Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Theory of Relativity is a Load of Pish

The obsessive belief that facts and figures explain the world around us is false.
Just because an animal has four legs and hoofs doesn’t make it a horse.
There is more obscure information, deeper meaning to be gathered. Not from listening to an expert list the parameters and statistics, but rather by looking beneath the surface offered and finding those meanings that are more difficult to catalogue; by using peripheral vision; lateral views.

For example: Friends recently informed us that they were going to take their kids on a guided tour of the local cemetery (a service provided sporadically by the local council). They explained that they felt it would be educational for the kids.
I agreed enthusiastically since I believe that our culture does its best to ignore death, and given that the tour was free (a very unusual event in NZ; to get something for free) Sagittarius and I dragged the kids off their respective cybernetic jack points and went along.
A group of about thirty people had gathered and we were led to the first place of interest by a clipboard-wielding council worker who proceeded to reel off names and dates of varying interest to the crowd, those of us on the outskirts muttering in the manner of the ‘blessed are the cheese makers’ scene in ‘The Life of Brian’.
By the end of the tour I was bored stupid – the highlight for me being the inscriptions on a set of very old graves (un-remarked upon by the guide) bearing the legend ‘Killed by Maori Raiders’ one of which had had the word Maori scratched off.

As counterpoint to this experience, a couple of years previous to this Sagittarius and I had taken the kids for a walk through Glasgow’s Necropolis.
We wandered through reading the inscriptions (many dating back to Victorian times), took photos of the kids lurking in front of mausoleums and soaked up the atmosphere of gothic splendour.

The comparisons between these two cemeteries are irrelevant - it could have been the other way around – the point is that we took far more from the latter tour during which no official information was given than from the former with all of those dates and ‘interesting facts’ about the town’s dead rich folk.

Perhaps the subject matter has a little to do with it – the feeling that we can address difficult subjects by breaking them down into their facts and figures. Or perhaps we do not know how to deal with those difficult subjects and feel justified in glossing over the surface like skates on frozen lake, not wanting to contemplate what lies beneath.
But I do believe that we can extend this rather more poetic view onto many things in life; especially those particular subjects that the powers-that-be feel the uncontrollable need to prescribe to us with the aid of facts and figures, graphs and statistics.

As my friend Paul half jokingly used to say "Trust nobody; expect the worst"


meekon5 said...

Ah walking through graveyards. Many a pleasant hour I have spent amongst the dead and their rotting abodes.
Actually that reminds me it’s a while since I’ve recently lurked around some of the fine examples that Portsmouth has.
(sicko gothic type that I am).
(reclines and thinks of pleasant, quiet winter afternoons spent wandering amongst the tomb stones).
Did I miss the point of this?

Pisces Iscariot said...

You didn't miss the point :}

Anomie-Atlanta said...

I think you can tell a lot about the mindset of a community by how they treat the dead. From my experience the well tended cemetaries seem to be surrounded by a community of caring, respectful individuals. The forgotten graveyards tend to be in areas with very little community spirit.

mullet said...

That's so true anomie-atlanta

jams o donnell said...

Great photo of the Glasgow Necropolis. It is well worth a visit.

mullet said...

but on the other hand - graveyards are full of weeds - they are creepy....when i was a teen i visited the local 1 - in cardonald - glasgow...... say what you want, but it most definitely has an atmosphere....is that because we are taught that - or is it just because? i dunno?