Tag: Rio de Janeiro

Double Virtuality

Double Virtuality posted in Eleison Comments on June 13, 2009

Most, if not all, of you know that in the early hours of June 1 an Air France jetliner with 228 souls on board fell out of the sky on its way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. An extraordinary event? Or is not the extraordinary thing rather that not all of these 100- to 150-ton monsters fall out of the sky? Has not man’s technology virtually mastered reality?

The technology of these aerial Leviathans is indeed something to be marvelled at. Every day now thousands of them all over the world defy gravity to climb six miles high and blast hundreds of passengers at a time over mountain ranges, across vast oceans, from continent to continent, mostly in complete safety. The crashes always make headlines in the media, but they are so rare when compared with the total number of flights that the passengers may fear, but never think, that they will crash.

So with confidence they step into the monsters’ bellies at the airport of departure, stepping off earth and its real time-zones into the virtual world of soothing sounds, plastic meals and – virtuality within virtuality – “in-flight entertainment,” meaning, more and more, your own selection of movies in your own seat. Wrapped in this cosy cocoon of all-embracing technology, one has, normally, only the plane’s occasional shudder or change of its engines’ pitch to remind one that there is outside, starting only a few feet away, a potentially deadly reality, not always perfectly tamed . . .

 . . .What must those last moments have been like inside the cabins of Air France # 447? Horrible to imagine! Eleven days later the exact cause of the crash is still not known. Did blocked speed sensors so confuse the fly-by-wire computers as to cause erratic changes of speed, highly dangerous on flying into turbulence? Lucky for the passengers and crew if the plane broke apart on high, so that the instant de-pressurisation will have deprived them of consciousness for the several-minute tumble through darkness down to certain death on impact with the water, which behaves in the circumstances like concrete!

Or were they unlucky? Of the 228 souls on AF 447, how many will have had the need to make a perfect act of contrition before losing consciousness? Of these, how many will have had the necessary faith and presence of mind, not overwhelmed by panic and fear, to do so? In brief, how many were ready to save their souls? Concerning the moment of death, Our Lord tells all of us, “Watch ye therefore, for you know not when the lord of the house cometh . . .lest coming on a sudden, he find you sleeping” (Mk.XIII,38). And concerning apparently random accidents he says, “Except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish” (Lk,XIII,5). Penance enough today is to live by our Faith. Still too much? Anything less is haunted by AF 447.

Kyrie eleison.

Pursuing Truth

Pursuing Truth posted in Eleison Comments on June 6, 2009

The loss of truth is a hallmark of modern times. People seem to believe either that truth does not exist (“What is truth?” asked Pontius Pilate), or that it exists but is not important, or that it exists and is important, but cannot be discovered by the human mind. Whichever way, let us eat, drink and be merry, because if falsehood is as good as truth, then wrong is as good as right, which makes me free to do as I like.

What is truth? Truth is the matching of mind and reality. There is truth in my mind when what is in my mind matches or corresponds to what is outside it, in reality. For nobody seriously believes that there is no reality outside his mind (unless he is mad), because for instance nobody whose car-engine stops does not lift the hood (or bonnet) to find out the cause. Then truth for me exists whenever what is in my mind matches external reality.

Is this truth important? Of course it is. My survival in this life depends from minute to minute on knowing what air is really breathable, from day to day on knowing what food and drink are really consumable, and my happiness for eternity depends upon knowing if God really exists, if he really is the granter of that happiness, and if he really lays down certain conditions for me to obtain it. If on any of these points there is falsehood and not truth in my mind, either I die in a few minutes, or in a few days, or I miss happiness for all eternity. Of course it matters whether what is in my mind corresponds to the reality outside it!

But can the human mind always know the truth? Indeed sometimes it cannot. But usually in pursuit of the truth, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Often if men do not find the truth, it is not because it cannot be found, but because there is not a real will to find it. Take for instance the present difficult and expensive hunt for the evidence which will tell why the French airliner crashed between Rio de Janeiro and Paris. They may or may not finally tell us the truth, but find it they will, because the safety of future flights may, as far as we know, depend on it.

Let nobody pretend that any truth could not be found when there was a way to find it. He merely demonstrates his lack of will to find it. There is a great lack of such will in what is still called “Western civilization.” That is why it is Satanic (Jn.VIII,44).

Kyrie eleison.