Friday, August 27, 2004
For our entire history, right up until a hundred years ago, the idea of flying carpets and magic lanterns held peoples imaginations in thrall. Now that we have everyday miracles like jet aircraft and electric lights, all some people want is to return to a time when the belief in magic was common but the everyday blessings of magic—telephones, computers, antibiotics didnt exist. Back in the anti-nuclear 80s lots of folks drove around with SPLIT WOOD NOT ATOMS bumper stickers, and I often asked myself, how much wood have these people actually split? Ive done an hour in my 20's and I thought I was going to die.
It's sad, frankly—at least to people like me. I find it terribly, tragically sad that the more successful and comfortable we become, the more people pine for a time when none of these everyday miracles existed. Outdoor bathrooms on January nights and miserable coal stoves that need to be tended hourly just to heat a pathetic half-gallon of tepid water need to be experienced to be believed—and not just in a 24 hour adventure, but continuously. Death, hunger, cold, disease, infant mortality—we have fought them tooth and nail for millennia, for what? Apparently in order to so insulate people that they can long for “ancient wisdom,” return to the “holistic tribal remedies” of the past, and hold up the most primitive and achingly poor cultures on earth as being the sole repository of “authenticity” while scorning every advance that they take completely for granted.
Magical thinking is everywhere today, and it is growing. It threatens the foundations of reason, individualism, science and objectivity that have delivered this success so well and for so long. It is dangerous. If we are to continue to thrive and progress, then we need to sharpen some sticks and drive a stake through the heart of this monster, and right quick.
I don't take indoor plumbing or hot water for granted—I have no desire to experience life in a “magical” setting. I like my hot and cold running water, thank you very much. And A/C. And electricity. And the Internet.
I like the trappings of modern life.