In the spring flood, the millrace overflowed and the dam washed out.  The millers contemplated the wreckage.

We will need to move upstream, the oldest brother said.  5 miles upstream the flow is low enough that even in a flood it won’t overtop our dam.

No, said the younger.  The flow here was low until we built the dam and the water backed up.  We need to go 10 miles upstream.

No, said the father,  it would back up there too, it is the dam itself

And here the parable breaks down.  We all know that mills and dams existed and feel sure that at some point there is an acceptable location with an acceptable level of risk.  We cannot emotionally feel the sense of unconstrained uncertainty that the parable is aiming for.  Radical uncertainty, in the literal sense of uncertainty that strikes at the very roots.

But there are areas of life that we really know that little about.  Our best guesses are still guesses.  Our country is in bad shape.  Where did we go wrong?  Some say the 60s.  But others say that everything that went wrong in the 60s was the product of conditions in the 50s.  Others say that those bad conditions in the 50s were the result of choices made in the 30s.  But things in the 30s happened the way they were for a reason too, so others go further and further  and nuttier and nuttier.  The post-Civil War, the Revolution, the Reformation . . the invention of agriculture.  OK, that’s absurd.  Agriculture, c’mon.  Are we really supposed to take seriously the argument that once agriculture was invented there would inevitably be a long process of the accumulation of surplus and therefore knowledge that would eventually accelerate into mouse utopia?  But notice that it is not the calm, weighing part of the mind that despises this belief.  It is the part that evaluates whether things are useful.

What is the moral?

It is impossible to live without revelation in this world.


Continue reading at the original source →