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This section was my workspace for philosophy essays between July 2006 and April 2008. I call this "Prehistoric Kilroy" because it gave me practice for more disciplined essays in Kilroy Cafe. Also see my philophical blog and Twitter feed.

Issue #45, 12/12/2006

Being of Two Minds
— or —
The Great Duality of Everything

By Glenn Campbell
Family Court Philosopher

I believe in UFOs, except that I don't believe in them. Every UFO sighting can be explained either as a deliberate deception or a flaw in human perception, but I wonder what they want from us. UFOs are phony—and fascinating. I spent a good portion of my life hunting for aliens, and I found them, lots of them. I think there is nothing more satisfying than hunting for aliens and not finding them. I believe that the aliens have a plan for me, even if they don't exist.

Confused? Don't be. Ambiguity is wonderful when you can find it. I would love ambiguity if I didn't hate it so much. Ambiguous people are useless, because you can't pin them down. They are wafflers. They should all be shot.

It is said that the mark of true maturity is being able to hold two conflicting ideas in your head at the same time. It is also very immature to think this way. Children have no problem with ambiguity — for example, having an imaginary playmate who they acknowledge isn't real. Adults always want to force the question: Is it real or isn't it? They want nothing to do with imaginary playmates. Adults can be total farts this way.

Adults have made commitments, so they want to know, absolutely, that they made the right choice. If there were two paths available, "A" and "B", and you chose "B", then you want to believe that "B" is the best and "A" is worthless. A lot of energy can be expended glorifying "B" and denigrating "A", but the truth is, you just don't know. All you know is that you made a choice, and your path was changed because of it.

People hate ambiguity because it causes anxiety. If you don't know whether you have made the right choices, then you wake up every day wondering, "Should I be doing this?" Not having a clear answer means that every day is a blank slate, an open book, and this can be more stressful than any prison.

Adults have difficulty with imaginary playmates because it means letting go. They can read fiction and watch fantasies on TV, but imagining something different for their own lives is not usually pleasant. They prefer to say, "I am perfectly happy doing what I am doing, and I can't imagine any other life." Only under particularly stressful conditions, like an asshole boss or an unfaithful spouse, is one tempted to imagine something else.

Adults want a simple yes-or-no, black-or-white answer. Religion seems to give them that, as do successful politicians and salesmen. In our capitalist economy, there is a big market for giving people the simple answers they crave: Buy this product and your problems will be solved.

That's basically what advertizing does. Every day, people wake up with a vague anxiety: Did I make the right choices? Is this all there is to life? When they turn on the TV, advertizing tells them what their problem is: lack of pulp in their orange juice. It then proceeds to tell them how to solve that problem: buy a certain brand of orange juice with EXTRA PULP. For the rest of the day, they might try to obtain this orange juice, and in a weird way, this quest relieves their anxiety.

...Until the next morning, of course, when they have drank the orange juice with extra pulp but they're still feeling anxious.

If you talk to the average person about the problems of the world, they will probably give you a simple solution: Join my religion. Get rid of the Democrats. Get rid of the Republicans. The government needs to do something. Authorities need to investigate.

That's how most television news stories seem to end: "Authorities are investigating." This gives the TV viewer a sense of black-and-white closure. It was terrible event, but authorities have stepped in now and are going to clean things up. Problem solved.

Ambiguity recognizes that the problem is rarely solved. "Authorities" rarely do much except throw someone in jail or enact hysterical laws that only make matters worse. Huge social problems continue to exist, just below the pleasant surface of commercial society, but the average TV viewer thinks things are all wrapped up. Authorities have taken over, and things are going to be fine.

Things are not fine. They are never going to be fine. There are never going to be any black-and-white answers to anything; only complicated gray ones. Ambiguity is at home in this environment.

At certain times, we are forced to choose: black or white. If you are on jury, you have to decide: guilty or not. If someone asks you to marry them, sooner or later you are going to have to give them an answer: yes or no. Life has plenty of mandatory decisions like this, where we're not allowed to sit on the fence.

The rest of the time, why bother? Why should you make a decision or declare your intentions when you don't have to? Life can be much richer and more creative that way.

Did you make the right decisions in the past? You are never going to know. You wake up in the morning with a certain set of givens. How you arrived at them is quite irrelevant. Yes, it's anxiety-producing, but your future hinges on the present moment. You have to work with what you have, and there are no simple answers.

I know this much about UFOs: Authorities don't have the answers. Authorities are composed of idiots like you and me who figure that someone else must know what is going on. Nobody knows what is going on. Everybody is groping around in the dark.

If that is the state of things, then so be it.

—G.C.

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“good reading... I appreciate honesty.” —The thinker. 12/15/06

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