On Van Helsing

Professor Van Helsing is a tribute to rational empiricism that has met the supernatural and had to back off because the experience did not square with reality. I like Van Helsing because he is so grounded in his science and empiricism that he is the true paradigm of rational thinking and practice. Yet, Van Helsing is faced with a situation that does not fit within the neat theories and hypothesis of his enlightened scientific experience. Through observation and experimentation, Van Helsing has cast his lot in life far from emotion, superstition, irrationality, and the supernatural. He writes books, carries out experiments, teaches his classes, is a paradigm of the enlightened scientist, the rock on which we build our reality. Yet, his situation, though a completely imaginary one, is problematic in the sense that he is faced with the larger problem of a reality–an undead, dead person–that cannot exist in his world. The philosophical implications of facing the existence of Dracula are vast and troubling. You are either a rational empiricist who cannot “believe” in such things, or you abandon your empiricism and throw in with the holy water, garlic, cross, and stake. Our empiricism protects us from foolish pseudo-science such as astrology, palmistry, quiromancy, numerology, tarot, Big Foot, the Loch Ness monster, werewolves, vampires, and necromancy, but is that all there is in this world? I have always sided with Hamlet: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. – Hamlet (1.5.167-8). Still, the philosophical problem persists even if only in our imaginations, hoping against hope that we never have to face this situation in the real world.

On the road

Did you ever have one of those days? We are all sojourners, travelers on the road, trying like mad to just get home. The road is filled with bumps, potholes, detours, road construction, traffic jams, unexpected delays, breakdowns, stops for lunch, all-nighters via Atlanta, tickets, tolls, and passengers. We all think we know where we are going, but do we really? I see people speed by me all the time as if they knew where they were going, but they were only going to the next stoplight. We have maps, directions, signs, landmarks, street signs, flashing arrows, advice, notes, and the stray fingerpost indicating the way home. Some people are not going home and spend their entire lives running away from home as if they knew something we do not. Some people are searching day and night for the way to enlightenment, which they substitute for home. Halfway through my life I found myself lost, the main road was nowhere in sight, and I found myself deep inside a scary, frightening forest, dark and cold. I heard strange noises of wild beasts and strange colored birds. I was completely lost and didn’t know what to do. My maps were useless, there was no cell coverage, no data plan, and there was no one to ask. I was utterly alone–friends and acquaintances were nowhere to be found. How could this have happened? I had always planned so well, left a proverbial trail of crumbs wherever I went, but all of that was for nothing. I walked along, shivering and cold. Night was falling, and the air smelled like rain. A cold breeze was blowing in the trees. Should I move on, search for some indication of direction, or should I sit down on this boulder and cry? Maybe I should climb a tree to get a better view of the land and figure out where I was. The area I was in seemed abandoned and had a prehistoric look to it–no path, no signs of human habitation at all. I sneezed and felt miserable. I was tired. One plans and studies, works and saves, dedicates time to planning for the road, and here I was, lost, tired and desperate. It is on these dark nights when the soul yearns for a direction that will lead it home. I always thought I was in control, that I could do things to insure a certain outcome, that I could manipulate my destiny. But here I am, out of bounds, in the woods, off the road, threatened by who knows what wild animals. I suppose I could tear through the woods like a crazy person, hoping I was going in the right direction. I could just sit here and choose immobility as a mode of transportation. Or I could just start wandering around and hope they I see something that I recognize and find my way back. I haven’t seen anyone in days and I’m starting to question my own judgment. Am I hallucinating? I hope I make it out of here.