Chapter 18: Argument on the way to work

That Friday morning, the day of the big debate, Peter woke up with a conversation in his head: “A life without discipline is bad for your health.”   It was something some random person told him this in his dream last night.  “What the hell?” He thought.  His subconscious seemed to be trying to communicate.  As he looked around his bedroom, he noticed the time.  Eight thirty.  He must have slept in.  Luckily, the lab did not expect him in until nine thirty; there was still IT maintenance checks running through systems that were likely going to put the networks on hold.   As he stared at the ceiling, he remembered a conversation Michelle was having with him and Harry the night before:  how she didn’t think civilization could hold much longer.

“Why?” reasoned Peter.  “Global warming is bad, but not impossible to control.  Economy is atrocious, but we’ve been able to survive this long; what else is new?”

“Yeah, but that’s not what troubles me” Michelle had said to him. “So if it’s not any that, then what the hell is so different?” he asked. “Nothing’s different: Complacency” Michelle said to him.

“Complacency?” he asked her.

“Sluggishness” Michelle explained. “Sluggishness which makes everyone lazy.  Something in the air here already.  Maybe an induction chain reaction effect; so lazy that people don’t ever end up doing what they wish they could, which, in turn, makes them more irritable.  Perhaps we collectively create that aura then in the air somehow.”

“Dog Days of summer phenomenon, so to speak” Harry had considered.

“It finally dawned on me; nobody is considering how we see consciously effect the environment by our attitudes.”  He remembered asking her what exactly did that mean, anyway, even though he had a vague idea since she was always getting philosophical.  “Over the last sixty years, we’ve created a world where virtually everybody is spoiled” Michelle explained.  She had gone on to predict how she already knew he was going to use rationalism to dismiss her theory.

“There’s a reason for that” Peter said chuckling out-loud as he got out of bed.  He stretched out a little, showered, and helped himself to a bowl of cereal.  “Simpletons; all of them – even Michelle”  he thought to himself as he crunched the cold flakes in his cereal bowl.  “She’s got great ideas, but she too often lives in a new age-y fantasy world.  That’s why she feels so nuts.  Imagine a world where people would finally take the time to be really educated.”

Ouch!  Peter bit into a stale burnt flake in his cereal bowl.  He almost chipped his tooth. Some packager’s idea of a joke.  “Karma, my ass” he insisted.  “This had been the third burnt flake in a week!”  He tried to get his mind off of these troubles by reading the comic in the back of the cereal box.  What a terrible punch-line at the end —  not funny at all; not even by a mile. “The fruits of complacency due to the lack of idealism in taking pride in your work” he said rather dramatically to his cereal bowl.   He hoped the day would get better.  There was a lot of consequences riding on actions today.  He hadn’t prepared for the debate today as much as he had promised to his friends, but rational thinking and education was on his side.  How hard could it be?

As he headed to work on route 114, Peter’s had a mind to turn on the radio.  Something to get his brain off of the stress of having to show up to this stupid meeting later.   Then he remembered how he hated the commuter traffic news on the radio that would always break in every time he was trying to hear music.

“Dammit!” he cried out loud.  He had left his connector to his old retro Ipod back home.  He could easily have reinstalled a modern sound system, but he still loved using that thing.  It was just as well.  He shut off the radio before anything could play and found his mind replaying Michelle’s rant again in his head. More rants about how there’s not enough compassion practiced in the world.  “We’ve created a world where virtually everybody is spoiled” he could hear Michelle saying again.  “It creates a bad energy in the air, don’t you feel it?   You’ve never felt a heaviness in the air when something awful happens?” As he weaved through traffic, Peter proudly remembered himself correcting her with how there was no scientific proof to these rants; to not believe in superstitious nonsense.  That’s what real science was for.

“Some things can’t be measured by the laws of physics” Michelle had corrected him.  “Maybe some deeper themes about life can be explained by physics, but no one I know looks at it that way. This is an existential battle we’re facing; that’s why in the history of everything I’ve ever read about the human race, no one ever seems to get results for living life to its fullest.  They’re fighting the wrong battlefield to solve problems.  You talk about particles and energy fields all the time; you try to explain it to me:  there are energy fields out there we can’t see: the quark-matter field or the electromagnetic field and the Boson field that exists in space itself .  What if our attitudes effect a field out there that we haven’t discovered; that causes an air to all this misery?”

“Interesting idea, but it’s not scientific” said Peter out loud.  Crap!  He almost rear ended the car in front of him: the fool had slammed their brakes too fast.  He had just passed Passey’s Peso Factory.  That was not a good sign.  Nine twenty six.   He was going to be late for work. “Attitudes of negligence” he could hear Michelle’s voice clearly saying.

“Attitudes of disharmony don’t literally hurt the environment” he could remember telling her.  “Physical pollution, the second law of thermodynamics: burning of fossil fuels, manufacturing plastics and choking up oceans… food shortages due to over population.. that’s what really fucks things up.”

But Michelle was so convincing in her words.  She had a way of expressing the sheer earnestness of a matter that would make a person doubt themselves.   Too bad she’s technically wrong, Peter reassured himself.

“Michelle why do you mess with my head like this?” he said out loud.  It was bad enough that the New Wavers held onto a lot of superstitious or just half-truths due to their lack of understanding logic and rationalism.   He didn’t need to fight thoughts planted in him  from someone he respected.

“Living in an Orwellian world where everything is recorded…this isn’t really freedom anyway, but it seems people are too dumb to see what’s going on” Peter rambled on in his mind. “No one knows what to believe, science and it’s foundational philosophies are imperative to surf through all this bullshit” Peter would have told her. “So please don’t try to askew reality any more than what people like the New Wavers are doing.  Don’t take in half-truths or let your senses betray you with superstitions. That’s what science is for…”

“That’s it!” Peter cried out loud.  A good counter-argument for the debate that afternoon was starting to form in his mind.  He wished he could relive their conversation from last night and tell the same thing she was thinking to Michelle herself.    This is good stuff!” Peter  cried out loud happily, even though he was now late for work. “I should write this stuff down. Yeah; that’s what I’m got to tell these losers today.”

“Michelle, Michelle” he spoke out loud to her in a telepathic manner.  “All these beautiful, fantasies people make up in their heads about how the world works, how it ought to work; it’s all make believe.  No one can go against reality.  No one can dispute facts, logic – real logic: logic of a higher order than stupid man made cultural beliefs.  In the lab, I study constellations trying to discover cosmic wave signals to see if anything intelligible exists out there.  But if real aliens — and not these odd government UFO fabrications — ever do stumble onto this rock and could see the bullshit drama we create out of our own ignorance, they’re not going to miss us.”  Peter  had to laugh to himself.  “And if what you say is true about the aura of people effecting the physical environment here somehow, if there’s a set of humans that have figured out to escape these wastelands of ignorance, well they’re better off.”  He had pulled into his private parking space at the observatory.

He chuckled again to himself as he passed through the double doors of the lab.  “You’d think the New Wavers would agree with your reasoning, Michelle: it’s partially based on emotion and wanting to feel good.”  How ironic.  Maybe Michelle was right all along: with the exception of Peter himself and anyone brave enough to study the fabric of reality for what it really was, no other human was really that much different from each other.  “So what the fuck are they fighting about?”


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