Monday, July 28, 2008

Lusts of the mind (Ephesians 2:3)

Washing dishes today, I was rinsing out a bottle. I turned it upside down and saw that the water swirled out clockwise. In fact, it did the same a second time.

Some 45 years ago, I had been told that water drained counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere because of the earth's rotation. More recently I had read that this was nonsense, a silly myth that people like to believe, and that which way it went was determined by attributes of the drain.

When I saw that this morning, I was reminded of this, and I noticed that I had very much enjoyed the story when I heard it and certainly wanted to believe it was true. It made me feel knowledgeable, and what an exciting world that had such facts in it. I didn't really like being disabused of this little myth, but the bottle this morning certainly made it clear.

It doesn't look much like the same thing, but my desire to believe this story does have a lot in common with the two-headed aliens in the National Enquirer and stories about George Bush having an affair with Condi Rice that people want to hear. It's the same itch we have to hear gossip. We're entertained by having strange little factoids to believe, even if they happen to be not even factoids but complete nonsense.

Even when the issues seem small, the basic hostility to truth in all this tips us off that this is a big problem. How many slanders, base suspicions, silly myths, idiotic conspiracy theories and the like are rooted simply in this desire to believe weird things that others aren't acquainted with, or something like that, because the truth is not sufficiently entertaining?


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