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"I knew nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past."

— Stanislaw Lem, Solaris

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Monday, April 11th, 2005

Quick entry again, this time expanding a bit on a footnote to an entry from last August.

When I was about eight, I found a book of Arabic riddles in the school library. I remember little about it, save that on one page there was a surrealistic paragraph full of impossible happenings and violence. I turned to the answers page for it, and it said "There is no answer to such a fib." This terrified me to my core. It seemed to touch on a fear that lay deeper than fear of the dark - the fear that, just back of everything, there was the void, and nothing more. I feared that I would find some unresolvable contradiction at the edge of being that would tear the veil of brightness asunder.

This is of course what science has revealed the world to be like - tiny bits of order smeared through stunningly vast expanses of void. While I can feel echoes of that same fear in me today, I no longer think of reason as a fragile thing, but as the very tool to use in understanding the void and even bending it to our convenience.

I find hints of this sort of horror in the works of many writers, including Lovecraft and Chesterton ("Something has fallen on us that falls very seldom on men; perhaps the worst thing that can fall on them... We have found the truth; and the truth makes no sense.") Chesterton would likely agree that reason is the best way to conquer the void, but he felt that atheism was the opposite of rationality, as witnessed by the poor treatment of atheists in his stories - grim caricatures of ethically devoid materialists who always come to bad ends.

I may perhaps be prejudiced by having been raised in a very stable society, but I do not see the need for a source of meaning or morality that lies outside of our psyches or what we can learn from the world of being. Of course, this means that one still struggles with ontology on occasion, unlike one who has gained some peace of mind from erecting some foundation of absolute beliefs... I think that such struggles are part of maintaining curiosity and intellectual health. At the same time, I think that this exercise of the mind does bestow greater confidence in making ontological judgements, and that while such confidence may not be expressed as loudly as the assertions of the dogmatic, it is much the stronger and more satisfying in the long run.


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