I am a huge fan of the human imagination. I’m a huge fan of all imagination; I’m convinced plenty of other animals and creatures have imaginations, too. They use them – same as we humans do – to problem solve both small and big problems. Finding food, a safe place to sleep, our place in the social group. Our imaginations are so powerful that they almost kind of convince us that they don’t exist. We forget that most of our knowledge didn’t just pop into our heads like magic, we acquired it. Some of it, we learned, some we earned. And then we turned around and applied what we now knew to what we now needed to solve. Bravo, us! Success is a wonderful thing – even if we are just making it all up.
Such Clever Sapiens…
In his terrific book Sapiens, historian Yuval Harari points out that virtually everything human beings think is a human invention of one kind or another. Even our history is a kind of invention. Every single human religion? Made up. Science is how we try to explain the otherwise unexplainable – the stuff religion insists we “take on faith”. The things science seeks to explain are absolutely real. But our framing of them so as to explain them to ourselves – we created that. Hell, we even invented a language so we could do it: mathematics. Math didn’t just fall from the sky as is. We penciled it out!
Every political system every human ever imposed upon other humans or submitted to – totally made up. The whole of idea of kings and “royalty” and “royal blood”? There’s nothing to it. Nothing! There is no such thing as “royal blood” except in our imaginations! Is any human being “divine” or “touched by divinity”? Not outside their own heads they aren’t.
Hell, humans can’t even agree on what “the divine” is. Ask a Catholic and a Protestant if the pope is infallible. You won’t get the same answer. Then ask a Muslim or a Jew – and then a Hindu, a Taoist, a Buddhist, a Zoroastrian and an animist.
Think of it another way: If the men who’d written the texts we now call the Pentateuch had had access to the internet as we do – and microscopes and telescopes and all the established science we take for granted – would they have written their texts the same way? For starters, someone would already have written everything down – because they’d have had the technology. Would anyone write a religious text to explain things that science had already explained satisfactorily? Probably not.
Too Pooped To Pope
Had the Bible’s authors known a fraction of what we know, they would not have written what they wrote. That’s why, in many ways, the Judeo-Christian god keeps shrinking. He really is a god of gaps and nothing else. If one dared to crack a book or two on the history of Judeo-Christianity (and Islam) and the processes that created those religious faiths, one would look at them all very differently. For starters, one would see how the sausage got made – and one would immediately get: it is sausage. Hell, it’s all sausage!
How does a man (since only a man can be Cardinal of Rome) go from being an ordinary person to being infallible? To being, in essence, perfect: “too Poped to poop”. That is until they die. Then they’re too pooped to Pope.
Our Made Up Constitution
Here in America, we made up a Constitution and tried to base a rule of law upon it. We have chosen to follow an invented rule of law over following an invented story about one person (or their family) being special. When we bump into problems with our Constitution, we amend it. We recognized at the start that our made up idea for a self-governing republic wasn’t perfect and could stand some improvement.
We follow a capitalistic economic system – another invention – because we’ve convinced ourselves it’s superior to non-capitalistic systems for creating wealth. If we suddenly decided that wealth was meaningless and only love mattered? We wouldn’t consider ourselves prisoners? We’d rethink everything – because we could.
And because we had to.
Outside The Box
What’s that saying “necessity is the mother of invention”? Yeah – exactly so! In the second Star Trek movie – “Wrath Of Khan”, Captain Kirk famously becomes “the only cadet in Starfleet history to ever beat the Kobayashi Maru (a lose-lose training exercise) — by reprogramming the simulation so that it was possible to win.
That’s what makes Captain Kirk such a great character. Same goes for Sherlock Holmes and every other great human invention who thinks outside the box. The “box” is always the same thing: limits on human imagination.
Are we humans really making it all up as we go along? Is that a trick question?