Monday, October 02, 2006

Backwards chest x-rays and other things I know are wrong

There is something on TV that regularly reminds me that it's fake. Look, guys, people's hearts are on the lower left. Is that so hard to remember? I suppose the problem is that TV people don't know the outline of a heart on a chest x-ray. Otherwise maybe they would stop putting up chest x-rays backwards on view screens. Occasionally they'll even put one up upside down, but apparently enough people can recognize that as wrong that it doesn't happen often.

Getting it backwards happens often. From casual observation, I'd even bet that TV people get it backwards more often than they get it right somehow. It seems that way. Even on my favorite Law & Order episodes where the pathologist is revealing some juicy, hypertechnical finding that is crucial to the case, there's a backwards chest x-ray in the background. Suddenly I'm brought back to reality that this is just an actress mouthing words from a script. What fun is that?

Of course I've always thought shows like Law & Order must drive some attorneys crazy in a similar way over all the improper questions and other poor procedure used in the courtroom scenes. Reality is not only boring, it's lengthy, too. While televised trials have shown there's some audience for reality, is that only because the news anchors on channels showing TV trials are so opinionated? Would unadulterated reality ever make it on TV?

I don't think about that last question much. TV will be whatever TV people make it. Instead I think about just how much of our society is obviously fake. The fakes are not obvious to everyone. Rarely are they as objective as a backwards chest x-ray, yet fake ideas, fake history, and fake science are all daily experiences unless I keep very much to myself.

So I came to something I said last time. I never have found a role model about whom I would say, "This person has it exactly right." There's no one like that in politics or religion, no one regarding how to live life or have interpersonal relationships. Even scientists become fake when they talk beyond their expertise. Reality and experience are the teachers. Science confirmed that for me in many ways. Yet I am not atheist or agnostic. I know God. If no one else believes that, I still know God. God has never put up a chest x-ray backwards or anything like that to make me question that He is God. But He has told me things that say He is not the God traditionalists believe in. He does not have unlimited power. He does not have unlimited knowledge. As a matter of fact, He has no database at all to feed me any fact I don't already know. He's never told me there's some bag of money hidden in some bushes for me. What He does do is take my concerns and order them in ways that amaze me, giving me a clear direction in some area where I felt confused on my own. He's answered my prayers in other ways, taking away some negative emotions, reinforcing others, giving me strength and comfort as I need it, often without my asking.

That is the God I came to know after that road-to-Damascus experience 17 years ago. I look at our culture, and almost everyone is talking about some other God, both theists and atheists, getting so many parts of what I know backwards. I try to do the same thing as when I see a backwards chest x-ray on TV, just shrug and realize that I'm listening to fantasy. But so much of our culture is backwards. Many of my fellow liberals like the idea that all religions are true. Yet I find greater truth in saying all religions are false in some way or all dogma is false, as I wrote recently.

Most of life is not as objectively wrong as a backwards chest x-ray, but it is just as backwards. People tend to say their enemies are wrong, but not them, oh no. People like to think they know what they're doing. It doesn't look that way. It looks like life is bigger than almost everyone.

Maybe nature will help us out through cultural evolution being driven by our nature, working on our institutions that have been building since the agriculture revolution. Hopefully when we finish adpting to that and to the scientific revolution, we'll be smarter, humbler and kinder, because the alternatives are so deadly. Maybe God will help with this. Maybe He'd rather see what happens naturally, for the most part. No matter how ugly the present looks to me, I can find hope.

But I can also find ugly and mistakes. I can decide what to do besides yell at the TV that the chest x-ray is backwards. It's not much. God confirms that for me, that there's not much I can do. I can live my life with Him and see how much better that is than without Him, but to tell that to anyone raises such impossible questions, from those who say there is no God to those who are certain they already know Him.

The heart is on the lower left. It's too bad all of life doesn't come with such clear directions. At the same time, I'm forever reminded at how badly people do with even those simple directions.

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