Wednesday, May 27, 2015

365 True Things: 60/Beliefs

My house cleaner came today, and we chatted about her boyfriend, who's out visiting from Texas. (High school sweethearts, recently reunited via FB and a meddling sister—a sweet story.) I asked whether his cabin has been affected by the floods, and she said no, not yet. Feeling social, she went on: he doesn't like the weather here (it's too cold, and he now has a cold as a result); he won't drive because he's afraid he'll get lost (I did not ask, "Doesn't he know about maps?"), so she has to do all the driving. He's been here a month. She wasn't exactly complaining; just stating the facts. 

One thing he does like, she said, more brightly, is hiking. And he's just found out about Big Sur. Now, she continued, he's excited because he's learned that there have been Bigfoot sightings in Big Sur. He really wants to go check it out. "But," she sighed, "I don't want to look for Bigfoot. I just want to . . . camp. In a campground. With picnic tables and bathrooms."

Okay, I added the amenities in my mind, but it's what her tone said. And while my mind was filling in those blanks, the rest of it was guffawing, "Bigfoot? Seriously?" Because of course no one really believes in Bigfoot!

Well, except poor Kathy's man. I guess he does. And she seemed less dismayed by the ridiculous idea of Bigfoot than by the idea of hiking deep into the wilderness to spot him. So maybe she believes in Bigfoot too. We didn't go there.

Having a straight-faced conversation about Bigfoot made me think about all the things I don't believe in. Bigfoot is right up there. Fairies (pace Arthur Conan Doyle). Leprechauns. Unicorns—despite the magnificent medieval evidence to the contrary. Ghosts.

Although I've never encountered a ghost myself, I'm willing to allow that people do experience weirdness in the world, which may be attributable to ghostly doings. But still: mostly, I include ghosts in the pure-fantasy list.

I'm a rational person. I believe in evidence. And evidence, for me, means observable, it means science. Even if the observation is of something the human eye doesn't stand a chance of seeing. Even if the observation is a huge compilation of farflung data requiring computer programs to put together to make meaning. Think climate change (yes, I believe in climate change: I believe it is actively happening; I believe we humans are the major cause).

Or there's this quote I ran across today, by Freeman Dyson in a New York Times Review of Books piece about pictures taken with the Hubble telescope. It gets at the magic and mystery of science, of the known world—or rather, the world known by the communal brain of our scientific explorers:
Star-forming nebula in the constellation Carina, 7,200 ly from earth, 2006–2008

Carl Sagan told us long ago that we are stardust. Our planet earth and everything that lives on it was formed by the accumulation of dust grains in a collapsing dust cloud. Every atom in our bodies once resided in an interstellar dust grain. And before that, the dust cloud was formed by the condensation of heavy atoms in the debris expelled from exploding stars. Dust plays an essential part, not only in the history of life, but in the history of the universe as a whole. Although dust is a very small part of the mass of the universe, it controls the birth and death of stars and the heating and cooling of interstellar gas. Dust is prominent in the Hubble pictures, not only because dust clouds are beautiful, but because dust clouds are big players in the cosmic drama. The Hubble pictures show the universe evolving all the way from the Big Bang to our pale blue planet. At every step of the journey, dust has guided our destiny. 
What makes stardust—which I definitely believe in—so different from Bigfoot? After all, there is the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, founded in 1995, "the only scientific research organization exploring the bigfoot/sasquatch mystery" (emphasis added).

And how is Bigfoot so very different from a unicorn—which was described not in Greek mythology, but in Greek natural history?

And how is either of these different from an ivory-billed woodpecker, which no longer flies through our forests—though people keep thinking they see it. They want to see it.

I started out thinking I'd quash Sasquatch here, then amble on into what I do believe in. But I'm beginning to think this will have to be part of a more thorough musing. Evidently, what we believe in (any of us) is not so simple.

1 comment:

  1. My grandchildren have photographs of Bigfoot footprints (a well as artifacts, etc) they found in the woods outside Black Butte. They spend a lot of time on hunting and tracking. Toby, meanwhile, spends a lot of time in his Bigfoot mask trying to scare them in the dark.