Friday, February 04, 2011

An Undiscovered World

So, I read a lot of webcomics. I'm quite addicted to them, honestly, but as far as addictions go, it's one I'm okay with having. Instead of playing WoW or watching House, I sit in front of a monitor for thirty-five minutes or so a day and indulge in some visual stories.

One of my favorites (as evidenced by the fact that it's in my second queue of comics -- I save the best for last) is Subnormality, which, as best as I can describe, is bit of an outsider's perspective on humanity and life, particularly if the Sphinx is involved. It is an excellent (if wordy) comic, and I highly recommend it.

This week's strip made me think a great deal about the human experience and the way we live our lives. To summarize what I've understood of the much more eloquent Winston Rowntree, it deals with the way we create stories to make our lives more interesting. We are willing to believe fantastic things, just to make our world seem fresher; we are willing to look past what we know to believe that there are things left to be found.

The comic ends with the idea that
"Maybe there's always been a city, and it's always been kind of a drag at times, mundane and predictable, and as your comically brief window of existence ebbs away maybe it's always kind of helped to pretend -- to think about good stories as reality lumbers past, its cards all showing, its hills all flagged before you were born, its every expanse mapped and signed and bathed in ceaseless light, nothing undiscovered."
Now, Subnormality is frequently a bit pessimistic, though normally I agree with what's being said. And really, I believe that there are a lot of people who do live their lives through stories that aren't true. After all, how many people spend their lives playing along with the great fiction of religion? They invent answers for unknowable questions, and live their lives as if these preposterous propositions are the utter, unquestionable reality.

I have to say, though, that the people who live like this are the same ones who don't realize that understanding doesn't lead to ennui and a lack of awe and wonder in the workings of the world. Understanding how a rainbow works doesn't necessarily make the sight of one any less marvelous; for me, it makes it even more so. Moreover, the kind of mysticism that argues against understanding, claiming that it lessens the "mystery of Creation" or such crock is actually arguing against having more to wonder at and explore.

Once we understand the rainbow, ought we not move on to better understanding light? Or weather systems? Or the human visual spectrum? One scientific fact can open up a doorway to a whole new slew of questions, and that is where science completely outdoes any story or religion in the amount of interest it can inspire in our surroundings.

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