One of the most famous tales compiled by Brothers Grimm is the story of The Wolf and Seven Young Goats. According to the tale, the mother goat intends to go to the forest to graze and, in return, produce milk for her babies, to do that, she has to leave them unsupervised. But there is a Big Bad Wolf in the forest; a sneaky, sneaky wolf looking for an opportunity to devour the goatlings. The mother goat warns her children, as the mothers all around the world do before leaving home. “Don’t open the door unless you’re sure that it’s me on the doorstep.” “But mother,” say the goatlings, how do we know that it’s you?” “When I come home, I will say, let me in children, your mother has something for each and every one of you.” Then the mother goat leaves. Seeing her leave, the wolf approaches the doorstep. Knock knock. “Who’s there?” the goatlings ask, and the wolf recites the mother goat’s words. Six goats run to the door in excitement, but the youngest says; “This is not our mother’s voice, her voice is sweet like honey and soft like clouds. This is Big Bad wolf!”, So, wolf finds a way to change his voice, but he cannot convince the youngest of baby goats. “Show us your foot under the door.” the goatling demands, and seeing the wolf’s brown, fury foot it cries “This is not our mother!”, then the wolf covers its feet with flour, and gets to eat six goatlings.
Now let’s think about a modern adaptation. The wolf shows his foot covered in flour under the door, and the goatlings scan the wolf’s foot on a footprint scanner their mother bought in exchange of some gallons of milk for cautionary purposes. How does this sound? Amusing, frightening, interesting, unnatural, absurd? Should we let go of our imagination, or worse, our collective imagination for the sake of earthly ambitions implanted in us by capitalism for it’s a different time, for we live in a real world of wonders that made surprising us and striking us with awe a daily task? Are myths and folktales, all things magical, naturally oppose technology, explanation, facts? Is a fusion or at least comradery possible, or should we melt one in the pot of the other? If so, should it be dubbed mythological technology or technological mythology? But most pressing of all, why do we need mythology?
Case Against the Extraordinary: The Best of All Ordinaries
Amidst the oligarchies lightly veiled with democracy, ballotocracies, nepotism, the world’s spinning towards autocracy, and all other vices of society, meritocracy seems like the only way of bringing at least partial justice upon this world. Since the capitalist structures are ossified within the nuclei of societies, giving most to the one who sets the most effort seems like the right move to make. However, this definition is a simplified representation of meritocracy that leaves factors such as socioeconomic background, race, or citizenships status out of the equation. Meritocracy comforts us as we work day and night, and as we question whether we are doing the right thing. However, in essence, it is more demanding than comforting. Succeeding in a meritocratic system requires an early awareness about competition and sacrifice; about stark realities of life. It requires an early maturation, to compete in the race, you must pay an entrance fee of dreams, magic, and childhood. In the world of meritocracy, nothing is coincidental, nothing is a mysterious output of the math of the universe. Everything is calculated. Nobody crown you for you entered the city from a specific door at a specific time of the day, nobody will deliver you a prophecy that could alter your behavior. The definition of extraordinary, in this world, is simply the best of all ordinaries; or a non-standard coexistence of many ordinarinesses. In such a world, to ensure that their children have a promising future, parents feel the need to demystify the world as quickly as possible. “There’s no such thing as dragons, Tooth Fairy isn’t real ‘cuz why would anybody give you a gift for you went through a normal, biological process, and you will not receive a letter inviting you to a wizarding school.” I must confess that thi tirade is mostly for dramatic effect, and the real life conversations with children over myths are probably not so curt, but the message is true to life. “Okay, enough with playing video games – or reading comics – you need to get back to your homework now.” means the exact same thing. When you ask parents, they will probably defend themselves by saying that real life contains little magic, if any, and they scorn their kids to protect them from being scorned and humiliated by a boss or a superior in the future. They will say that believing in uncertainties and unknowns may result in laziness, indecisiveness, and it will cause a constant search with no known end, and an eternal dissatisfaction.
In Forrest Carter’s semi-autobiographical novel The Education of Little Tree, a Native grandpa and his grandson give a pair of moccasins to a poor little girl. But when her father sees them, he first beats the girl with a tree branch, then throws the slippers away, and says that they don’t accept charities, especially from barbarians. The protagonist of the book, a young Native boy called Little Tree, asks grandpa why the girl’s father did that, and the grandpa says he once saw a man like him who beat his little girls for looking at a Sears Roebuck catalogue. “The man then went behind the warren, burned the catalogue, and cried.” grandpa says. He adds that they do this to teach them not to love things they cannot possess. The contemporary methods are more civilized for sure, but the mentality of modern parenting has this approach in its core. It is ironical to see that the parents of second millenia are obsessed with protecting their children from harm, danger, and even heart break by not teaching them how to bravely face these hazards but by building walls around them. Protective, concrete, real. This is not the most logical course to pursue, but I have to admit that it is reflexive. Postmodern humans innately know that we are living in a limbo. They also want things to change. Badly. But, they don’t want neither themselves nor their children to lead it. It is risky.
In Defense of the Extraordinary
Believing in the extraordinary and acting upon that belief seems vain, dangerous, quixotic. As Plato’s cave allegory demonstrates, meeting the unbelievable alone is a mishap for people retreat to the safe arms of conformity bias when they meet an uncanny reality, a different truth, and the unbelievable does not like crowds. So the discovery of the unknown, a new truth comes with a price of ostracization, alienation, or being declared a misfit.
But when the uncanny truth is finally proven, appropriated by a larger mass, the believers cease to be seen as delusional. They become real visionaries, titles in motivational literature, and the courage they showed by believing in the unbelievable is applauded with great zeal. Everyone loves this latter part, but not as much to bear with the former for the sake of it. Because of the other side of the medallion, the “Told you so.” story, the nonexistence of the extraordinary. So, why should we believe in the extraordinary if it may fail us? If it can betray our belief and commitment, if it is so unfit for this world, if we could be labeled a fool because of it?
Because knowledge constitutes of knowing what something is, and what it is not; how it is constructed, and how it is not, why a phenomenon occurs in a specific way and not some other… In short, knowledge is a product of contradictions, negations, uncompromising realities, and rarely revelations. But the word ‘knowledge’ carries connotations of exactness, so you have every right to ask; “Is this the only function of the extraordinary? To solidify the exact, to make it complete?”No. It also serves to save you from the exact. In the information age, the unknown seems like the purgatory, however, embraced the right way, the unknown can lead you to discover, create, connect, and belong. But we’ll dive into that later.