Flavin's Corner
4-30-99

Wasted?

     For some time now I've suggested that there are two types of people in this
world:  those who do what they can and those who do what they can get away
with.  Sure, I've occasionally performed a slippery maneuver, but usually I try
and do what I can.  My involvement with crackpots has proved damaging,
perhaps irreparably so, and I wonder of late if I've wasted my time.  I mean,
people have a right to "believe" whatever they want, don't they?  Worship how
they want?  Say what they want?  Okay; ...and somewhere along the line I
made a decision to believe or not believe and say or not say as I, not others,
deem appropriate.  Also, I decided ...to get involved.

     It probably began shortly before I told my older brother that Santa Claus
didn't exist.  I was five, he was nine and a half, I showed him the downstairs
closet where our parents kept the Christmas presents, he cried, and I got into
trouble.  With Santa out of the way, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy
soon followed.  Then God disappeared, aliens stopped landing, Atlantis
became a joke, and one by one I stopped believing in fantastic things.  I grew
up and became a ...skeptic.

     Being a skeptic and coming of age in the 70s wasn't easy.  Sure, I knew
instinctively that all of Erich von Daniken's Chariot of the Gods? books were
nonsense, but something made my heart beat faster when I thought about the
possibilities.  What if?  My fascination with Kabbalah and wicca in my late
teens and early 20s certainly moved me into circles of new and interesting
people, however I could never confess belief, as I thought that trading in my
childhood Catholicism for another system would be akin to dressing
fashionable.  At some early point I decided all 'belief' systems were like clothes
and interchangeable.  I wasn't about to commit myself to fashion.  In junior
high school I wore jeans and a dress-shirt and still do.

     Growing up with family encouragement to read comic-books, and later
science fiction and fantasy, I developed an appreciation for imagination, but
always strove to tether myself with history and science.  As it happened, my
first exposure to Norse myth was with Marvel Comics' The Mighty Thor, when
I was in first or early second grade, but shortly afterwards I was going to
libraries by myself and reading up on Norse and other mythologies.  For all of
my childhood and teenage years I was a skeptic-in-training, with occasional
bouts of 'belief', which after some quality library-time, I recovered from.

     Perhaps the closest I've ever come to a sustained 'belief' arose after reading
an interview with Robert Plant in which he credited the inspiration for the Led
Zeppelin rock ballad, "Stairway to Heaven," to Robert Graves and then my
first of many perusals of Graves' The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of
Poetic Myth, that I seriously considered the possibility that some 'alternative'
histories might be true.  Later this was reinforced with the collected works of
Joseph Campbell (followed by Marija Gimbutas) and a feeling of awe, wonder,
and a very private (or so I thought) theory that history and its descriptions of
wars, hatreds, and disagreements, may have followed a period of peaceful
fellowship in pre-historic times.  Within me was generated a dream, perhaps in
response to the terrible dysfunctions of humans today, that maybe there was a
distant epoch, an "Age of Peace," when we all got along.  I suppose, on
occasion, it's a dream I still experience, though I try to heed Joyce's suggestion
and wake myself up.

     I suspect that much of our individual interests, hobbies, passions, beliefs,
and such, are agenda-driven in that we do one thing because of some other
thing.  I initially became fascinated with Graves' The White Goddess because
of its detailed (and highly speculative) discussion of the ancient Irish script,
ogham (or sometimes spelled ogam).  My father's family is Irish, but we've
been in America since the mid-1820s and there's occurred a significant loss of
ancestral pride.  My mother's parents, on the other hand, arrived from Ireland
around 1902 and couldn't help but pass down a love for things Irish.  In 1983,
the same year that my grandmother passed, I became interested in the
"discovery" of alleged Irish ogham in West Virginia.  Had the ancient Irish
discovered America before Columbus?  I began to research claims of
pre-Columbian contacts between the Old and New Worlds (an investigation
which continues to this day), but I'm ever mindful of why I started--to make
my grandmother proud.  I have an Irish agenda.

     My last 16 years of investigating pre-Columbian "diffusion" claims have
brought me in contact with Mormons, neo-Nazis, the "creationist" views of
Native Americans, Freemasons, Hare Krishnas, those who believe in aliens, the
"face on Mars," Atlantis, The Living Elvis, and many other equally fantastic
things.  It has been a wonderful and enriching learning experience for me, but
has been costly as well.  Knowledge doesn't come cheap and I have paid dearly
with what little imagination I had retained from youth.  It's almost all gone
now.

     The last "fantastic" idea I cling to, and probably the most difficult to reason
against, concerns the issue of death.  Every time I toss logic and knock down
the pins of faith, the lone survivor is the nature of death.  I do not believe in
previously described afterlives, in that I doubt my fondness for certain
condiments is worthy of eternal preservation.  Our bodies rot, our idiosyncratic
traits disappear, and the world continues without us.  But, what of the soul?
What of that spark of life which animates and marks us from wind, water,
stone, and sky?  Does something survive?  I believe it does.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
J. R. R. Tolkien

     Whether or not I've wasted my time with various endeavors is, perhaps,
best left unjudged until I complete my journey.  It's far from over...

putting on my shoes,
Rick

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