Willful Acceptance of the Unbelievable

In an increasingly critical, factual and logic-based society, Samuel Colleridge introduced the phrase ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ hoping to promote intellectual legitimacy of poetic and literary works. For anyone who’s ever written an original story, produced a television series or been involved in musical theatre, the phrase offers a context in which an educated audience can enjoy unreality. Coleridge and his colleagues ushered in English romanticism. It would be interesting to see what they might make of the 21st century.

Science continues to make advances in artificial intelligence. Technology has made journeys into space available to wealthy adventurers while planning orbiting hotels. And while human knowledge continues to expand at an ever increasing rate, the number of people believing in cryptids, crashed aliens and even a flat earth are becoming mainstream despite the 20th century, existential and scientific mindset that should be an incubator to filter out the extraordinary.

An abundance of social media platforms is, in part, responsible. Anyone, anywhere can express their opinion or make a statement online, whether in chat forums, blogs or videos. People looking for answers to specific questions rely on tech support and reddit chats.

With tech giant Microsoft hiring a team that could build the most advanced and far-reaching artificial intelligence ever, echoes of Stephen Hawking mingle with warnings by Sam Altman and Elon Musk about the dangers inherent in AI development. Just how will AI interpret the plethora of inaccurate, out of date or outright false information on the web? Where the rapid access to information rests at our fingertips, critical evaluation of what we read takes time, something many people are not willing to invest when searching for a quick answer. Thus, cyber hacks thrive in a lucrative new global economy while the United States, perceived by many as the most powerful nation on earth, sees its democracy crumbling under the tyranny of extremist points of view.

Reality is Losing the War

As far back as the 1700’s, artists and philosophers began exploring human experience from a perspective beyond the stark realism of classical art. Romanticism engaged people with imagination and put emotion and intuition on equal footing with reason and structure. By the late 1800s, Darwin gave impetus back to a scientific realism in contrast with the subjective morality of romanticism. Naturalism took it all a step farther as key literary figures aimed at presenting a “slice of life,” excluding subjectivity or judgement.

Proponents of both reality and some form of extended reality continued well into the 20th century. Naturalism countered romanticism, impressionism led to post-impressionism followed by expressionism, surrealism dadaism and other movements in search of a more complete picture picture of the nature of our existence. Many of these movements may still have their proponents but are, for the most part, in the rear-view mirror. Welcome to the 21st century.

Social media has given everyone with a modicum of ambition and determination their own, personal platform. Individuality is precious and should be respected at every level. But how many different views can a society sustain and remain a society? Our political identity has been disrupted by extremism on both sides of the aisle in part due to loud voices on social media. What would a new civil war look like in a digital age? And are we already there?

Internationally, America has lost credibility as a defender of democracy. Ukraine is battling for its life as a sovereign nation. Gaza has been demonized, demolished and turned into a sickening humanitarian crisis as we stand in support of Israel and alienate much of the Middle East. A map of ongoing conflicts around the world shows more countries directly involved in conflict than those who are not. Will China invade Taiwan and expand the list? Are we already witnessing the third world war?

Even if one concedes that we are not in an active conflict, what will the advances in artificial intelligence mean for our future? Finding truth has become more difficult than the great artists of the past wrestled with. Posit a question, then search Reddit or Wikipedia to find answers. Do you trust your sources? Do you prefer Fox News or CNN? Both paint conflicting and dubious pictures of reality. Where will AI draw its information from and what will it deliver?

If these are questions you dare to confront, take a plunge into the fictitious worlds deep Inside the Gulch. Borrowing from surrealism and unabashedly given to romanticism, stories here are born from speculative considerations of such things as parallel universes, quantum realities and paranormal realms. Visit my author’s site and judge for yourself whether or not they offer insight into the human condition.

Welcome to the Gulch!

Few things are truly constants. Change, paradoxically, is one. Minds change, understanding changes, our bodies are constantly changing, and whether any of the new that has replaced the old is truly for the better or worse is a matter of subjective reflection.

In keeping with the flow of time – if not particularly fashionable to the young among us – the Gulch Gazette has changed its look. The particular focus of interest and concept remains one of challenging the limits of our finite minds. Whether looked down on by the savants among us or lost in translation to gamers and children, the hope is these pages will excite imaginations and spark ideas – even if fiction is the only realm we ever broach.