Thursday, December 3, 2020

When Alternate Realities Collide

I am an expert when it comes to alternate realities.  Well, sort of.  To clarify:  With two published books on the subject, I am arguably one of the world's top ten experts on the intersection between Christian theology and the multiverse.

Arguably.  But I'm going with it.

It is and will continue to be my assumption that God's creation is more than our spacetime.  Instead, I view God's creative work as an infinite panoply of all potential reality, in which everything that can possibly exist does exist.  It's very much a minority position, and the sort of thing that would have meant all sorts of serious unpleasantness for me if I'd lived in an era where heresy wasn't the norm.  Yay separation of church and state!

That perspective has been strangely tested of late, as America is increasingly rent apart by competing narratives about what is real and what is good.  There are two diametrically opposed visions of reality at play, each of which stands in radical opposition to the other.

On the one hand, there is the narrative of a President who is a charismatic, straight-talking, no-nonsense businessman.  He tells it like it is, seeks to restore a nation to true faith and its rightful greatness, and "has a heart" for the common man.  He stands against a corrupt, sinister, and decadent cabal of secretive elites, who are doing everything they can to strip him of his rightful leadership.

On the other hand, there is the narrative of a President who is a charismatic huckster and charlatan.  He lies as easily as he breathes, and has dog whistled, worm-tongued, or bought his way into the confidence of millions.  Seeking attention, power and his own enrichment, he is now attempting to overthrow the results of an election, while those who are not bamboozled resist his despotic designs.

Both of these narratives cannot describe a single person, or a single reality.   They can be independently true, in separate universes.  If a theistic multiverse is your cosmology, as it is mine, they do.  In the infinite glory of God's manifold providence, a being named "Donald J. Trump" is both of those things.  Many other things too, like an animated meat toaster and a seven winged seraph, but let's stick with those two realities for now.  They are both "real," in that they may well exist in their respective corners of the multiverse.

But those realities cannot coexist in one time and space as descriptors of a particular entity.  Truth and reality are complicated, sure, and we human beings are none of us perfect.  But there is a difference between personal complexity and antithesis, between accurate description and fundamental error.  

If I step outside and say "It is raining right now," I am making a specific statement about reality.  It is either true or it is not.

Now, one might try to obfuscate or qualify that statement.  "Well, what if it's drizzling?"  "What do you mean by 'right now'" "Does a sun shower count?"  "Did you know that the Xuatatla people have forty seven words for rain?"  But then you are being willfully stupid, the sort of stupid that comes when we use reason to overthrow common sense.

Either there is a massive conspiracy to commit fraud, or a pathological narcissist and those in his thrall are lying.  It is either part of our reality or not.  There is no Hegelian synthesis between the two.  And unlike statements about higher order realities like Love, Purpose, and God, a statement about material reality is provable.  There must be evidence that affirms or denies the truth we claim.

Were I to contact you via email and let you know that I currently have 125,327 Bitcoin in my accidentally frozen Coinbase account, and ask to use that as collateral for a personal loan from you, you'd need some evidence of that assertion.  If I couldn't give you that affirmation, you could still take me at my word.  But that'd be foolish.

The assertions of election fraud are precisely the same thing.  There is no evidence to verify them. They simply did not happen.  They are not part of our reality.  Nor are the assertions that the vaccine is a tool of a demonic elite cabal.  Nor are any of the fevered fabulisms of QAnon.  None of these things are real.  Not one has a place in our corner of creation.  They have no foundation at all.

When we make statements about our reality that have no basis in that reality, then we are mistaken, delusional, or lying.  Mistakes?  We all make them.  They can be corrected.  It's part of growing and learning.

Delusions and lies are more dangerous than mistakes, because they are fiercely resilient.  They do not yield to correction.  Nor do they yield to evidence, because they never relied on evidence in the first place. They represent the semiotic incursion into our reality of something fundamentally alien to it, as if another realm of being was trying to press into our own to define it.

For the soul in thrall of a delusion, their delusion must be defended at all costs.  There is no evidence because that evidence IS BEING HIDDEN.  IT GOES DEEPER THAN WE EVER THOUGHT!  

Or, if you know you're lying, this is where one lie leads to another deeper lie, which will lead to another and another.  

That's what has made the "reality" pitched out by conspiracy theorists, radical ideologues, and propagandists so damaging to the arc of our history.  Those false narratives, those "alternative facts?"  They make a truth claim that isn't simply unfalsifiable, but is actually the antithesis of the sliver of creation that we inhabit.  It does not belong here.

There's an archaic word, one used by more primal peoples.  It describes what happens when something alien to our reality tries to take control of it...and of us.  It's a word that's a bit awkward on the tongues of the overeducated, and has what could at best be considered a checkered history.

That word is "demonic."