“All right, fine!” I yell at an inanimate object. Next to me on the couch, Sara looks up from behind her laptop with an eyebrow slightly raised. She’s not really surprised; she’s just curious. Our 4-year anniversary is today, so this sort of exasperated outburst has not surprised her in quite some time. I frequently find myself muttering irritably at commercials, billboards, radio songs, and other seemingly meaningless things.
This time it was a simple magazine.
I had just read a short blurb out loud when my throat grew dry. I’ve been fighting off a cold for days, you see. I briefly considered getting up to grab a cough drop, but they were in another room and our couch is paralyzingly comfortable (thank you, Sara’s mom, for the donation; we really do love it!). I lazily flipped the page of the magazine instead. The first thing I see on the next page is a full-length advertisement for cough drops. And this ad is not just some still-life of a bag or picture of one lozenge on a table in an impossibly neat living room, next to a bulleted list of benefits. No, this one showcases a woman eating a cough drop as though it were a hand-made French truffle. Maybe even the last chocolate on Earth.
Needless to say, I begrudgingly got off of my ass and grabbed myself a cough drop (Ricola honey lemon, though, and I love them).
I have to say, it’s getting to be a little bit annoying. My peculiar outbursts to the contrary, I like to consider myself a very grounded, rational person. These sorts of occurrences just happen to me ALL THE TIME. Sometimes, they’re on a smaller scale, like just now. The bottom line of that message is, “You really should take better care of yourself, starting with that cough drop you know you need.” No, of course the magazine doesn’t actually say all of that. (Wouldn’t that make for an interesting ad, though?) We all know that it’s just a combination of my own conscience, ironic symbolism, and good timing. Right..?
I fight hard to keep hold of my skepticism. Spiritually, I consider myself agnostic, curious about everything and convinced by nothing. I grew up in an age of transparency, freely accessible information, fact-checking. These are the only defenses against an endless sea of bullshit, after all. The scientific method is my holy grail and I cling to it defiantly.
But there are those days.
Days when I have to chant phrases like “just a coincidence” and “correlation is not causation” to keep my mind anchored to reality. Especially when these occurrences happen on a larger scale. Freshman year of college, having Chinese food with my new suite-mates and debating how to tell them I’m gay. We read our cookies’ fortunes aloud. Mine says, “You and your wife will be happy in your life together!” Problem solved.
I got another fortune cookie the day I met Sara (my soulmate, I will freely admit to believing in those). It said, “Today you will meet your Big Cheese.”
big cheese (noun, older slang) – an influential or important person
The terminology was bizarre, I’ll admit. But it’s a fortune cookie. What else do you expect?
I know these serendipitous moments happen to everyone. They just seem to happen to me a LOT. I could list them ad nauseam. The harder I resist the urge to respond with things like “the universe is telling me to…” the louder that hypothetical force seems to yell at me. Should I take a hint? Should I read the signs? Or are they just a bunch of scribbles on a big block?
Every day my brain and my imagination engage in a war for truth.
Because I know that if it’s not true, it doesn’t matter whether or not I believe it. 2013 has started out no differently. I have to say, most days my imagination seems to have more compelling allies, both in quality and quantity. It rallies my creativity, positivity, feelings, altruism, and desperate urge for meaning. It says, “Believe in something.” And it speaks in poetry.
Is there any such thing as luck? Or fate? Souls? What about God(s)?
These are questions I toy with each time. Eventually, I put them back in the toy chest with a dissatisfied commitment to “figure it out later.” I don’t want delude myself just to be happy. But science and rationality cannot neatly explain concepts like love or freedom. Not even words, my favorite tool, can do that completely. How long can I go on pretending all truth can be comfortably measured to the liking of us skeptics? The burden of proof is indeed heavy.
What do you do when you begin to doubt doubt?