Years ago while on a training run in Fermi Lab, a man rode up next to me on a Schwinn bike. His chain squeaked. It needed oil. But the most interesting aspect of this fellow was the tinfoil hat that was wrapped around his head.
It wasn’t “tin” per se. It was aluminum foil. But it was a hat made to protect him somehow.
He clearly explained all the reasons for the hat. Apparently there were messages coming to him from somewhere. They were strongest in the vicinity of Fermi Lab.
I’ve written some purposely humorous posts about Fermi. Making fun of science is interesting because 1) it can be so hard to understand the reality of it and 2) It can be so hard to understand the reality of it.
Ooops. I repeat myself. But really, it’s always twice as hard for me to understand science as it truly ought to be. I read plenty of scientific material, mind you. Articles about conservation, environmental science, physics, geology and a ton of other topics fascinate me. These are all attempts on my part to become as informed as possible about the impact of science on our world. Science matters, you see.
Those photos of Pluto taken by a spacecraft 3 billion miles from earth nearly made me cry. The thought of human-made machines traveling so far, nine years apparently, impresses me beyond belief. Of course it takes a certain amount of belief in science to exist in this world at all. It helps us comprehend why anything does anything at all.
Without science, we’d literally be lost in the universe. We know tons about how we got here and why the world works the way it does. The human race has come a long, long way since books like Genesis were written to record the nature of creation.
Science does not deny the verity of the creation story as some would have us suppose. The worldview of some religious believers is in conflict with science only because the creation story is taken literally. These people ignore the fact that Jesus taught using powerfully symbolic parables based on organic truths. One such example is the growth of a tiny mustard seed into a large, plant-sized tree. Jesus used that as a symbol for the power of faith to exceed imagination.
We’re supposed to understand that Genesis is to be viewed the same way. It describes simple seeds of understanding so that as we grow we can look back and be amazed at all that we’ve learned about the scale and scope of God’s influence in the world.
Instead we have people denying science as a matter of defending their “faith” which is based, in essence, upon an exaggerated simplicity.
Of course there are people who go off the scale at the other end as well. Science becomes some threateningly alternate reality they cannot abide because its realities seem so potentially intrusive. These are the folks in the tinfoil hats who turn science into a supernatural object. Or just as strangely, they close down understanding on topics in order to maintain a worldview that does not choose the comprehend the world in any complexity.
There are a few tinfoil folks who deny that human beings ever set foot on the moon, for example. The Flat Earth Society still exists as well. Those are folks who insist the idea that the earth is round is foolishness.
And somewhere in between runs a type of person that hears voices in their heads. They insist that science is out to get them somehow. The man on the bike in the tinfoil hat rode along next to me relating these concerns. He encouraged me to get a tinfoil hat as well, to defend my brain from the intrusive effects of waves being sent into our skulls from places like Fermi Lab.
Now, I take mental illness seriously, and make no fun of those with serious conditions. It may be this man had brain chemistry problems. That’s no laughing matter and I will never pretend it is. But the period when he pulled up next to me on the bike and started telling the long story of his concerns about messages being beamed into his head gave me other genuine concerns. Like how to get him to stop talking.
I increased my running pace from 6:30 to 5:30 per mile. I was fit and fast at the time, and it wasn’t hard to move along and try to lose him. He increased his pedaling and his breathing rate too. But he hung in there.
Finally I dialed it down to 5:00 pace and aimed for the west gate of Fermi Lab on Wilson Street. He struggled to keep up then. And as he struggled, he shouted in desperation to get his point across.
And finally, he was no longer there. I’d lost the man in the tinfoil hat. He was earnest about his point, and eager to share it.
He was just like the guy I once encountered on a run in Decorah, Iowa. That fellow was dressed in an all-white cowboy outfit and had blood streaked all over his clothes. He jumped out in front of me on Ice Cave road and said, “Want to see my snakes?”
It turned out he had killed 10 or 12 snakes and nailed them all in a circle around a tree. I admired his handiwork as instructed and then took off running back to campus. My teammates roared in laughter when I told them my story. We all ran back out there and the man and his snakes were gone. All that was left was a ring of blood around the tree where he’d nailed the snakes.
“Ah, sure Cud,” my buddies teased. “You sure you’re not making this up?”
But that’s my point. You can’t make this kind of shit up. The man in the tinfoil hat was real. So was the cowboy snake killer. There are people out there who believe that men from earth or space are talking to them, and there are people who think that killing snakes is some sort of exorcism rite that needs to be accomplished pronto.
And the only thing separating me from them some days is the ability to run or ride. You can get rid of lots of crazy thoughts and ideas that way. There’s this crazy event in France called the Tour de France where tons of guys all wearing tinfoil hats ride together up and down mountains. They wear radios so they can hear the voices in their heads a little better. Finally it gets too much for some of them and they crash to the ground at crazy speeds. But even then the other tinfoil hats guys come riding up next to them and try to keep them going. This picture is just one shred of evidence of such activity.
Don’t let them catch up to you. Keep on pedaling and running and swimming as fast as you can.
And above all, make sure you don’t vote for Donald Trump or any of those other tinfoil hat types running for president on the Republican side. Scott Walker claims God is talking to him. Ted Cruz claims God needs to listen to him, and that the Pope is a fool. Ricky Perry thinks God lives in Texas. Rick Santorum clearly ran out of tinfoil long ago.
They’re all out there running for President, and they’re trying to roll up alongside you to convince you they’re right about those voices they hear in their heads. They want you to listen to the voices too. It’s so easy if you’ll just slow down and listen.