December 2004 -- I have grown to think that life is a cosmic whack-a-mole game, where we are the moles and reality is the whackor. We make subterranean thought tunnels, mazes of connections, deep caverns of speculation, but sooner or later we must stick our heads up out of a hole. Reality whacks us or it does not, depending on whether our conclusions are right or wrong. If we do not get whacked, we should continue to enjoy the sunshine of being right. If we do get whacked, we should retreat to our tunnels, recompute our plans, and stick our heads up again. We should not assume that a whack is a moral judgment—it is only the result of an error. We should not resign ourselves to life in darkness. Being wrong is a human condition, not a cosmic judgment. We must always stick our heads out because how else can Charles Tomlinsonwe discover the judgment of reality? We learn by observing the effect of reality on our actions. Is it a good idea to pick a fight with the big guy? Whack! Does she lust for me? Whack! There is no need to think about the possible reaction to this proposal. Whack! Is this a good way to make money? Whack! No need to think about anything. Whack! Whack! Whack!

I know some moles who, having gotten whacked a time or two, decide to stay underground forever. They make huge villages of connecting tunnels, smoothing the walls, installing all of the latest philosophical plumbing, and send other moles up the holes to see if they get whacked. I know some moles who never change holes. They get whacked by reality but do not understand it, so they continue to stick their heads up the same hole and get whacked again and again. There are a few moles that are so fearful of being wrong that they never stick their heads up and eventually lose the ability to see the sun. Some moles enthusiastically stick their heads up, sure that reality will affirm their proposition. Sometimes they get whacked, but they go to plan B and, with verve, stick their heads up again. Some moles are very tentative and peer hopefully up the hole, inching their heads out with fear and trepidation. Sometimes they get whacked and, depending on the strength of the blow, are slow to try again. Sometimes they reflect on the intensity of the whack and decide it was not so bad and become enthusiastic moles.

We must stick our heads up because that is where the sun is shining. The real world is where we must function—life in the catacombs is not real life, but an escape from life. Remember, every whack is an opportunity to learn, every wrong decision a way to test the real world. Play the game with enthusiasm!


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