An M & M’s Commercial
Have you seen the new M&M’s commercial, where they imitate the Adams Family? The Adams Family was a B grade sitcom, from the early seventies, competing with a similar venture called The Munsters. There are only three characters that stand out, from the Adams Family. One was Gomez, the family head, who had “a lot of money.” The other was Lurch, whom I dubbed “Mr. Personality.” Then there was a hand, emerging from a box. The poor creature in question was just called “Thing.” For all practical purposes, the family members looked normal, unlike the family head of The Munsters. But Thing would be a bit “hard to explain.” Which starts the theme of this Halloween discussion, as we traverse into the land of philosophy.
Most folks don’t read Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason to learn about philosophy, or James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, to learn about literature. Many folks learn philosophy from literature. I learned much about existentialism from Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche (yes, Nietzsche is considered literature also), Albert Camus, and Franz Kafka. I learned about objectivism from reading Ayn Rand novels (I.E. – The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged). I learn much about the East from The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham, and Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Even something like The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant, can be considered literature, explaining philosophy. What is your perspective on the role of literature, in bringing philosophy to the masses? And what is your philosophy regarding the unexplainable?
Philosophy of the Unexplained
I always think of the quote from Shakespeare, who says,” there are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, then are dreamed of in your philosophy.” You see, I wrestled with this for many years, as I hung around folks from the East, and the Native American world. Even in the Christian world are many unexplained events, with Pentecostal groups, Christian Science practitioners, and Eastern Orthodox saints. It’s like taking a trip through Ripley’s Believe It or Not, where I’m stuck in a perpetual motion machine, where the unexplained button is stuck. I have seen and experienced things that I can’t explain – but have happened – that would blow philosophy and Descartes away. So I don’t know what is affecting what I have witnessed – any more then an author like Carlos Castaneda, PhD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Castaneda), can explain away his observations in his books (assuming the accounts are true). It us very reminiscent of a Walt Whitman poem:
When I Heard The Learn’d Astronomer by Walt Whitman.
When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
An Islamic Sufi Case
I just quoted a famous poem of Walt Whitman. Let me share an anecdotal Sufi tale here, from some material I have, where I call the main character Shaykh (an elder or a revered old man) ABC:
“For a case in point, many years ago I was asked to drive Shaykh ABC from the town where he was staying to a lecture he had to give at a university about a hundred miles away. As we hit the freeway we ran right into the mother of all traffic jams. A diesel semi had jack knifed, closing all lanes. By the time the road was open again we had an hour to travel the hundred miles rather than two and a half hours.”
“I told Shaykh ABC that we were going to be late and he said ‘Allah knows best. Just put your heart in the place we are going, do the speed limit (which was 55 mph at the time) and ignore the clock’.”
“So I did just that, and for some odd reason, even though I never went over 55 mph we arrived at our destination with ten minutes to spare.”
“Don’t ask me how, I don’t know. But it did happen, and it was a very nice lecture.”
So if this actually occurred, Shaykh ABC didn’t study the laws of logic, of the famous philosophers. And if it did occur, what does this story tell us about time and eternity, if anything?
Here is an objection an acquaintance of mine, shared about that story: “So you covered the distance of over 100 miles, at a speed of never greater than 55 mph, in about 50 minutes. Obviously your clock or your odometer was wrong, unless it was your map.”
Actually, it is a good guess. But even if my clock or speedometer was wrong, I could tell the difference between 55 MPH and 100 MPH, based upon prior experience. My calculations say that go travel 100 miles, with an hour to get there, you have to travel 100 miles an hour. Please tell me you know the difference – from experience – between traveling 100 MPH, and 55 MPH, even if your instruments are broken. As an experiment, drive 100 miles an hour, with broken instruments, and convince a police officer you were only going 55 MPH, by the laws of philosophical logic. And we can also assume the driver was familiar with the territory, having driven it before.
An Eastern Yogi Case
Let’s make this more interesting. I shared a story on Islamic Sufis. Let’s share a similar story about someone adept in Eastern yoga, which I’ll call XYZ. Let’s assume the person could tell when their car was empty, how far they could travel on a tank of gas, and what distance they actually traveled. For purposes of discussion, let’s assume the folks experiencing this, and the previous story, are “reasonable intelligent” people.
“I took His blessings and left. The capacity of the petrol tank of my Ambassador car was 50 liters, which means that on a full tank, with an average of 10 kilometers to a liter, it should have run for about 500 kilometers.”
“To my utter disbelief, from the day XYZ had put those grains of Pulses in the EMPTY tank of my car, it had run approx. 750 kilometers. In total curiosity, one day, (Forgetting that XYZ had asked me never to open the lid of the petrol tank again), I opened the lid of the petrol tank, to check what was inside. It was totally empty.”
“After that day, (when I opened the lid), my car didn’t even move an inch. I had to get petrol in a can to retrieve it. XYZ had been running my car till that day.”
What Can We Scientifically Conclude?
I know some PhD physicists at Aragon National Laboratories, as well as electrical and mechanical engineering friends, from various engineering companies. The question I posed was this. Assume the folks in the stories are telling the truth, and are “reasonable intelligent” people. Assume they knew the terrain, and the mechanical conditions and requirements of their respected vehicles. Is it scientific possible – given the current knowledge of physics, as well as electrical and mechanical engineering – for these events to have happened? Can you guess what the scientific consensus was? The answer should be obvious! I will “offer no interpretation of these stories.” Let’s conclude with a couple of quotes:
Shakespeare – “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy…”
Arthur Conan Doyle – “Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.”