Friday, February 08, 2008

When you look for answers

I hope you have all looked at that cool video I told you about yesterday. If not do it now before reading further.

Because I want to ask you something.

If you were walking through a large space in a public building - like the departure hall of an airport or the ticket hall of a railway station - and all of a sudden you noticed that there were tens and tens of people frozen in place around you... ordinary folk who were doing ordinary things but are now suddenly looking through you blankly. And not moving.

That man there, about to take his next step, that one over there, doing up his shoelaces, that girl eating an icecream with it now dripping all over her fingers, that guy frozen as he bends to pick up some sheets of paper he dropped, that group of people looking at a map...all not moving. Several hundred people, in fact, not moving. They aren't laughing. They are just...fixed. For minute after minute.

If you were there and saw all that happen in front of you, what would you think?

Aliens have come from Alpha Centauri and stolen their souls away?
They are aliens, and have suddenly all succumbed to earth's toxins?
They are aliens and have been recalled home, so they just shucked off their borrowed bodies?
They are all good Christians/Muslims/Whatever, and God has whisked their spirits up to heaven as a mark of His favour, leaving their bodies behind ?
They have all somehow breathed in a poison - released by wicked terrorists - which has stopped their ability to move or speak?
They are an acting class sent out by the teacher to see how good they can be before an audience?
They are just a group of people having fun just for the heck of it?

Bet you'd come up with something along the lines of one of the last two explanations.

Now, if something odd happens to you - e.g. you are about to ring your dad - first time in two weeks - you reach out to pick up the phone when it rings. Lo and behold it's your dad.

You immediately think:

Wow, I'm psychic
Wow, he's psychic
Wow, we have a psychic connection
Aliens are at work
God's ways are mysterious to behold...
Not to be wondered at, seeing as I haven't rung him in two weeks...
Coincidence

So tell me, why do so many people NOT go for the logical non-magical answer with things like the phone call, when that was the kind of answer they looked for in the first scenario? (Which I deduced from listening to the sound track of the video, and from the fact that none of the normal, non-frozen people were running screaming from Grand Central Station or even punching in 911 numbers on their mobiles...)

5 comments:

jason said...

It's a fascinating question! I suspect it's because we all willing to believe in small magic, little miracles that could be true, and aren't easily disproved. However, when faced with something so utterly outside our understanding that is completely, undeniably real, the reaction would initially just be stunned disbelief. We would then grope for an explanation that lies within our understanding; as you observed, the first guesses are most likely to be real. Any kind of supernatural explanation just doesn't fit into daylight among a large crowd of people.

Actually, even if there was something really weird going on (aliens, androids, magic), I suspect most people would cling to the more mundane explanations, as that better fits into their existing worldview.

A little magic is okay, since it's harmless. Big magic would be denied due to the fear of the unknown it would inevitably engender.

Alex said...

Well.... Some people are very gullible and susceptible to illogical beliefs... :P

Jo said...

Not being much given to philosopy, I just thought it was hugely funny the way people were walking around them and looking a bit puzzled to say the least. I would have just thought, what are they all doing to stand so still. Much as I like to believe in magic and aliens when I read, the real me is much more practical

Peter said...

I think that the initial reactions would vary along the lines of culture, religion, customs, folklore etc. I would have been interesing to have the same stunt performed in many different capital cities around the world simultaneously and view the different reactions of the passers-by.
My initial reaction would have been either "stunt" or "movie set". I am not one of those people who wear aluminium foil hats.

Glenda Larke said...

Aren't people fascinating...

Another thing that intrigues me were some of the comments left on the video site - along the lines of, "Why don't you get a life, you morons".

Some people have no sense of humour, and apparently consider anything that doesn't have a tangible result (money?) to be a waste of time. Doubtless such joyless commentators never watch a movie or read a book for sheer entertainment. I'm quite sure they put fantasy writers in the same class as folk who freeze in place for no reason: morons who should be off doing "good" on the world, producing something of worth. Sigh.