Edward Williams


September 2009


—–I enter the conversation at the point where something is in dispute, a topic is rolling, being handed around, and now one person has been spurred on, forced to state a position, and into venturing what they believe.  I have been watching them talk, and when I see this eruption, gluing the participants to the issue, such as they see it!, and when I see that someone has decided to defend a point, has their hackles up, is likely unpracticed, but has only been surrounded by an unfortunate assembly, which they must have misjudged–or whatever, when I see this is going on, that’s when I step in, knowing my own skills and authority.  And I always take the side of a person who is defending themselves, precisely because they are always speaking to their own beliefs.  I do this, regardless of what those beliefs are. I say, regardless of what those beliefs are, as first perceived by me or any and all of the others.  Deep sympathy lay within me for anyone who believes, for they have a heroic nature and it has not been spoiled. I reserve the right, and the ability perhaps, to improve the content of this belief, but that is totally relative. Belief is the main thing, and one must have it, or wither away. So I make this initial effort, and defend the believer, I am ready even before they are embarrassed and forced, by unfair charges, to defend themselves. I take the side of undaunted naivete, rather than your up-to-the minute jeering. I extend my hand to the hopeful but factually ill-supplied, to the downright deluded, and make swiftly and brilliantly to rationalise their hardly stated beliefs, such as they exist in any initial stuttering. No matter how it looks to the others, or even how difficult it looks to me, I do this through several exchanges, through several rounds in the debate, maybe several rounds of drinks, as the whole party succumbs to giddy confusion . . .
—–For I need to see how long the one who spoke up from the basis of belief can last. Belief itself being heroic, and the linchpin of thought itself, I argue to myself once again.
—–Lately, it is supposed, the facts of reality do not support these inherited notions. Consecutive thinking does not allow for intrusions of images that conflict with the topic as stated in the curriculum of the brain. Need a diagram? Old fashioned reason did away with the ghost of belief in anything not findable in a ditch, at least . . . a hundred and fifty years ago! Miracles were mirages of ignorant people, count on it, says the scornful opposition to anyone who ventures a belief in something that smacks of, well, a belief in something. Facts are facts.
—–So here I go, I take the side of the believer, and argue that perhaps he has not expressed his belief clearly enough, or to their liking–this crowd of harpies.  And besides, what do facts, which, by the way, rarely are in fact facts, have to do with beliefs, anyway? Belief  is established, or has it’s source in pure emotion, I say. Everybody is ready for that one. They pounce on it. Well, sure! That is all they are, emotions! This is where I am shouted down by the group which has become, I hate to say it, very emotional.
—–“Cool your heels,” I say. Meanwhile the guy who started this seems to have disappeared. He took his belief with him, and went off to sulk in a corner; or maybe he went home to consult the oracle. Oh, no, wait, here he is. And no longer flumoxed. Standing on his beliefs, which are yet to be fully elucidated!, has produced in him a great calm. He is a port in a storm. And I don’t feel he has given me anywhere near the credit I deserve for defending him. So I turn on him. “Look smart,” I tell him, “don’t think you are off the hook.”  He looks hurt, but that doesn’t fool me.
—–“We have not yet examined what you actually think,” I tell him.
—–Of course I know we will never get to that. Every conversation these days is a process of being pushed around, then backing up, and then fighting your way out of the ditch you have fallen into. It is an experience! It becomes abstract! And this is always exactly when, and why, the music turns itself up, and a totally distracted air comes over everyone.  Like so many countable survivors of a shipwreck we are, rocking and lost in some slow dance.

McCarthy’s Great Breakthrough

—–A former WKOR news team helicopter pilot, who quit his job a year ago in a feud with his superiors, has now announced the results of a tremendous research project he conducted, aimed at establishing a true statistical account of traffic on Rochester, NY roads–particularly during rush hours.
—–James J. McCarthy, in releasing the results of his traffic survey, said that he knew some people in the mainstream media might accuse him of perpetuating a drawn out, and expensive, act of revenge upon his former employers, and that in fact he had been partly motivated by feelings of vindictiveness, personally, toward those who had mocked his original theorizing on the subject now documented. But his study, anyway, has proved to be so full of revelations, which the whole public will be amazed at, that he feels justified in broadcasting the complete labor–with as much force as necessary.
—–The results of McCarthy’s traffic survey are in fact incredible and historically unique. They probably have an import transcending the particular obsession with roads and traffic, and may be analogously applied to other situations of chaos in the modern world. With total rigor and scientific method, McCarthy has done no less than make good on a claim which, when made in theory only, seemed nothing but strong evidence of his own possible insanity–or desire to be a comedian.
—–What James J. McCarthy has established, now, by painstaking investigation, and with the use of ten helicopters and a whole fleet of probably skeptical assistants is, in a word, that there is an element of illusion actually at work, on the expressway during rush hours. This, as a summary finding, he has actually documented. To whit:
—–Statistically, between four and seven o’clock on weekdays, and also between seven and ten o’clock (though by not as great a number) there are more cars on Rochester roads, all totaled, than exist in the city in reality. This increase stands at nearly fifty-percent above what is possible if every car in Rochester, plus all those cars statistically shown to be passing through Rochester, were all on the roads.
—–Impossible, you say.  Precisely, says McCarthy’s study. The impossible fact is there. And actually, less than half the cars that can be said to exist, totalled in the careful census of existing automobiles the researcher  took, are on the roads during rush hours (many of course being in garages, etc.), which means the number of cars in excess of possible real cars counted is way above a hundred percent–or rather, double what is possible!
—–McCarthy has proven, and with methods no one can say are magical, that more than one half of the cars of Rochester roads during rush hours are an optical illusion of some type. They can be seen, for he and his crew counted them, from helicopters poised week after week above the infamous Can of Worms; but, statistically, we repeat, they couldn’t really be there–all those cars, because, as just said, even if you brought every car in Rochester onto the roads at once, and even those in the car dealers were all drive out, plus you included the typical or even an exaggerated influx of cars passing through from Buffalo and Syracuse, you wouldn’t come to within fifty percent of what can be seen–mostly in traffic jams by the way.
—–This is truly startling, more than thought provoking!
—–And it is what McCarthy himself had proposed while a junior pilot in a helicopter traffic news watch, at WKOR, not proposed publicly, then, but just smartly asserted from his seat above the traffic, to his superiors. He just said he couldn’t believe all the cars were real–was beginning to seriously entertain the idea that some of them weren’t real, actually; his superiors, then, evidently thinking him insane for making such a suggestion, insane or some kind of comedian, maybe, or a creative thinker perhaps who, at the very least, shouldn’t be doing this kind of work.
—–But, from the nevertheless actual survey’s viewing, one half the cars are an optical illusion. Or worse!  Let’s say a spatio-temporal illusion, a warp in reality itself!, because these cars do seem to really be there, honking, with people in them, blocking up the roads. It’s an illusion effecting more than the eyes, in other words, presenting the enormous question of whether we can establish which of the cars are part of the illusion, and which are real, with people going to and coming home from their jobs as office workers, robots, etc. That would require some sort of tracking program, to see if we could document, somehow, the disappearance of the extra cars, cars which, obviously, do not exist except during rush hours.
—–Originally, McCarthy said, he didn’t claim so bluntly that half the cars were unreal. What he said, modestly, was that roads attract cars. Roads themselves attract cars, so cars appears on them.  That is what he said at first; it was his first opinion that the building of more highways was not reducing traffic problems but adding to them, because roads, nice new six-lane highways particularly, actually attract cars. This was not a radical opinion really, but a respectable analysis, meaning that new roads tempt people to drive more, buy more cars, etc.
—–But now, his study shows that roads can go much further than merely attracting existing cars and their human drivers. It can now be said that roads . . . create cars!  Like deserts create mirages–only worse, for, as we said, no one can tell which cars are the imaginary ones. It is a jamming up of what is already an overcrowding, the crowning blow, so to speak, to an excessively overbuilt situation (or environment).
—–The  superhighways are either   jammed with illusory cars (with illusory drivers, no less) or they are half-empty, during the main part of the day and night. At all  times, then, they make no sense, and merely invite . . . hell itself.  Plus, nothing can be done about it!  Because: the perceptual problem is too great for anyone to solve.
—–And, it is shared virtually by all the real drivers in real cars–that’s the colossal problem, making it impossible to eradicate, all together, the false traffic. Fears of traffic jams, the isolated, but universal, feeling in the hearts of all the drivers that they, individually, do not need to be caught in this traffic jam, and the insane overbuilt luxury of big roads and their lure of fast travel, has finally caused a breakdown in the shared mind-set of all the drivers.
—–Just like, also in the Rochester region, the mind-set that expects the sky to be overcast, or the one that accepts the idea, to begin with, that more roads will make traveling around more. . .  efficient.
—–You can see than everyone behaves obediently, even if they are all personally ticked off, not one of them suspecting that many of the cars confronting and annoying them are actually caused by some now practically genetic hallucinatory faculty in driving mankind–a death wish, really, saying: supply the roads with as many cars as they will hold, and keep more cars coming on the entrance ramps!
—–The situation is, of course, truly hopeless.  Someday, James J. is now saying, we’ll have to just face up to the results of this indulgence, and quietly, humbly, take away the extra roads. The Highway Department could be completely reoriented in fact, and, he said,  “people could be employed to just take these damn roads up”.  Which of course will (if cause and effect still mean anything at all in this universe) cut off the supply of the root evil: cars, cars themselves, in all their false splendor.

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