Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sorry (determining the universe, all day long)

Good dog
     So I was at the gym last week and this bank of TVs was beaming crap into the din of music and clanking metal. I had my ear buds: had to settle for some Fox News show hosted by one “Judge Jeanine,” a former judge I guess. She’s pretty noisy like most of the folks on Fox.
     I was hardly paying attention, but then she interviewed some guy about a public appearance by that Zimmerman fella—the guy who shot and killed that black kid in Florida. I haven’t paid close attention to the case. Naturally, I’m aware of the stupid politics that overwhelmed it, took it over. Stupid on both sides. Same old, same old. –So, like I said, I’ve barely paid any attention to the case.
     But this Zimmerman guy had been in court that day and he actually testified for some reason. He said he was sorry about the death of that kid. He said he didn’t know the kid was just a kid, and so on. Z wore a nice suit. He looked earnest.
     After playing a clip of Zimmerman in court, the Fox reporter and this Judge Jeanine got all excited. Boy, she said, she used to be a prosecutor, and she woulda known how to handle Zimmerman on that stand. Sorry are you? Aha! What are you sorry about—unless you’re guilty of something! Gotcha!
     –Those weren’t her exact words, but that was the gist of what she said. It was all I could take. Watched something else.
     This is what’s wrong with Fox News. What an ugly and stupid thing to say. If some kid—not a dangerous and rotten kid, just a kid—is shot and killed, then that’s pretty sad and dark. And if you in some sense caused the kid’s death, then, naturally, you’re sorry, even if, somehow, you did the best you could in the situation, and, near as you can tell, you did nothing wrong.
     —Now, I’m not saying that Mr. Zimmerman is “innocent.” I’m not happy with the stupid laws they seem to have in the stupid redneck state of Florida. I’ve seen my share of stupid assholes with guns and unfortunate delusions of righteousness, and I have my doubts about Zimmerman and his crowd. So that pretty much tells you where I’m at about this thing, I guess.
Bad judge
      On the other hand, I’m sure as hell not jumping on the “Zimmerman is a racist” bandwagon. It’s easily imaginable that something short of that is going on here. I say let’s wait and see what the facts are.
     Meanwhile, we’ve got the likes of Judge Jeanine squawking. If Z is sorry, then he must be guilty! C’mon. If I were there, at the scene, and this thing went down fifty yards away from me, and this kid died—well, I’d say I was sorry too. Any halfway decent human being would be sorry. It’s a terrible thing, some kid dying, probably over nothing, or over nothing much. Some perfect storm of stupidities producing tragedy. The whole goddam country is sorry, and no wonder.

* * *
      What if you’re walking along and you inadvertently kick a pebble and the pebble manages to roll down the sidewalk where a dog is standing, and the pebble somehow freaks the dog, who jumps sideways, bumping into a woman, who is holding a baby and who happens just then to be handing the kid to somebody, and, amazingly, the kid falls straight down between them and is badly hurt. Good Lord! I’d feel pretty bad, I would. I probably wouldn’t be too anxious to spell out my contribution to the event. What would be the point? But I’d feel bad all right. The dog too, if he’s a good dog.

* * *
     According to Chaos Theory, there are dynamic systems that are sensitive to initial conditions. Now, I don’t know, but suppose that human beings are often initiators of such systems that are sensitive to initial conditions. Suppose, in particular, that every—or at least many—human actions, despite their seeming insignificance, contribute mightily to eventual large states of affairs, just as the flap of a butterfly wing (or not) can mean the difference between a typhoon occurring next week or not.
    Well, if such were the case, then, with each of my actions, I would be determining the nature of the universe. Here I sit. I am not in my kitchen, causing water to flow down the drain. If I were to cause that flow, owing to sensitivity to initial conditions, snow would fall in the Sierras next week. But, as a matter of fact, I am sitting here, running no water, and thus no snow falls. Something else happens. And whatever that something else is, it helps determine many more “something elses”—which in turn determine many more. I am determining the nature of the universe.
     But (let’s assume) it is absurd to attempt to predict these effects. We simply do not have the ability to do that (let’s say). And so we go along, all day, determining the universe in who-knows-how-many ways, and there is no hope of ever knowing how that is so. And, obviously, these effects will likely be morally significant. Surely the ultimate inventory of weal and woe will be affected—if our actions determine the universe! And, again, we cannot know what that impact is or will be!