A TIME TO PONDER


November 9, 2016. America awakened to a new day and a new president. It couldn’t happen, but it did. The improbably result sent shock waves throughout the world. The stock market took a tumble, every country in the world had watched along with us throughout the night, with varying opinions of whether this would be a good thing for us and for them.

Hillary supporters went dutifully door to door handing our literature and pleading her case. “America didn’t need to become great again; it never stopped being great.” If we simply worked together the good times would only become better.

She had the best sophisticated technology wonks could deliver, the best experts that money could buy. She had history on her side. She had more knowledge of what goes on in government than any other nominee in history. What did she miss?

He had his hair, fake tan and his ego. But he tapped into a demographic which had been passed over. The forgotten man, the disenfranchised, groups who no longer trusted America and the government. The black man who came into the office eight years ago in a blaze of hope, had not delivered the goods.

How could this bumptious bully with a terminal case of narcissism recognize that somewhere out in the vast hills and valleys of this disillusioned country a revolution of sorts was building?

It is impossible to predict what Trump’s impulse will be as president, because it will have to become in so many ways, everything he has not been; a healer, a truth teller, someone who studies the issues; and a healer who tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

As one immigrant observed: You Americans treat your country like a football. You toss it around secure in the knowledge that you deserve and will get a touchdown. America isn’t a football; it is a delicate Faberge egg; it could break.

WHEREIN LIES THE TRUTH?


It’s amazing that we get along as well as we do. I recently read “A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari, in which he points out the truly unique thing about human beings–the thing that distinguishes us from the family pet and other animals–is our ability to have a commonly held belief about things that do not exist or cannot be empirically demonstrated at all. At a given time of day, you cannot convince a dog it is not time to eat or go for a walk.

Dr. Harari says “The truly unique feature of Homo Sapiens language is the ability to transmit information about things that do not exist at all. As far as we know, only Sapiens can talk about entire kinds of entities that they have never seen, touched or smelled.”

Before the Cognitive Revolution, many animal and human species could say “Careful! A lion!” Later they acquired the ability to say “The lion is the guardian spirit of our tribe.” This is about the time that legends, myths gods and religions appeared for the first time.

carnarvon imageThe Carnarvon cave paintings at Queensland, Australia

Aboriginal cave paintings whether in Australia, France or the United States, depict the common beliefs of the people living there at that time.

It’s relatively easy to agree that only Homo sapiens can speak about things that don’t really exist. You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven. Why is it important? Because fiction can be dangerously misleading or distracting.

Any large-scale human cooperation is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination. Churches are rooted in common religious myths. States are rooted in common national myths.

We seem to gather into ‘silos’ of common belief, clearly demonstrated in the presidential performances here in the United States. One of the most interesting beliefs is that of Donald Trump, who has convinced himself, though not any of the people who supposedly would know, that ‘thousands and thousands of people danced and cheered in the streets of New Jersey, as the World Trade Centers were blown down.

This is reminiscent of the aliens landing in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, or the Loch Ness monster in Scotland who pops up for air every few years. Bigfoot I could believe—maybe.

But the truth is our own, and thank whoever or whatever, that we can cherish our own beliefs.