Archive for March, 2009

Career Dysphoria

March 31, 2009

            It isn’t so fresh anymore, this burden of trying to distinguish oneself. It mulls together; what you do, what I do, who we are and what makes us unique. We are all quite indistinguishable. We pigeon hole ourselves, hoping that the cubby we chose has better amenities than the cubby next door. That would indicate our success. Or would it just indicate the failure of our counterpart?

            Biology would claim that the number one indicator of success is the number of offspring we have. What might Wall Street have to say about that? In America, the poorer you are, the more likely you are to have more children. And receive welfare. The more kids, the greater the check. Meanwhile, I check myself into the local attitude hospital. The diagnoses? Severe career dysphoria.

            Offspring are not special in a society where anyone can have them, and even the most genetically damaged of our species are able to survive to have offspring. The drive for success and innovation is valued by society, but biology continues to value only our ability to reproduce. Human evolution is devolution, and there is no reversing the trend. We venerate those who accelerate the devolution by providing services for the destitute. “How compassionate!” we say, “How divine!” We rescue an endangered bird from extinction, while simultaneously rescuing their number one predators from unfortunate infections. We rescue the weak from a bully, but give the bully a badge and a gun, and tell him to protect us if anything really nasty comes along. Then a tiger gets out. The tranq-darts can only be fired by the zookeeper who’s on vacation today, so the bully shoots the tiger.

            I cannot consider the loss of human life tragic. Tragedy does exist, I am sure, but the loss of human life does not define tragedy. A life lived in fear, or in a pigeon hole: that is tragedy. Most humans live a life of tragedy. Their death is a relief from that tragedy.

            And the world will be relieved from the tragedy of human evolution when we finally suffocate ourselves with the pollution from our own greed. Human ingenuity isn’t so fresh anymore. The dolphins and whales beaching themselves in mass suicide have spoken. Yeti cannot mourn.

Coming Out

March 25, 2009

Spring has sprung and the light of day is entering the Yeti’s cave earlier and earlier. Waking from a stupor of winter dreaming, the world seems brighter and more alive than it ever has before. The light of intelligence has broken out of a chrysalid formation and burst anew within the eyes of a dutiful observer of the natural world.

 

This Yeti was raised to believe in the gods on top of the mountain, and to be faithful and obedient to the mythology of his ancestors. Living on top of the mountain as a young Yeti, it was easy to see how God was everywhere around him, expressing Himself in every snow-flake and every rock. God was an accepted universal. Anytime intellectual observation of a phenomenon was unable to penetrate the hows and the which-ways of existence, God was called upon to explain the unknown.

 

The Yeti was never distempered by the revelations of science. Science may have claimed that their revelations were godless, but the Yeti knew better. His sacred traditions held that even scientists received their revelations from God, even though they were Atheistic. The regular arguments against the existence of God never caused the faith of the Yeti to falter, or even to list from side to side. There always seemed to be an explanation, or an apology, or a corrective adjustment in the theory of who and what God must be that would account for the grey areas and the incongruities between what was taken on faith alone, and what could be observed.

 

God filled the void between the observed and the unexplainable.

 

Nevertheless, the Yeti had never bothered to abstract his own theory of what it meant to believe in a god. That belief, based on logical fallacy, was much too comforting to let go of all at once. Not to mention the threat of hellfire or outer-darkness for those committed to apostasy. The Yeti may stand on the mountain, apart from all humanity, but he is no iconoclast.

 

To explain the logical fallacy, let us think of the world as a complex watch, one who’s complexity is so unfathomable, that only a supreme being might be capable of comprehending all the ins and outs of physics, biology, chemistry, and every other discipline of science. Without a supreme being to unify all the disparate observations a nation of Yeti might make, how could anyone cull any meaning from this beautiful world at all? The religious masses claim, “Without God, how can life have any meaning or purpose at all?”

 

But the postulation of an infinitely complex God does not solve the problem of complexity in our world. It only makes us wonder: Who is this God of our fathers? And thus springs religion, to help a helpless Yeti. Religion would say “Yes, the world is complex, but that is all God’s doing. If you want to know God, follow us, for we are on the same quest.” But you cannot solve a problem of complexity by postulating an even greater complexity. A wristwatch may be a very complex piece of machinery, but the Yeti that put it together must have been even more complex. And so the religious Yeti chase after a god who cannot exist, let alone be understood. The believers wanter about endlessly, lost in a fog of darkness.

 

The Logical Fallacy of the God postulation has brought into this Yeti’s cave a new light, a new knowledge, and new amazement at the wonder of the universe. Meaning is not handed down from on high, but lifted up by our own minds and limned upon the heavens as a great shadow figure of our own yetiness.

 

This realization that there is in all probability no god at all on the top of the mountain has shaken this Yeti to the core. Perhaps if he hadn’t been so adamant in his early yetihood, it wouldn’t make such a difference to him now. Nevertheless, the sheer wonder with which he can now observe the universe is the greatest compensation for the cost in bravery that he has had to pay in order to make these realizations. He no longer feels rancor towards the persistently religious faithful, only pity.

 

And perhaps a little bit of desire to preach to the faithful masses of their infidelity to the tools of observation that their God has given to them in the first place. If one believes that God exists in any form, it is incumbent upon them to use their talents of observation and intellectual acumen that God supposedly gave to them.

 

Thus, it was no failing of virtue, no transgression of the law, no offense to God, that led me to the realization that there is, in all likelihood, no God at all, but rather a firm moral integrity and righteous judgment that finally left me no choice but to admit to myself and to Yeti everywhere, that to believe in God is to equivocate about the nature of existence in the first place.

 

I am like Jonah, the reluctant prophet of the Old Testament, swallowed up by the whale of Christianity, just as others have been swallowed by Islam, Judaism, or Zoroastrianism. The whale has finally tossed me back upon the shores of reason where I am left to flounder in both wonder and appreciation at the great expression of life; able to observe and describe, but never to explain.

 

The long winter of my discontent has come to an end. Will I mourn it’s loss?   

Caution And the Wind

March 6, 2009

             A low whumph rumbles beneath your feat and it feels as if the mountain has groaned. A creepy feeling shoots up your neck and down through your frozen toes. Then shooting cracks and you can’t tell yet, but it feels as if the mountain is moving upward while you are standing still. Then you accelerate and you are moving with the avalanche. The next few minutes will decide a lot about your life, and the life of your friends. Maybe they are there watching you and they dig you out safely after you swim carefully down a river, staying on the surface, not hitting any trees, and avoiding bumping your head or bones on any rocks that you might be moving over/through. Or maybe they won’t be able to dig you out in time because you were buried in a terrain trap, or got ripped away from your beacon. Or the beacon saved you from a sharp rock in the gut, but it was shattered and ineffective. You must receive a passageway for air within 15 minutes or else you will start to suffer brain damage from suffocation, regardless of the probable trauma your body has incurred with bent knees, broken ribs, or worse. Your best way to live longer: don’t panic. Slow down your breathing and try to relax…as you watch your life slowly, very very slowly, flash before your eyes. Soon you will freeze and go into hypothermia, so that will be nice. Just fall asleep.

 

            Getting caught in an avalanche is a realistic fear in the mountains no matter where you are. Typically, more people die of avalanches in resorts than in the backcountry, although snowmobiles and greater accessibility have increased the numbers of people dying the backcountry, not to mention the slack-country danger zones where people venture without effective training and knowledge, both of the snow-pack and their rescue gear. Each beacon must be used in a certain way to be most effective. You must be practiced. Your probing and shoveling require proper technique as well. Think of an outward spiral with your probe, and a V shape for shoveling with multiple people.

            In the end, wherever you put more people, more people will die of something, no matter how much you protect against it. Resorts presuppose a certain rate of accidents. NARSID (Non-Avalanche-Related-Snow-Immersion-Deaths) are a frequent occurrence at resorts, as are small but deadly avalanches and ski-patrol fatalities. Hence the astronomical insurance rates for resorts.

 

            Sitting in class, talking about death, it felt a lot like driving school, but more sciencey. The real reasons that people die in avalanches has everything to do about the science, and nothing to do with it at all. Technically, there was a situation created over time by nature underneath where you ventured to go. But you went there. Why? That is the real question. A sense of belonging, where only a very few species have been able to survive. And what a survival.

 

            After class, which was an ordeal because it took so much time over so few days, and kept me from climbing or skiing anything, we made a stab at the backcountry. We charged in and were chased back out by a coming storm. We spotted no less than 5 large (R1-R3, D2-D3) avalanches off of Ralston and rode on only mellow slopes that were only occasionally as steep as 35 or 40 degrees. We survived to tell the tale…tomorrow.