The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

We Must Keep the Signal Fire Burning

I was thinking recently. I was thinking about a novel I read - one that most of us have read, probably long ago. I was thinking of Lord of the Flies.

Because I'm a huge heathen godless bastard, I was struck with how much the actions of the boys on the island mirrored religious vs. non-religious interaction in the world. Piggy was the only one on the island who actually thought and had solid reasoning for what he said and yet he was ridiculed for being fat and wearing glasses. No one save for Ralph later in the story took him seriously. Ralph, the leader early on, had the sane idea to keep a signal fire burning to ensure being seen in the event of a passing ship, thus increasing the chance of being rescued. Some of the boys, however, were more concerned with "having fun" and hunting.

What happened eventually, after the ominously foreshadowing mention of becoming afraid of humans, was that the Hunters became focused on "the Beast" and appeasing it with the now-famous pig's head on a stick. They painted themselves and started doing meaningless rituals (dancing to stave off the rain and mock-hunting a member of the tribe before a hunt) instead of being practical and making shelters or keeping the fire going.

That would be fair enough, but what happened after that is what is so frightening. They started to eliminate their competition. The end of the novel with the Hunters stalking Ralph and setting the island on fire to burn him out is a grim reminder of how "magical thinking", when set ablaze in groups of easily led followers, can turn deadly.

Do a dance. Leave an offering. Those people don't agree with us, don't think that our group is the best? Tomorrow we'll get 'em. Tomorrow we'll set the whole place on fire and if we die in the effort, so be it.

Magical thinking scares me a lot.

4 Barbaric Yawps:

At 18/9/06 8:11 am, Anonymous Sean Kehoe said...

.I suspect you of being a wizard and a diabolist. Obviously I should burn you alive for this.

Without magical thinking, I would have a terrible time trying to justify the brutal and slow murder of a human being.

Since I tried magical thinking, my wizard burning has become so much easier. God says I should do it so I no longer feel bad about it.

Magical thinking is proof that Peter Pan isn't the only one who never grew up.

At 18/9/06 8:22 am, Blogger BigHeathenMike said...

I love the smell of burning wizard in the morning...smells like...magic.

At 18/9/06 4:44 pm, Anonymous ATM said...

We must remember that in the bigger, real world there isn't just one group of magical thinkers. There are innumerable groups of magical thinkers each with a competing form of magical thought that don't don't always jive with one another. And when two totally different groups meet...well, where are we rational Ralph's supposed to go?

At 18/9/06 8:28 pm, Blogger Bruce said...

And when two totally different groups meet...well, where are we rational Ralph's supposed to go?

I hear Hell is wonderful this time of year.


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