If the Abyss Stares Back,
Better Count Your Fairies
You show up one day, coming from nowhere (stardust, they say). With luck but mostly little success, spend a lifetime learning what’s all about, and then your time is up. You’re done and soon vanished, never to be seen again. It just doesn’t make any sense at all.
No wonder religion’s been around this long. Only a much bigger world, where life, death, and even your ticket to the final destination, are ruled over by powerful invisible beings. Speaking of which, the British are conducting the first Global Fairy Census. It’s about time.
They’re not alone, of course. Coming to think of it, you do try it all on too, if only for size, and avoid complaining too much about it, right? We all have experimented with our own brand of magic thinking, so things don’t look too chaotic. Heard of coincidences?
It’s a brain trick, of course, but we run with it. Even what we see is a representation of the world, not the world itself, but we carry on as if our lives depend on it. They often do. It’s all part of the game, so if you believe in prayer, now it’s a good time to try it too.
Please keep us in your wishes, for we know not how are we supposed to land on the other side, with some semblance of rationality, another gimmick we’ve invented to measure an unmeasurable universe. After all, don’t they play cricket too? But where were we?
SEEING THINGS THAT AREN’T THERE
Oh, yes, variations of pareidolia, our age-developed habit of imagining familiar shapes on random configurations. Bunnies in a cloud? check. Shadows in the closet? check. Spiders on your pillow? check, wait, that’s a real one, run! But enough of big words, and fears.
The very exercising of seeking patterns our brains so painstakingly pursue every day, otherwise known by that household name of a word, apophenia, is part of a desperate aim at making sense of a merciless world. By the way, no more fancy words for you.
To understand reality, we’ve created complexity and complicated everything in the process. Take science: it still can’t explain most natural phenomena, but we learn wonders with it. Mostly useless, one’d argue, but still. We know a lot about gravity, for instance.
Or do we? Take California’s San Andreas Fault, earthquakes, that sort of thing. Just don’t ask when the Big One will strike. Or why some Nevada rocks atop each other haven’t been toppled since well, ever. It all comes down with a slight temblor, says gravity. Not us, say those rocks.
ELVES & GNOMES WITH AN ATTITUDE
Gravity has nothing on Iceland‘s elves either. In fact, when it comes to their fairies, and Australian gnomes, the universe’s fourth (more)
* Warped Worlds
most powerful force is but a faint, trembling wind. Just ask builders in Bjork’s town, or try crossing a certain trail Down Under without caution.
The ‘hidden people‘ are deeply enmeshed in Icelandic culture, and don’t even think about moving a boulder without consulting local seers, who claim a direct line with them. Last March, government officials and Reykjavik residents reached an agreement over just about that.
Thus a big rock, that was believed to house an entire community of elves and dwarves, was carefully moved to another location, so not to disturb the temples inside, for workers to complete their job. We’re of two minds about that, which has absolute no relevance to the parties involved.
Curiously, Denmark, birthplace and settings of many fairy tale stories, has seriously challenged our soft spot for that kind of stuff, with the case of Kalena Søndergaard. She’s reappeared after being missed for seven years, claiming she’d been kidnapped by elves. Rich? Indeed.
HOW MANY OF THEM ARE THERE OUT THERE?
So we come back to the British, and what it can be considered a national obsession with fairies. At least since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made an ass of himself by endorsing some fake pics two young girls had taken of themselves along them, and, once caught in the controversy, insisting that it was all in good faith.
Not even his most famous creation Sherlock Holmes would have any of it, if not for the fact that he was also made up. So there’s a theme going on. Still not convinced? You may as well go ask the dwellers of a certain palace whether they do believe in magic themselves.
We won’t wait, of course. Neither will the official-sounding named (if one ignores the inherent oxymoron implied), Fairy Investigation Society. Guess what, it also has been involved in a few scandals of its own, and after that, the fact that they’re still alive is so, well, British.
With a straight face, they’ve announced that the fairy census is not one to count them but the people who claim they’ve encountered some. It goes downhill from there, and the fact that an Italian folklorist, Sabina Magliocco, has received 500 responses from a survey of her own says a lot about…us.
SKIP THE RITUAL AND TELL US: WHEN?
The FIS, thus, is bound to break that record when it folds in 2016, but rather than finding out something fresh about spirituality and the world of the unseen, it’s more likely to prove, once more, the extent of our gullibility. Can’t wait to read the exquisitely-detailed accounts.
Which brings us to Ubble, a name that most definitely does not account to a new fleet of taxis, reachable by an app on your phone. It’s rather a study that purports to respond the age-old question that has plagued humanity, mercifully, never to be answered to satisfaction: when will I die?
In order to know that, sort of, scientists Andrea Ganna and Erik Ingelsson wrote a series of questions that may point, if not as an exact, er, science, at least potentially to that answer. Whether their guess is better than what most faith healers (or health experts) prescribe, is still up to discussion.
More interesting is what the quiz does not answer: why do we need to know it so badly, and what would we do if we knew it for sure. In any case, while men and women respond differently to the form, we all could use some order to navigate the current chaos of the world.
Do you know now why religion is so successful?