In the sixth chapter of The Science of Discworld, we all start somewhere. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For brief mentions of homophobia and racism.
I was raised on the creation myth. In hindsight, I suppose I’m fascinated by the amalgamation of Christian beliefs that were wrapped up in what my mother taught us. We never went to church, strangely, despite that God and Jesus were arguably the two most powerful forces in our lives. See, my mother had a strict interpretation of Christianity, much like what you’d seen in Fundamentalist churches in America, but she believed that no one – and I do literally mean no one – believed in GOd correctly. She was the only true believer of God and his message, thus it was immoral for us to ever be taught any of Jesus’s lessons or God’s rules from anyone else.
So what I was taught was… well, it was confusing. On the one hand, God created Earth and everything in it in six days, and then God rested on the seventh day. (Before I was adopted, my parents were Seventh Day Adventists, so when they DID go to church, it was on a Saturday. They’d also been vegetarian for many years, so when I became a vegan in 2003, they weren’t bothered by it at all.) But as soon as my brother and I asked about some of God’s thornier creations, we were told those didn’t count. Humanity had created those. This included: mosquitos; all diseases (?????? How ???????), bad food, all crime, all sin, the entire East coast (which honestly still cracks me up because my mom HATED the east coast when I was a kid); the gays; all non-white people; you get the idea. Anything that challenged the notion that God created a flawed thing was suddenly not of His creation, if you catch my drift.
Now, that’s a pretty obvious bit of mental gymnastics, and I’ve met plenty of people who believe something similar. But my inquisitive ass wasn’t satisfied by the creation myth because there was so much left unsaid in it. If God created the universe, what was there before? How long was God hanging out with himself before he got bored enough to create us? Wouldn’t God being bored be a sign of an imperfection and therefore be impossible? If you ever wondered why I’m a big fan of absurd logistical questions, I fostered that shit when I was a kid. So I think you can understand why I’m responding like this to “Beginning and Becomings,” especially since these questions were frequently on my mind growing up. Hell, I still think about this sometimes! It’s hard not to wonder if there was a “before” and what that “before” looked like. How can you even conceptualize something that literally no human ever has seen or experienced before?
It’s easy for an existential dread to creep in while considering this stuff because the sheer scope of it is so huge and bewildering. But I’ve spoken before about how this is strangely comforting, too, knowing how little the universe cares for any one single person. That sounds harsh, but as I was reading this chapter and trying to wrap my mind around some of these high-end concepts, I wasn’t scared. Like, if we really ARE the result of a black hole and exist because we got pulled into another universe, that’s pretty fucking cool, you know? If the Big Bang is truly how this all began, then I don’t find it disturbing to believe that a god had nothing to do with that first tiny speck that became the Universe and then life. Are we the result of an accident? A collection of chemicals and reactions? Are we the billionth step in a long process of evolutionary biology and chemistry and will there be a billion steps after us? The sheer pointlessness of it all (when you factor humanity into the scope of existence) doesn’t discourage me from caring or seeking happiness. If anything, it feels more urgent. If I’m a speck in the grand scheme of themes, then I’m gonna make that speck shine as bright as possible.
A couple of other things I wanted to talk about in this chapter. I was so glad that the authors addressed the sheer wrongness of stating that there are only two biological genders. It’s part of the rejection of binary thinking, or “drawing a line” as they also put it. I am one of those people who was taught this and believed it for many, many years, so I’m pleased that it’s stated so plainly here. And this was like… ten years ago??? Maybe more? Granted, I don’t consider this the most revolutionary act imaginable because it’s pretty basic knowledge. But yes! End binary thinking! We are aren’t making the world better with it!
Also: BLACK HOLES. I personally love the theory that they’re doors to alternate universes, and so I vote we all go find one so we can locate the universe where the world ISN’T a flaming trash heap THANKS I’LL MAKE A GREAT PLAYLIST FOR IT.
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