Under the Microscope: It’s A Mystery

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
– Albert Einstein

Under the Microscope
by Glynn Wilson

My favorite answer to just about any political, social or technological question these days is: “It’s a mystery.”

When it concerns the workings of computers and the Internet, it’s “a dang old dot dot dot mystery.”

Life is full of mysteries. Love them or hate them, you can’t avoid them.

There are things we can know; things we can’t.

For a journalist or a scientist, even a social scientist, this can be infuriating.

But you learn to live with it.

One of the things we humans do to deal with all the mysteries of life is to turn for answers to literature, movies or music. Some people turn to tabloids and soap operas. But they are not worth considering in this discussion.

One of my favorite lines from one of the most interesting Hollywood movies of the past decade or so is from Shakespeare In Love.

Yes, I know, it’s not based entirely on the historical record. In other words, it’s at least part fiction.

But there is a recurring line in the movie that is worth remembering for what it says about how life works.

Before the stuttering master of ceremonies manages to overcome his verbal handicap and issue a grand introduction to the first performance of Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare asks the director back stage how things will possibly work in the end.

“I don’t know,” the director says. “It’s a mystery.”

Same when the young male actor who is supposed to play Juliet has a dramatic adolescent voice change on opening day.

Of course Gwyneth Paltrow, playing Viola, saves the day, since she is secretly in love with Will and has read every line.

“It’s a mystery.”

Art, like science and life, sometimes works out in the end. Maybe sometimes it doesn’t.

Here’s another divergence on this exploration of how life works.

I’m wondering: Do Rockers from the 1960s and 1970s have it best?

By that I mean this: Was that time such an interesting window in history that it was the zenith of personal freedom and individual creativity? Will we ever be able to capture something like that again in our life times? Or is it gone forever? Is it only available now in secret basement rooms where someone saved the vinyl copy of the “record album” and a turntable to play it on?

At least with the Net and Web, it is possible to explore a subject such as this – with a search engine – and find out something you didn’t notice when it occurred.

Does anyone remember a Bob Seger album from 1995 called It’s a Mystery?

It totally escaped me at the time, probably because I was totally engrossed in doing the research for my Master’s thesis at the University of Alabama. Here are a few of the key lyrics to know what ole Bob Seger was thinking about.

It’s a mystery
How the heart beats
How the sun shines
How our eyes meet

It’s a wonder
How we keep from
Sinking under

All the nonsense
Set before us
Supposed to shock us
But it bores us

All the ennui
All the replays
All the rewrites
All the “can’t says”

And through it all
We dance and starve and
Burn and clear

It’s a mystery
How they con us
How they sneak til
They’re upon us

All the anchors
With their helmets
Getting ratings
With their zealots

All the pundits
All the salesmen
Selling snake oil
To the nation

It’s a mystery

Indeed. Even Seger was fed up with lying politicians, sensationalist broadcasters and polluting industries. Some of his biggest fans, even musicians, probably call themselves “conservatives” today and vote for Republicans like Bush for president. Obviously they don’t get it.

Here are a few mysteries I sometimes think about – whether I want to or not. Perhaps you wonder too. If you find any answers, please e-mail or post a comment and let all our readers know.

Why is it that some news stories “get legs” and tons of airplay, and others don’t?

I’ve been in and around the news business for almost 30 years and sometimes still don’t get it.

Is the paternity of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby or Britany Spears’ shaved head and rehab experience really that much more interesting than Natalie Maines’ musical fight with Bush and miraculous comeback?

I mean the Dixie Chicks’ lead singer was blackballed by the Nashville establishment and Clear Channel one day for an honest, overseas comment about Bush and the Iraq war, a comment which has stood the test of time. Three years later she makes a major grammy comeback with the album “Taking The Long Way,” featuring the lines I like most: “I’m not ready to make nice. I’m not ready to back down.”

It’s sends chills up my spine every time I hear it – the louder the better.

Here’s another one. How can someone who obviously loves nature and works to protect little parts of the earth for the birds possibly vote for corporate Republicans like Bush?

There is no such thing you say? Wrong. You can still get in a fight on a birding listserv – or in a bar in places like Alabama and Arkansas – by criticizing Bush. Most of the rest of the country and the world now realize how bad a president Bush is, but not around here…

Let’s think about this.

Just a few short months back, a lot of people, especially in Alabama and Arkansas, never knew there was a such thing as a gay Republican. Little did they know there was an entire caucus of them in Washington called “The Log Cabin Republicans,” or that the Bush White House had several closeted gay preachers giving the White House advice on a regular basis.

Remember Pastor Ted Haggard, who ran one of the largest churches in the country, the New Life Church in Colorado Springs?

So much for the Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage.

It’s a mystery.

One last mystery, most likely the most important in the news today.

Almost two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Bush administration’s massive program of spying on Americans unconstitutional. It continued anyway.

Then, a few months ago, Congress supposedly forced the administration to start submitting information to the FISA court about secret investigations going on domestically. Yet the secret spying continued.

Just the other day, an internal report from the Justice Department said the FBI engaged in widespread and serious misuse of its authority in illegally gathering telephone, e-mail and financial records of Americans and foreigners while hunting terrorists, according to testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

Watchdog Calls FBI Abuses Inexcusable

And in a story that was largely ignored by the national news media the other day, Homeland Security chief MIchael Chertoff was in Alabama and caught saying that a computer program analyzing computer data collected on Americans was not ‘data mining’. Right. Whatever they say it isn’t, it is, most likely.

All of these programs were authorized by President George W. Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

There are two mysteries here.

Why is all the national press corps’ attention focused on the scandal involving the political firing of eight attorneys general?

Showdown Looms Between Congress, White House

And how is it possible that Gonzales – or Bush – are still in their jobs?

Gonzales should have already been run off, going all the way back to his memo authorizing torture in not so secret and secret CIA prisons.

Bush should have already been impeached and removed from office for insisting on a war based on false intelligence and assumptions, for lying to Congress and the American people, over and over and over again.

Someone at the Washington Post finally noticed this week, but perhaps on the wrong scandal: Dan Froomkin: Indications of Obfuscation.

How many scandals will it take?

It’s a mystery.

Wake up people.