Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world


Thank God for the centuries of ignorance when science did not afflict us with the truth and people were free to populate the universe with a glorious variety of supernatural beings. The trouble with science is that once reality is known it becomes much more difficult to create convincing alternatives. Once you KNOW it becomes harder to INVENT. Could Homer have done what he did with a modern atheist breathing down his neck? Could he have described all the bargaining on Mount Olympus if none of his listeners had believed in any God at all?

Those ignorant people have left a superb legacy of myth and legend that enriches our lives – a world of spirits, ghosts, miracles, visions and magic. The world-views that inspired them get revised from time to time but the stories and the characters live on. They live on because they reflect genuine beliefs held by people like us at a certain moment in time, and because the characters -good or evil –  behaved in ways we can understand. The creators had no concept of a mechanistic universe in which things and forces acted impersonally.

So Thank God for The Serpent and The Tower of Babel and The Dreamtime and Thor and Balder and Loki and Bifrost Bridge. Thank God for Beowulf and Grendel’s Mother. Thank God for Ghoulies and Ghosties and long-leggedly Beasties and things thay go bump in the night. And don’t forget the ghost of Hamlet’s father or the love potion drunk by the wrong couple in Tristram and Yseult. The list is endless.

Remember, too, the people who saw the invasion of science and reality but still valued the myths and legends and adapted them instead of junking them. John Donne remarked that “The new philosophy calls all in doubt, the element of fire is quite put out.” But he could still write “When, by thy scorn, O Murd’ress, I am dead, and that thou thinkst thee free from all solicitation from me, then shall my ghost come to thy bed.” Then there was a hymn-writer who had been convinced that ‘the music of the spheres’ was a myth. He still stuck with the idea by saying “What, though in solemn silence all move round this dark terrestial ball, what though no real voice or sound amid their radiant orbs be found. In reasons ear they all rejoice, and utter forth a glorious voice, forever singing as they shine ‘the hand that made us is divine’.”

So what was once seen as truth has survived the de-bunking and exists as testimony to our imagination . Fantasy lives! We agree to suspend our disbelief, and enjoy Saruman and Sauron and a huge range of science fiction. The fact that we DON’T KNOW allows us to go on imagining WHAT MIGHT BE. Withour ignorance we would be impoverished. Geoffrey of Monmouth would have been unable to people Britain with giants. Bram Stoker could not have written Dracula. Mary Shelley could not have written about Frankenstein’s Monster. Robert Heinlien could not have written “The door into summer”. Faustus and Mehpistopheles would be unkown to us. Omar Khayyam would have known the answer to all the great unknowns and would never have told us to drink up and forget it all. It does not bear thinking about.


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