I’m unstable, passionate, violent, compassionate and indifferent, all inside a second. I will seek the knowledge I never realistically expect to find. Could anyone really have expected Eve not to bite the apple? Snake or no snake, it was there!
My, the thoughts that come to me as I sit alone in Apartment A, Apartamentos San Francisco in Santa Tecla, El Salvador, at around midnight. The neighbors just turned off the U.S. rock music they had been playing as background music. Wait, here it comes again! What a relief; anyone who’s ever been to the movies knows the music only stops when a character dies! Whew, glad it wasn’t me that time!