Friday, May 27, 2016

I used to be Afraid of the Dark

My older brother slept in a pitch black room.  I idolized him for that because I was afraid of the dark.  I idolized him enough to eventually develop the habit myself. Now I love the dark.  There are a couple ideas that helped me make the transition, and I want to help you make it too, though not in a literal sense.

One idea is that a lack of light is a disadvantage to a victim just as much as it is a disadvantage to an attacker.  I wasn't really afraid of real attackers though.

I was afraid of ghosts and wraiths and poltergeists.  No physical evidence has ever been produced showing that something supernatural was responsible for any kind of suffering.  I eventually mastered something I call "apophatic" reasoning, which is a term I got from Mark Passio.  The lack of physical evidence for supernatural causes of human suffering is powerful when you understand how quickly and forcefully such evidence would spread.

Supernatural causes, philosophically, are impossible.  "Supernatural" means beyond the nature of the universe.  "Cause" identifies a relationship in the nature of the universe.  Supernatural, philosophically, is a euphemism for "I don't know enough."  Roll a die and it will land on a number.  Can you predict the number?  No, you can't, not if you roll it properly, and it's balanced.  That doesn't make the number supernatural.  Maybe you'll roll three sixes in a row.  That also does not make it supernatural.  If you continue rolling sixes and you cannot get the die to land on another number, then you can pretend it's supernatural, but any decent physicist will offer to analyze your die to see if it's loaded.  Perhaps he will not find the reason.  Would you then call it supernatural?

I wouldn't.  To give up the hunt for the reason your die lands only on the number six is to abandon one of the best faculties human beings have, reason.  It takes a lot of humility to study such a die for weeks and continually admit that you're still "in the dark" about why it always lands on the same number.  Humility is valuable.  It stops us from believing fairy tales.

The non-literal sense in which I wish to help you not to be afraid of the dark is to encourage you to keep looking.  Whatever it is that makes the die always land on six is a metaphor for how we improve the world.  Most people give up, and that's a metaphor for accepting fake authority, also known as relying on government.  When authority is not fake, it does not use punishment.  It has no use for punishment.  It even encourages the kind of thing that fake authority punishes, because that kind of thing (going against the advice of authority) provides great learning experiences.

Governments and police are fake authorities, which is why they punish people for breaking their laws.  A law is a discovery about how the universe works.  Watch a dog with a bone.  If another creature approaches, the dog growls, "This is my bone.  Get away or I'll bite you."  Humans, well, sane humans, do this too.  Perhaps we don't bite (or growl), but we demand that our property rights be respected.  At least we make that demand to other humans whom we view as equals.  Some of us don't make that demand to fake authorities, and that is because we are, figuratively, afraid of the dark.

When we speak truth to power, we are insisting that a balanced die will land on random sides when "rolled properly," no matter how difficult it is to show why a particular die doesn't have this characteristic.  After listening to some lectures on physics by a guy name David Harriman, I blame Immanuel Kant for the idea that it makes sense to give up on finding a reason for the unexpected behavior of the die.  I also lay part of the blame on him for the legitimacy of fake authority.

People like Victoria Roberts and Nancy G Edmunds use fake authority to hurt people, either because they derive some benefit from it or because they don't know any better.  Either way, I wish I were closer to them (geographically) so that I could confront one or both of them.  I'm not afraid of the dark any more.

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