Reduction to the Absurd

Through a Glass Darkly

Oh, there is no sense in resisting it—the infectious knowledge that this experience, this dream we share together, is just madness. And for those for whom it is not madness, it is madness waiting to happen. Find a cardboard box in your closet and open it up, look inside a dusty drawer, drive too far east just after the first night of midsummer, crack open a textbook and go too far into the maths, and suddenly… madness.

In your moments of clarity, you are standing on the summit of the steepest mountain—the only mountain in sight. You are an island of sobriety in the mire of lunacy. You are a smidgen of coalesced order, momentarily insulated from the bloated entropic soup.[1]

Many people are comforted by a thing we call science. Do not be fooled by science. Do not huddle so tightly around the fire—the perception of order and unity—as many do. These people wish to be protected from surprising things. But if, one day, they are cut loose from the lifeboat and set adrift, I shall have no sympathy for them. Of course, it is not huddling close to the fire that is wrong. It is denying the vast darkness at your back.

This experience is like a finely spun web, stretching outward without bound. It is possible to slide along its strands further and further in any direction, and voila; you still exist! Even if everything else goes mad, and even if you do not so much as make sense to yourself, you still exist. Your thoughts are stable, and they can be whatever they are. It was only in those times when you were sane, and no smarter than everybody else, that you thought (wrongly) that they had to be anything.

Interestingly enough, however, there is a place where most people are. There is a city in the heart of the web, where the threads are joined by the thick knot of our common experience.

You can take a walk, if you must. Simply take the trouble to remember the way back.

If you should happen to look behind you and notice that it goes on forever out there, do not panic! Quell the clamouring throng of little ideas about how terrible it is, how someone might be out there, and how because there is an “out there,” perhaps you have no business staying here.

The problem, you see, is that there is only one way to acknowledge the void and keep from making a one-way trip into it. That is (and I wish that I were being redundant in saying so), you have to choose to stay here.

There are two things to be said about Christianity. First, that it cannot be true because it is an absurd thing (absurdities are human) in a rational universe; and second, that it cannot be true because it is a coherent thing (coherencies are human) in an absurd universe.

Now, I do not know that the universe is either rational or absurd. I do know that I have the liberty of traveling as I please, and that Christianity is a human thing found only in the human circle around the fire.


[1] And unlike the other statements, this one is demonstrably true!



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