When Changing Nothing Changes Everything by Laurie Polich Short, Free for CAPC Members
In her book When Changing Nothing Changes Everything, Laurie Polich Short gives us insight into living life fully, whatever our circumstances.
Every Thursday in LOL Interwebz, Luke T. Harrington explores the quirks and foibles of Internet culture from a Gospel perspective.
You’re really upset about that new Hamburglar, huh? That’s cool. You know that genocide in Darfur is still happening.
As usual, a media franchise’s greatest contribution to the world is not one of its officially sanctioned movies but rather a tangentially related fan meme. Just as the various Shrek memes are a vast improvement over the last 47 (or so) entries in the formerly popular DreamWorks series, the best thing to come out of the Jurassic Park conglomerate is likely not the upcoming (and almost-definitely-terrible) sequel Jurassic World, but rather a wholly vital meme called the “Downersaur.” Isn’t it interesting that we care? Or at least feel like we should?
If you’re unfamiliar with the meme, he’s basically the Philosoraptor‘s Hot-Topicky younger brother. You tell him about whatever clickbaity human interest story you’re into this week, and he responds with some completely depressing “hard news” headline you really ought to care about.
Really upset about that picture of Jared Leto as The Joker, huh? That’s cool. Since 2001 more people have been shot and killed in Chicago than troops in Afghanistan.
Then he slinks off to his room to blast My Bloody Valentine and moan about how no one understands him. And you gaze into the abyss while the abyss gazes into you, finally made to realize that the world is indeed terrible and there’s nothing you as one human being can ever hope to do about it.
And then he paralyzes you and eats you alive. I mean, he is a Velociraptor after all.
So, Bruce Jenner is becoming a woman, huh? That’s cool. There are 805 million people starving in the world.
This is why we ignore the hard news, though.
I mean, right?
How can the human brain conceivably care about 805 million people? How can we care about all of them, plus crime victims in Chicago, plus extinct rhinos, plus everyone in North Korea?
We can’t. It’s just numbing.
Isn’t it interesting that we care?
Or at least feel like we should?
So, you hated the Jem and the Holograms trailer, huh? That’s cool. North Korea executed a person for falling asleep in a meeting.
To say something is a “downer” is to say we wish it was otherwise. But it’s strange to think I would care about the 805 million people who are starving. Odds are I know very few of them personally. Odds are that if they all had food tomorrow, it would affect my life very little. If anything, it would result in me having less food. Which would suck. I like food.
To say that 805 million people ought not to be starving is to say that things should be different from how they’ve literally always been—at what point in human history was there ever not a huge swath of humans starving? How do I even know it’s a possibility to not have humans starving?
How am I able to imagine a world without evil when a world full of evil is all I’ve ever known?
Yeah, Tidal has been a real disaster for Jay-Z. That’s cool. Did you see that Nepal fell over?
Scottish philosopher David Hume famously broke philosophy back in the 18th century when he observed that there’s no logical, reasonable way to proceed from is to ought. I can quite easily describe the way things are, but I can’t proceed logically from there to the way they should be. If I tell you that people ought not to starve, all I’m doing is describing a world that has never, and possibly will never, exist.
I can’t demonstrate, from the facts alone, that things should be anything other than what they are.
Selfies are “under attack” at the Cannes Film Festival. That’s cool. Female genital mutilation is still a thing in most of Africa.
I can appeal to empathy. Most people seem to think empathy is nice. But even though empathy exists, pure reason leaves me no way of demonstrating that it ought to exist. Perhaps it’s an adaptation—a game nature plays with me to make sure my species continues. And that’s a decent argument, as long as I can prove that my species ought to exist.
It might be a comfort to tell ourselves that we as a species simply agreed that murder, rape, genocide, and the like are wrong, and that that is enough—except we didn’t agree, or else they wouldn’t happen. Some of us grew up in cultures where we were taught they were wrong, and some of us didn’t reject those teachings. I wonder what the world would look like if we had.
Cate Blanchett has had “many relationships” with women, huh? That’s cool. Everything in the ocean is dying.
I know this won’t convince everyone, but the more I think about it, the more convicted I am that Abrahamic monotheism is the only source of a consistent answer to this problem.
Namely that is and ought are one and the same. Not that the world already is as it should be, but that the Existence who transcends the world—the one in Whom we live and move and have our being—is the source of all goodness as well. The nature of the One who is is the nature of how how things ought to be.
See? Philosophy is easy.
And now I have to go try to get my raptor to come out of his room.
Image via Ranker.
For as low as $5/month, you’ll get access to free offerings from creators and authors we love, exclusive access to our member’s only forum, and exclusive content and podcasts — and you’ll help ensure that CAPC keeps getting better and better.