That’s Absurd!

First Posted 18-Jun-2014

Yes it is. This space is absurd. It’s religious roots are absurd. This space believes that a Nazarene carpenter was martyred by the Romans at the request of members of his church, he died and rose again on the third day. There are more absurdities published here. Drunk aliens and titular emperors of Berkeley’s People’s Park, itself an absurdity.

Absurdist Art is a genre of work you’ll find in museums. Eugene O’Neil wrote, “The Hairy Ape”. My first version of this post didn’t consider absurdism. I am the son of an electrical engineer and a social worker. Science is a god in my Dad’s house. Syllogisms are psalms. My Dad needs the world to be rational. I took it on faith for many years that the American creation story could sustain a nicely Aristotelian logical progression all the way back to Genesis 1:1. That things might be absurd was a piece of disgusting heresy to me.

How do you explain me? I’ve done so many things wrong if you evaluate “correct” by my inherited assumptions about proper from my parents. I’ve never kept a “good job” for more than a couple of years. I’ve been in jail. I’ve been homeless. If I am only my past, if my born nature is immutable, how come I am here, in a house I rent, with a car, between jobs, able to write this post? Should I not be on some street corner with a sign begging for quarters, my son beside me, looking forward to a miserable, anonymous death? Perhaps. Didn’t happen that way. This happened. The sun rose, my rowboat was dry and I rose above my station. I am an affront to Natural Law.

My good friend loves Natural Law. The squishy, messy world I live in of poets and storytellers, of talking rabbits and cats whose smile remains–it bothers him. He has a faith in an inviolate, indisputable set of laws explicating the world and defining moral behavior that is nearly religious in its fervor. “It’s not religion!” he says with a fair amount of animus, “it’s fact!”

Uh huh. The world is flat, that is fact as well. One of the great questions: “what is truth?” My friend would find this to be a stupid question because, obviously, truth is what you can tangibly prove to be true. Ok. Does my car exist even though as I type this I can’t see it? Does solipsism explain everything? What of the realm of, “why?” Can you prove, tangibly, the why of misery, of mystery? Bad things happen to good people. Many reasons to explain this are offered. Only some of them are comforting. Also and perhaps more annoying, good things happen to bad people.

We know the wind by its effect, of air because we feel it when we breathe. We can, through science, come some distance toward explaining why the wind blows where it will. There is still that bit of mystery, of randomness, of fungible truth that escapes explanation through science. There are still those nagging questions like, “what is truth?” and “why do bad things happen to good people?” which resist syllogistic explanation.

You miss so much beauty by limiting the world to the natural laws of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato. Something is irretrievably lost if we destroy Picasso’s work because it is not representational. Do we obliterate everything Pollack because it isn’t clearly of natural law? Should O’Neil’s work be burned? What of Tennessee Williams? There is much that isn’t provable by the scientific method that is still enlightening and true in a bigger sense than simple fact. What Homer left for us has truth, though of a different quality than the truth of the color the sky is or that the world is flat.

I am not opposed to Natural Law any more than I am opposed to someone who would insist that the sky is actually teal instead of blue. There are truths that, over time, have become indisputable because they have survived countless hours of debate. I choose to exist, though, in the realm of the bard, where God is martyred by the religious leadership and leaders are to wash the feet of those they wish to serve. Where murderous persecutors of the faithful become saints. Truth, here, is a bit more difficult because behind the looking glass mystery looms large. The absurd is accepted as a norm and the norm is sometimes made to be absurd. It’s a funny place with talking rabbits and invisible cats whose smiles remain. I like it though. I think I’ll stay.