Devilution

I find my thoughts turn today to the fluctuation of the universe.

What I mean by this is that the world is always changing. Societies rise and fall, good and evil take turns in domination, and an ice age gets replaced with sweltering heat. 

What brings this to mind is a documentary I just watched on TV. It was a two hour show about a certain Ada Lovelace who nearly brought about the computer revolution in the 1800s, but due to various circumstances this didn’t happen until about a hundred years later. 

The subject was interesting enough, but the execution left something to be desired. Honestly, I believe the documentary could easily have been shortened to a half-hour program if it followed the same style of educational film used in, say, the seventies. 

It was full of fancy animations, staged dialogue in elaborate but irrelevant places, and ludicrous gimmicks done as filler for its lack of content. It was infested with clickbait-esque questions that were only answered several minutes later, after another fancy animation and dramatic music. You could get up to make popcorn for five minutes and come back and you wouldn’t have missed much.

Unfortunately, this documentary is not abnormal for modern times. I used to watch documentaries all the time, but now? Not so much. They’re not worth my time, though my thirst for knowledge is still insatiable. 

Perhaps a good example of my point is this: watching documentaries now, as opposed to those made in, say, the 50s-80s, is like reading Macbeth as opposed to Horton Hears a Who. 

The documentaries of the old days were straight to the point. It would introduce the subject, demonstrate visually only what pertained to said subject, and pointed the camera at experts who would lecture on the subject. There was music, but it wasn’t too dramatic. There were animations, sometimes, (depending on how old it was), but they were simple and not distracting. The people interviewed weren’t placed in fancy locations or told to turn around dramatically before talking, nor were there shifts in camera angle every two sentences.

In short, they were purely educational.

Funny how that is, isn’t it? We’ve gone from challenging the intellect of the general populace for society’s benefit to catering to the naivety of that same populace, whose attention span is now shorter than it takes you to blink. 

In my ponderings on this subject I came across this quote from Wikipedia: 

Devolution, de-evolution, or backward evolution is the notion that species can revert into more “primitive” forms over time.

On this thought, I now propose a new word, devilution, which is the devolution of society and people individually as brought on and influenced by the Devil.

Because if God encourages us to seek and gain knowledge, then the encouragement or slip into laziness toward the opposite must be Satan’s whispers.

But as I said, the universe fluctuates. Maybe in a few years, a decade or two, documentaries will again be filled with knowledge, and gimmicks and dramatic music will be retained mostly for movies. 

But of course, this change can only come if society desires it. So if you prefer drama and fancy animations to vastly outnumber the knowledge it surrounds, fine. But your attention span will be as short as the blink of your eye.

If, however, you would rather spend your two TV hours learning something new and interesting, packed with as much knowledge as can fluently be portrayed in that time, then it is up to you to make the difference. It can be something as individual as researching something so hard it makes your brain hurt, or it can be something as big as being the producer of the next documentary. There is a whole spectrum here to work with, and any contribution will be more beneficial than you know.

At the very least, don’t settle for gimmicks and dramatic music, or books that are more illustrations than words.

Change must always come from within, and by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.

It’s Okay to be Enthusiastic

​… Because nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’

– John Green

“You don’t get out much, do you?”

I’ve had that question directed at me quite a few times before. Not so much in recent years as in years past, but I still get strange looks that ask the same thing sometimes. 

You see, I am a very enthusiastic individual. I get really, really excited about the things that I love. Yeah sure, others do too, but not like I do. I jump up and down and clap and squeal like a little girl, which is one of the only really childish parts of me that I’ve retained from childhood. 

I didn’t exactly grow up “sheltered”. Due to mine and my brother’s health problems, of course, we required more sheltering than most kids, but we were not sheltered. We knew what the world had to offer, we just didn’t have the means or the health to access it. 

After joining the Young Single Adults branch and getting a job, I got to do a lot of things that I almost never got to do much growing up, such as watch movies in the theater, or go hiking on an occasion that’s not Girls’ Camp. And even when I go to a completely new place, I look with wide eyes at everything and investigate with a child-like wonder.

Recently I went to Thunder Over Louisville to witness a fantastic airshow and the biggest fireworks show in the nation. This is my third year going, but it’s still as exciting as ever. Last night I got all squealy excited when I realized I’d be closer to the fireworks than ever before, when I realized I’d be able to watch the fireworks shoot off from the barge, and when they did the traditional spark curtain on the bridge. I was clapping and squealing and had the biggest smile on my face.

And the people around me looked at me funny and laughed nervously.

But what bugged me the most was when people started leaving before the show was over, in order to “beat the traffic.”

So what did they pay fifteen dollars for? To sit on the grass watching airplanes for four hours? For overpriced fast food? 

The fireworks show was what everybody came for. It was the climax of the night, the kickoff of the Kentucky Derby celebrations!

And they were leaving.

Well I for one didn’t pay fifteen dollars to beat the traffic. If the traffic wasn’t worth watching the whole show with rapt attention, I wouldn’t have come. Those dissenters missed a fantastic finale that rattled your bones and shook the earth beneath your feet, lighting up the sky like the sun. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I walked three miles to the waterfront, shivered in 40 degree weather for five hours, and walked three miles back in the dark. In the end I was exhausted, sore, and cold, but every second was worth it.

Perhaps an even better example of my point is what I’ve observed when going to an amusement park. I’m surrounded by hundreds of people who have traveled far and paid well for the opportunity to ride thrill rides, and yet I’m the only one besides children who is giddy and excited as I get strapped in to my seat. During the ride, I’m usually the loudest screamer, and when the ride ends I’m grinning from ear to ear and probably still cheering.

And everyone else? A smile or two, maybe a funny look directed my way, and then they move on, as if they had just done something mundane like grocery shopping.

If this is what “getting out much” looks like, I think I’ll stay under the rock everyone thinks I live under.

So maybe next time you look at someone and think about saying “you don’t get out much, do you?” Think twice. Stop taking for granted the wonders of life that should bring you joy. I don’t envy those who can leave a fireworks show early to beat the traffic. I don’t envy those who can ride a roller coaster with a straight face. 

The next time someone tells me I don’t get out much, perhaps I’ll reply with “well obviously you get out too much.”

Never do something half-way. You either do it, or you don’t. No beating the traffic, no wasting money on day passes at King’s Island if you can’t crack a smile or strain your vocal cords. 

It’s okay to be enthusiastic. Spread the word.

From the Beginning

Above is a picture I took the other day of some beautiful mammatus clouds in the sunset, after a rocky day of supercell storms roaring through Kentucky.

I don’t remember when I first learned what a storm was, or what a tornado was. I don’t remember what I thought when I experienced a thunderstorm for the first time. 

I don’t remember, because I was too young.

For as far back as my memory reaches, I have always had a passion for storms, tornadoes in particular. When I was little, my first imaginary friends were even tornadoes. Black tornadoes were “good”, and white tornadoes were “bad”, in my young mind. Growing up, I would sit and watch the lightning for hours and listen to the thunder.

It is no different now. 

As far as I understand it, most people seem to be soothed by the sound of thunder and rain. It lulls them to sleep. But not me! If I’m awake when a thunderstorm comes through, I will easily stay up all night to watch it and listen to it. The sound of thunder is almost musical to me, and the rumbling seems to shake not only my ears and my bones but the very soul of my being.

There’s just something… Exciting about it. It awakens me, it thrills me, and it draws me out to it.

And tornadoes? Multiply the above feeling by 9,372,472. Something about the sight of them makes me jump up and down a squeal like a little girl who got a new doll for Christmas, grinning from ear to ear. What is it about them? Is it their shape? Their movement? Their monstrous size that at once demands terror and awe? Many people appreciate these things, but they’re something different for me. I couldn’t tell you what that is. Even I don’t know. But it is obviously something that has gripped me forever and was the first and perhaps deepest of my many passions. Even my love for horses doesn’t reach back as far as my love for tornadoes.

It has been my lifelong dream to be a storm chaser. To actually go out and hunt down the twisters for at least the privilege of being in the presence of such a powerful event. They are often called the “fingers of God”, and for good reason. They can be as ruthless and violent as justice itself in some ways, but in others seem almost to show mercy to those caught in their path. They are mysterious and breathtaking, and science still hasn’t quite figured them out yet. Perhaps it never will.

But one of these days, I’m going to be out on the Plains, in the heart of Tornado Alley, jumping up and down and squealing like a little girl on Christmas and grinning from ear to ear while I watch an almost harmless looking column of water-vapor wreak havoc upon everything in its path. And of course I’ll be snapping pictures and taking video, which is another one of my hobbies that fits very well with storm chasing. Whereas hunters of other things bring back the antlers, the fur, or the body of their catch as a trophy, all a storm chaser can bring is a picture or a video, and sometimes just the excitement and memory of the experience. One can’t exactly hang a trophy tornado up on the wall, though that would be awesome. (Get working on that, will you, science?)

Seeing as it’s spring now, I hope to post a reminder of storm and tornado safety in the coming days. Because as much as I love tornadoes, it pains me deeply when a tragedy occurs that could easily have been avoided by a little knowledge. I have made it my mission to bring awareness and safety to as many people as I possibly can. I can’t chase the storms away from my fellow humans, but I can warn ahead of the danger. 

God’s earth is a wonderful thing, and I’ll give credit to nothing and no one else.