Just a pinch
Doubt is a real sunnavabitch.
It piles up around your ankles each day beginning the moment you step out of bed and eddies around you like dust particles caught in the sunlight.
Spend about five minutes trawling the Internet or watching TV and elements of the reality you’ve come to accept as, well, actually real will be challenged. Inside the rabbit hole of constantly available endlessly mercurial public discourse, we are told that our senses, education and recollection are to be held in the highest suspicion.
It should not go unsaid that, in checking, balancing and supplementing our perceptions, doubt can be extremely useful. Our legal system and the scientific method, as modest examples, rely on doubt as the fulcrum point for evidence-based understanding of the world. It’s a neat trick and awfully handy.
In a strange inversion, though, the utility of doubt has grown into a Gollum of our own creation, and, as I’ve stated repeatedly, it seems that the very concept of a “fact” as something that is just true is dying a slow, painful, very public death. “It Depends on Who You Ask” has, in many ways, superseded practical certainty.
If the reports are to be believed, your hearing is the first thing to go. Your eyesight cannot be trusted. Your memory is a pack of damn lies, blindfolded and set loose on an meandering synaptic parade route; at the end of the line, the parade float of your recollections drives right into the swamp of dementia, and you watch yourself from the lee shore, as everything you knew sinks to the bottom. Wave.
It’s unsettling, more than a little alienating, and I, for one, am tired of it. I don’t feel like being uncertain about every damn thing.
Don’t believe the hype. We are not living behind a veil of illusions. Our physical sensations represent some of the most precisely calibrated mechanisms in the history of the universe. Millions and millions of years of central nervous system evolution can’t be wrong all of the time.
As a demonstration that certainty is still possible, I’ve devised a non-thought experiment of sensual observations. In my experience, these exercises never terminate in opinion, counter-opinion, uncertainty, scrutiny, doubt, questions or unsightly psychic rashes. These sensations are actually, blissfully, simply and irrevocably true.
Walk slowly but confidently up to a horse who is nice and amenable to having some company. Run your hand down the length of its snout and touch its nose/lip area. It will feel soft and warm and will be pleasant and there will be a moment when the tenderness of its skin will be so intense that it will tickle your hand a little. Something so soft that it tickles. That’s amazing. Look straight into the horse’s eyeball. It’s watching you, too. (If a horse is not immediately available, dogs and babies are suitable substitutes.)
Heavy things are heavy. Doing a lot of hard work is hard and will make you tired and ready for a nap. When you take a nap it will feel good, and when you wake up you may be a little sore, but you’ll be OK.
The area around your fingernails is very sensitive. When that part of your body is injured, it’s pretty much all you can think about. (By the by, the Spanish word padrastro carries the dual meanings of “stepfather” and “hangnail.”)
Put on a T-shirt or a pair of trousers when they come out of the dryer. They will be warm and will feel nice. This sensation doesn’t last long. Enjoy it.
Rip that errant nostril hair out with a pair of tweezers. It will smart something fierce.
Stick your face in a rose bush first thing in the morning sometime this summer. (Be careful not to poke yourself in the eye or scratch your cheek with the thorns.) The blossoms will be wet with dew and very soft. The smell will be overwhelming.
There’s something about the way a scorpion looks that leads me to believe I should keep my distance. I’m happy to trust this intuition.
Find a metal utility pole or an empty Dumpster. Hit it hard with a screwdriver or a wrench. It will make a sound that is cool.
If you’re looking for something to dampen the discomfort of watching the world fall into a frantic delusional shit-show, make a list of physical and sensorial reminders that we are here, present and bodily engaged.
Pinch yourself. It’s real.