… here again


One of my favourite words, and certainly something I appreciate in others.  Mainly because its opposite- credulous– just isn’t something I get.

At all.

I’ve talked about it before.  Most recently in recounting my reread of Dr. Sagan‘s The Demon Haunted World.

And one of my all time go-to books of profound influence is all about credulity.

In Umberto Eco’s incredible Foucault’s Pendulum, its narrator, Casaubon, after years of education and experience, opted to become credulous for a time.  As we meet the various nefarious characters- those involved in the conspiracy theories and elaborate tales of the survival of the Templars, the Rosicrucians and immortal characters like the Comte de Saint-Germain, we grow, along with Casaubon, in the realization that credulity is among the most dangerous of human vices.

Casaubon was named after the classical scholar Isaac Casaubon- the ‘most learned man of his time’ (1159-1614), who challenged the ‘common wisdom’ of the day with his research into texts and historical writings- but also referenced his son, Méric Casaubon, the author of (among other things) On Credulity and Incredulity in Things natural, civil and divine (1668).  In that work, as a man of his times, he argued (again, among other things) that witches must exist- since everyone believed in them.

Eco’s Casaubon is a melding of the father and the son- learned, yet willfully credulous.  Why not?  Everyone else seems to be.  He remains one of my favourite literary characters.

I first read this book when I was at something of a crossroads (those crossroads again…).  I had taken a year off from my undergrad while I attempted to figure out just what direction I wanted to be taking with my studies.  I had decided that journalism wasn’t for me, Medieval Studies was too limited in time-frame, English wasn’t interdisciplinary enough… What to do?

I remember sitting in a favourite tiny hole-in-the-wall in Ottawa (the Ozon Cafe on Charlotte at Rideau- LOVED that place- the chef would eventually become one of my dearest friends) and reading about the damage credulity can wreak if allowed to run unchecked, and thinking to myself that I’d reallyreally love to DO something about making sure that we become less credulous and more discriminating- in what we believe and why we believe it.

The ‘Diabolicals’- so named by the three literary co-conspirators Belbo, Diotallevi and Casaubon, with patronizing disdain- created flimsy connections between historical events to support their theories about the occult secrets of the world.  In creating their own conspiracy theory and contriving to have it fall into the hands of the Diabolicals, the creators let credulity overtake their lives and, ultimately, ended up either dead or deluded as a result of their imaginary/constructed Plan.

I can honestly and legitimately say that Umberto Eco- and Foucault’s Pendulum, specifically- was one of the driving forces that landed me in Religious Studies (there were others- Dad was reading all kinds of interesting things about de-institutionalizing religions that gave me some food for thought, and I’ve always been intrigued by our collective stories).  But the terrifying prospect, illustrated in Foucault’s Pendulum, of credulity run amok was too much for me to face.  I had to start learning about how and why people would choose to willingly and blindly follow the prescriptions/proscriptions of cultures that disappeared millennia ago.

Generally speaking, I am predisposed to trust people and the fact that sofreakinmany remain willing to be trapped and stunted by credulity is still- even after so very many years of studying and, at times, participating in experiential communities- inexplicable to me.  Generally speaking.

Of course, credulity isn’t something that it restricted to religion(s) and religious/spiritual belief(s).  The gullible/unwilling to do the research can be found in other spheres.  Ones just as influential and potentially dangerous.

Government conspiracy theorists are high up there on my list of people I really don’t want to engage in ‘conversation’ at the mo’.  I’m not suggesting that we should ever sit by, complacently, and let our leaders run roughshod over our democracy.  Never that.  We have responsibilities as citizens of democratic nations.

The primary duty is to actually get out there and participate in the process- by voting- after examining the issues and the response and proposed solutions in order to choose our best possible leaders.  So you voted and still don’t like the way things are going?  Get more involved- volunteer, start a grass-roots movement, write a blog post…

But believing that our elected governing bodies are ALL working- ceaselessly and with contemptuous greed- to deceive the voting public about everything?  C’mon now.

Communicating and articulating informed perceptions of our realities is the only way out of the quagmire of superstition and credulity in which we seem to be trapped.  Buying the line of chatter offered by a talking head that is likely on the payroll of an institution with a self-serving mandate ain’t gonna cut it, folks.

As humans we see connections between things- that’s one of the many ways in which we attempt to make sense of the inexplicable.  I do that.  A lot.  The back catalogue (such as it is) hereabouts demonstrates that little fact quite clearly.  We create meaning from the bits and pieces of things that surround us.

I get it.  I do.  But I don’t structure my life according to these perceived connections.

Just because a bunch of people (or Fox News) tell me that the POTUS wasn’t born in Hawaii doesn’t mean it’s true.   A few radical racist anti-semites tell us that the Holocaust never happened?  Not according to the historical and human experiential records we have available to us.

Millions of people are willing to accept that a book of stories and social strictures is the divinely dictated word of a deity?  I’m not one of them.  I did that homework, and drew different conclusions- based in evidential research that says something else.

Last weekend (last weekend?  Really?  It’s Friday again already?  Where is the summer going?) I took a road trip to our Nation’s Capital to help celebrate the wedding of one of my dearest friends in the world.  On the long drive, I let the Shuffle Daemon have its head and set the playlist.

This one came up as we drove:

I seem to be living my life in placeholders these days.  There just aren’t enough hours…

Matt Johnson.  I don’t throw the word genius around lightly, but this guy… Brilliance.  Embodied.  He will be revisited at some point.

For now…

Recorded between 1988 and 1989, Mind Bomb is an album heavy on the politics and religion- and the politics of religion.  That ^^^ little ditty is profound and prophetic in so very many ways- and the introduction (Are you ready Jesus?  Buddha?  Mohammad?), with its allusion to The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz (a song about another sort of chaos) is just sososo clever.

 ‘The world is on its elbows and knees, it’s forgotten the message and worships the creeds…’

Yep.  Why?  Because ‘they’ tell us to do so.

Did you catch the news this week?  Have you seen what is blowing up, again, in the ‘Holy Land’?  And the political maneuvering that is happening as a result?

It’s past time to stop listening to ‘them’ in our credulous intellectual laziness.

 Informed rationality.  That’s what it has to be about.

Heavy thoughts for a beautiful Friday evening in my City on the Lake.    Going to shake off the week, and I’m thinking that, perhaps, I’ll let Matt’s reference lead me into my weekend- which will involve the usual chores and catch-up and some reading (and maybe even some writing) that I’ve been meaning to get at…

But for now…

‘My dreams are getting so strange, I’d like to tell you everything I see…’

Happy Friday!

21 comments on “… here again

  1. bethbyrnes says:

    When the 2000 election rolled around, I went out and bought every book I could on Al Gore and George Bush (now I would do much of that online). I literally read several dozen books on the Neocons and on Clinton/Gore policies as well as biographies of the men themselves. I knew them backward and forward. Even though I have always been a progressive and almost always vote for Democrats, I still didn’t feel I had a right to vote for Gore unless I knew why and how he was the better choice.

    When 9/11 occurred, my husband and I said to each other, watch now, Bush and his “advisers” (puppet-masters), will immediately want to invade Iraq. I didn’t know the phony pretext would be weapons of mass destruction, I did know that Cheney was invested heavily in Haliburton and thus would want to funnel contracts to his fellow shareholders so they could all line their pockets.

    They even put two usually respected people out on the front line to take the hits for them, Powell and Rice, shamelessly. Geoffrey and I knew the Iraq war was a mistake before they even launched “shock and awe”.

    Anyone who did not know Bush, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Frum and the rest of that cabal did not do their homework. All you have to do is read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine to get an idea of how easy brainwashing is, because that is exactly what underlies this “dupefication”

    People are intellectually lazy in this country. Most of them can barely speak English, know very little history, think science is a belief on a par with religion, I could go on and on. Our educational system is failing us because, as you put it, people are facile, credulous, gullible. The worst of it is, they cannot or will not see it.

    And, this benighted populace is about to hand our economy and our international relations over to these same people in November of this year by voting them control of the Senate.

    Bill Maher said Americans are a stupid people. Frankly, I cannot disagree.

    • colemining says:

      Oh Beth- that intellectual laziness is rampant here, too. I recently witnessed an ‘argument’ on a fb thread about science being as much about relief as religion is about belief. There was just no way that this person would understand the concept of demonstrable, repeatable results. I don’t get it- and the more I read/witness, the more distressed I become.

      We have become so self-involved- and inclined to take that whole ‘pursuit of happiness’ thing to the extreme- that we are willing to buy any line of chat- without making any effort to analyze what is being said or investigating whether there is an agenda behind the words.

      I think there is willingness to the gullibility/credulity. Believing blindly in ideology that support those things we already think we know is easier than leaving the comfort zone of what we were always led to believe. Investigating takes time and effort. I admit, sometimes, it is a case of not having the leisure to do the investigating, but more often it is a willful choice to remain ignorant. And that is what makes me cringe. If you have the choice between rationality and credulity and choose to remain ignorant… I don’t know how to respond to that. I just don’t.

      Not knowing how to change that makes me want to bite something. Hard. Unfortunately you can’t make people change- they have to want to do so. And I’m not sure the desire is there. Easy is better- and it seems to be the answer for most people these days.

      Thanks for reading- and for your perspective! xo

  2. Wow. So interesting, this. There is a lot here, and I am rereading to make sure I get it all (while pouring another glass of wine…it always makes doing homework so much more fun). I would say that it is pretty much incredulous what’s going on the in the world, and at home, right now. Is the world in worse shape than ever, or are we just hearing about it more? It seems surreal sometimes, though I still believe in the inherent goodness of humanity. Most of us, most of the time, do right by each other…(so naive!).

    How did O’Town treat you? Was it the same as you remember? There is a lot of construction…I think the Ozon is gone now.

    Speaking of words: “sofreakinmany” is a great one!

    Happy Weekend.

    • colemining says:

      Lol- a glass of wine makes homework so much better. I think we are hearing about it more, certainly, but what makes me crazy is that we have all this access to information and yet people continue to OPT to remain ignorant.

      I am all about the inherent goodness of us people-type-people. I believe it now- and always have done. Which is why I get so frustrated with us sometimes. We CAN be better- and DO better- if we just focus outward instead of inward for a change. We have to be rid of the us vs. them mentality that is supported by all these outdated ideologies and realize that the things we share are far more important that the superficial (and superstitious) differences that separate us.

      Ottawa was great- got to visit some old haunts (not the Ozon, sadly- it was long gone way before I left town)- The Bagel Shop, Thyme and Again, Pub Italia (still love the decor and the Beer Bible at that place- food is still mediocre, but it remains a fun place to go)- and some great brunch outings with friends, in addition to the wedding festivities. I was amazed by all the construction- condos everywhere! Not as bad as Toronto, but still! And hit the new HUGE IKEA- that’s a mighty big store! It’s always trippy for me to go back- a mix of the bad and the good memories, but this whirlwind trip was all about the good. And the weather was beautiful.

      Words are fun. Making up words is fun. Thanks for reading, Booksy. Enjoy the weekend! xo

      • Thyme and again (my fav haunt)? Bagel Shop? You were in my ‘hood!! How cool to have bumped into you! (though I was away too)…enjoy your writing so much. Always makes me thin, always in a good way. Cheers!

      • colemining says:

        Yes- although I lived in Sandy Hill, Parkdale/Hintonburg is where I spent most of my time- and where my closest buds still tend to hang out. Next trip we will have to meet up at Bridgehead (there are Bridgeheads everywhere now! And they’re selling their breads- fabulous!) for a coffee! Had the last of the Ottawa bagels for breakfast this morning. Yum.

        Thanks for reading, Booksy- and for the always-great comments! xo

  3. Focussing on the wrong thing here, Cole but I can’t help it!
    Hearing Sweet again just propelled me back to my teens in a second. They were a favourite on the record-player at the youth club! I then started thinking that Brian Connolly was half-brother to Marc McManus, the actor famous, particularly, for his lead role in Taggart, a detective series based in and around Glasgow. He was exceptional in the part – you’d think it had been made for him. One of the things about it was that he never compromised his Glasgow accent in the programme so, ‘It’s the polis!’ was never, ‘It’s the police.’
    I had thought that it was only for this part until I went with a friend, donkeys years ago, to see him performing as Macbeth.
    Hearing Macbeth uttering the immortal words, ‘Is this a daaaggur ah see afore me, it’s haunel towards ma haaart?’ near had my friend and I buckled in the theatre!
    Connections! Our minds are strange places indeed.
    I’m inclined to be too trusting of everyone and also love to ‘believe’ in the possibilty of fairies and Loch Ness monsters and horses that fly!
    Most things in life leave me incredulous at the wonders that abound and the interconnectivity of people and thoughts on this fabulous planet of ours. I find myself in awe at any number of remarkable occurrences that seem too interconnected to be coincidence. Then again, we don’t live in splendid isolation so I suppose it should be no surprise to find the effects of mutual impact in the widest of spheres.
    Credibility though is kept to a minimum by observing human nature at work – sometimes that just leaves me gob-smacked!
    Now, I’ve yet to listen to the first artiste so I’ll tune into that now. 🙂 x

    • colemining says:

      Anne-Marie- (The) Sweet are so awesome. I have to admit that I associate the song with Wayne’s World and dance bars in uni, but it never fails to get the party started.

      Believe me- I love the wonder of silly belief. You gotta know that one of the stops on our Scotland trip will be a trip to that there Loch so I can have a go at spotting that there Loch Monster. I did my public speaking assignment on Nessie in Grade 8- won for my grade and went on to the school competition. I have a soft spot for the old girl.

      Wonder is an incredible thing- it enhances our lives, but unexamined beliefs should NOT control them. Giving up that control allows others- who may not be out for out best interests- to take it- and that is never a good thing. I’m not suggesting we need be freaks looking to control and organize the whole shebang- just that we take care to really vet those to whom we give over some of our governance (whether temporal or spiritual).

      We are all connected- and that connectivity is important and rich enough in and of itself, that we needn’t go looking for imagined or forced conspiratorial connections as validations of our perspectives. Human nature is a complex and varied thing- but it is, I believe, positive at its heart.

      Do! Check out The The. Wonderful wonderful stuff. xo

  4. Omg! I like them and that song. I don’t know that I’ve heard them before although their name is familiar. Maybe just can’t remember any of their songs. This is one for a download.
    And my French isn’t as rusty as I thought it was. 🙂

    • colemining says:

      I WILL be doing a hero-worship post about them/him (it’s really Matt, with an ever-changing backing of great musicians)- This is the Day– likely his most famous tune (written when he was 20!) ranks up there on the list of life-changers for me. So much good stuff.

      Lol- yes- that was the best version I could find, so posted it despite the French intro- glad you were able to suss it all out.

  5. Not thin. Think. Freudian slip. 😉

  6. Ste J says:

    Fox News is probably the foremost satire programme on TV these and always good for a laugh, well it would be were it not for the credulous.

    • colemining says:

      Isn’t is terrifying? People buy their nonsense whole cloth because they are a ‘news’ outlet. In the same vein, I often see people commenting on the Onion- which IS a satirical site- as if it is ‘real’. Jebus. We are collectively giving up our ability to critically analyze everything- whatever its import.

      Thanks for the visit, Ste. J!

  7. […] are dedicated to, and exemplars of, the sorts of things I discussed in my last couple of posts.  Credulity, and how not knowing history leads one down the slippery slope of having it repeat itself.  For […]

  8. […] to tell truths to which they cannot, legitimately, lay claim. Or when the credulous among us (an ever-growing crowd) decide to infer truths underlying the […]

  9. […] that my thoughts tend in that direction all the time- but when there is in-your-face evidence of credulity at every single turn, questions of belief seem to surface even more […]

  10. […] have in our collective arsenal against inequity and injustice is another ‘in’ – ‘incredulity’. I’ve written about its opposite in the past – and how that ongoing, unjustified, […]

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