Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's All Show Biz

In the theatre, where I happily misspent much of my youth, there's a thing called the "willing suspension of disbelief." What this means is, that while you're watching a play, you accept its particular conceits. So, even though you're not actually in an English country home, for instance, for the duration of that particular play, you 'accept' that you are. That really isn't Burnham woods, Cordelia didn't just die, etc etc etc. But for those two hours or so, what you are watching must be 'real' to you. Those are not actors acting, they are in fact the characters they're pretending to be.

I mention this because we just witnessed a 'willing suspension of disbelief' of a different nature.

A good number of our fellow citizens were convinced that the world was going to end May 21st. They based this on the word of a radio evangelist. Not an astrophysicist, not an epidemiologist, not even Kreskin. No, a guy on the radio who asks them to send him money so that he can do the Lord's work...Some of them quit their jobs, packed up the kids and drove cross country to be closer to their oracle when the big day came. And what happened? Nothing, of course.

"He must have misread the Bible" is the explanation one of his followers gave. Uh huh.

Well, no harm no foul, right?

Not exactly. You see, the difference is that after a theatrical performance, no matter how engrossing it might be, we return instantly to reality. But after a religious performance, no matter how ridiculous it might be, some people continue to believe, and indeed live their lives based on these beliefs.

Now you might think that that sort of lunacy is their business and I'd be willing to agree with you except that many of these religious zealots seem determined to make the rest of us live by their rules--rules found in, to use Gore Vidal's memorable description, "the holy book of a Bronze Age nomadic tribe as re-interpreted by a group of world weary Greeks" 1900 years ago.

So, until the Rapture hits, and takes them to that Great Big Afterparty in the Sky, they want to make sure that we're all living by whatever nonsensical guidelines they can find in 'their' book. And since you can find justification for almost anything in 'their' book, that puts the rest of us, the reasonably sane if you will, at a disadvantage.

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