The Duck is on the Floor

A friend and I were walking down the street in the heart of Chicago, headed to find some food. Finding food is one of a very few selected reasons to be on the street in Chicago after dark, especially in the winter when the temperature drops low enough to cause all life functions to cease and then to be blown away in the hurricane-like winds that roar through the ice-crusted buildings. The other reason is to find entertainment, like the plethora of small theaters where actual actors stand on an actual stage and recite memorized lines. Or they drink beer and make it up as they go. I’ve been to both kinds of theatre in Chicago and the lesson there is: you get what you pay for.


Of course, if you want to forgo all of the live actors, you can find a movie theatre or go to a friend’s teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy apartment and watch a movie. We were not doing any of those things, so we must have been going for food- and by food I mean possibly coffee, since coffee is a food group which many city-dwellers live on almost exclusively.Through the harsh, whipping winds, I was making casual conversation about how Jesus was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, which was a sort of new thing for me back then- not the truth of it, but me talking about it casually with people who hadn’t explicitly asked me about it. Her reply was, “Well, that may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”

Her tone was so matter of fact that it was obvious that she was not being sarcastic. I pondered her words and came to the conclusion that her brain must have frozen in the high winds, and I started walking faster towards our destination certain that haste would be imperative to our survival.

“What do you mean, it’s not true for you?” I asked. “Something is either true or it’s not. There’s no personal taste involved with reality.” She again disagreed and told me, “Hey, it’s great you believe that, but it’s not true for me.” She said it in the matter-of-fact way which one might say, “This smells like the number five.” I started thinking she had simply gone mad from an ice encrusted cerebellum and started to lose hope. It didn’t occur to me until some time later that she was actually not insane (entirely) but had grasped onto one of the new philosophies being shoved down the throats of students at many colleges. This philosophy is that there are two kinds of reality- the objective and subjective. Meaning, some things are true for everyone, like Tuesdays, rocks, or Delaware. In addition there are things that are only true if you believe in them. Most people who hold this view will put any morals or religious faith into the second category. This is what my friend was doing. She was lumping Jesus into a Subjective category with Santa Clause, chastity, and the Lost City of Atlantis.

A thinking person might say, “Maybe some things are just personal opinions, such as whether or not onions chunks are good in chili.” This is not what this philosophy means. It means, “I think your belief is stupid, but to say so would be ‘close-minded,’ so I’ll pretend you have your own little world.” This is how Sox fans address the optimism of Cubs fans around here. (Riiiight. Next year will be DIFFERENT...) This idea actually means- and some people try to believe this- that some things are TRUE for you, and NOT true for them. You each have, not your own EXPERIENCE of reality, but in fact your own personal REALITY. This idea has its roots in Zen philosophy. I’d explain what Zen is except that there is no definition. I’ve read Zen books. I even went to what claimed to be the official Zen web site and the only thing they all said is, “The only way to know what Zen is, is to experience it.” Although they freely admit that you may think you’re having a Zen experience but really you’re having a bad intestinal reaction from overdoing  onion chunks in your chili . (“I think I need an antacid. I’m having a Zen experience from that Chili!”)

It seems silly to the point of insane, but it’s actually just the tip of the iceberg. The follow up philosophy is this: There is no REALITY at all. EVERYTHING is subjective. Things are what YOU perceive or believe or choose them to be. There are serious flaws with this theory- the main one being that it’s wrong. I had to explain this to a cousin of mine once. We were sitting in my living room and he was sticking to the idea that what I perceive is “true for me,” and I was trying to explain that reality exits outside of our perceptions or we would have nothing to perceive. I held up one of my eighty yellow rubber ducks that were all over the house. “Suppose I believed this was a bright red bowling ball. Would that make it so?”
“In your perception it would be,
” he relied.
“But would it BE a bright red bowling ball, or is it a rubber duck?”
“Well, I perceive it to be a rubber duck.”
“Are you right?”
I asked.
“From my point of view I am.”

This was making me insane. He was a college student. Isn’t higher education supposed to make you smarter? Maybe it just makes you higher- but I digress.

I held the duck out and said, “OK, I’m going to convince myself, absolutely beyond a doubt that when I let go of this duck it will float to the ceiling. Are you ready?” I dropped the duck. It fell to the floor next to me and I continued. “Let’s say I really thought the duck was going to go up,” I said, “and let’s say I perceived the duck floating up. Even now, I can see the duck above me, on the ceiling. Can I get the duck off of the ceiling? If I got a ladder and climbed to the ceiling, would I come down with the duck? Where is the duck right now? Where do you HAVE to go to get the duck?!?!?!”See if you can find the duck in this picture

He eventually admitted that the duck was on the floor. It took me forty minutes to get a college student to admit that a rubber duck was on the floor. Colleges used to teach people how to think and now they teach them not to. This explains why he never cleaned up after himself. “You need to do the dishes,” I’d say.

“That’s just your perception, man.”

While the idea that truth is subjective sounds great, because no one ever has to admit to being wrong, it’s also really nuts. The duck is on the floor whether you like it or not. Like most wacky ideas of this kind, you just have to apply the idea to itself. Is it true for everyone that truth is subjective, or is it only true for you? Try that one out on someone. If they say it’s only true for them, then you can tell them you have a monopoly on truth because you perceive reality the way it really is, regardless of your point of view. They’ll be tempted to argue that their philosophy is true for everyone, at which time you can point out that they’ve acknowledged a universal truth which is objective, proving that objective truth does exist, allowing for some viewpoints to be more or less true, depending on how their perception lines up with what is real. At this point they’ll take their Grande’ low-fat caramel latte’ and storm out into the blustery Chicago night in a rage. But don’t worry. If your friends don’t come back to you, just wait until the spring thaw. They’ll turn up somewhere when the snow starts to melt. Trust me on this one.


About rentafriend2000
Rocking my 40's with a heart full of love and muffins, science and technology. Jesus loves me and wants me to totally rock! And I am here to help.

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