Thursday, September 15, 2005

Simon of Space

You must read Simon of Space by Cheesburgerbrown (CBB).
During one of the discussions, the subject came up of CBB's views coming through in his work.
Here are a snippet of his reply describing his philosophy:
"I am interested in the world, which by definition makes me interested in either science, religion, or both.

Though run through with elements of fantasy, SIMON OF SPACE is a science-fiction story. The science is uses as a basis for extrapolation is sociobiology (now called "evolutionary biology" in some circles). In other words, the main concern of this story is not how spaceships fly or what makes robots tick, but what people do.

Now, to be clear: I have no interest in telling people how they ought to behave. The societies I have written about are not models. If there is one over-arching moral theme to this telling, it is probably that one should always be highly suspect of anyone who thinks they do have the right to tell people how they ought to behave or think or feel.

Righteousness is sensitive to context, and the ultimate context is not knowable to mortal actors. As said so eloquently by S. Morgenstern: "Anyone who tells you differently is selling something."

I am politically naive.

I'm sure there are very clever readers out there who could do up a fine paper on how my lifestyle as a person is reflected in the beliefs and conflicts of my characters, for whatever that's worth.

I am a knowledge-based worker who lives out in the country with big dogs and a gun. We have a well, and I intend to keep it as I don't trust my province's ability to control civic water quality. We grow our own vegetables and apples. I am self-employed, and answer to no boss. We're working toward investing in a wind-generator, so help ease us off the grid.

My personal priorities in life: to tell good stories, to be a good father, to be a good husband.

I am, by some measures, therefore unambitious.

My credo? LIVE AND LET LIVE. Does this come through in SOS? I'm sure it must.

We recently had an au pair staying with us who came from the island of St. Maarten living under a religious hegemon, and she spent eight weeks being delighted shocked and warmly awed by the way we live by our neighbours in this part of the world. I admit, it made me proud. I know it's uncouth for Canadians to be proud of Canada, but, honestly: seeing someone from an intolerant society so moved by the common decency and everyday rationality we take for granted in our village was inspiring to me. That is something I wanted to be able to communicate in a story, because I think it's important.

Like I said, I'm sure you scholarly types have an excellent term for "live and let live" that would make my political orientation more plain. All I know is that it makes life go smoother, for me and mine and our neighbours.

I don't know -- let's see...what other philosophical slogans lie close to my heart? For one thing, I have a bone to pick with anyone who would exclude human beings from the category of "animals" or suggest that human civilization is somehow "unnatural." This point of view can only result from a misapprehension of the power and complexity of natural selection, which is sad but common. Nature is frequently robbed of most of its dignity and awe by many religious and secular modes of thought alike, in my opinion.

Should people recognize their natures? I don't know. I don't really care. All I mean to say is that when I talk about people it's going to be coming from a background of viewing them as animals, specks in a continuum of evolution that started four billion years ago.

And as I've said before I believe strongly in the importance of awe. I don't care whether your awe is inspired by science, religion or just open-eyed wonder -- but if you live a life without awe you truly do have my pity because you're dead inside.

So what have we got here?

#1. Live and let live.
#2. Man is natural.
#3. Awe is essential.

Anything else? Let me see. I'm really stretching now. I guess I'd also have to say that I am a firm proponent of constructive rationality over intuitive whinnying when it comes to decision-making or conflict resolution. I believe in negotiation and compromise, in reasoned discourse and fairly-considered argument. As much as the passion of awe is important, so is unbiased calculation and the ability to step back from base drives which compel us to act emotionally. So...

#4. Constructive pragmatism is predicated on dispassionate rationality.

And I suppose add to that a human corollary, for the sake of balance:

#5. It's fun to get drunk, laugh loud, and squeeze the fine derriere of a sweet woman.

...And now I think we've pretty much defined the five pillars of CheeseburgerBrownic philosophy, such as it is. I'm sure it's clear to you now that SIMON OF SPACE is not a treatise on right living, but just a story generated out of my particular imagination, hinged on issues I think about in my idle or awe-filled moments of reflection or experience.

This is how the galaxy in my head looks. It isn't a prescription -- it's just a fun place to explore and feel."
I was inspired by this to ask him if he is a Unitarian Universalist. I think I ended up linking the words to the UUA principles and purposes page, but it seems to me that that isn't really the best place to point people who have never heard of UUism before. (which is essentially everyone)

How do we talk to people who 'sound UU' but might not know anything about it, and might be aversive to 'organized religion'. I dunno.

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