Monday, October 4, 2010

Six O'Clock News

Honey Jones, cute female announcer on the six-o'clock news:

"Today scientists announced that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves." Video clip plays. Scientist in white coat standing in laboratory being interviewed.

"Dr. Jonas Sulk heads a team of scientists here at the Quantum Underground Essential Elements Research laboratory in Whiteout, Alaska. Dr. Sulk, what can you tell us about this breakthrough?"

"Our research here has led to conclusive evidence that reality, what we have until now thought of as external, concrete, empirical reality outside of ourselves, simply does not exist. We think. We dream. We shape our reality with our thoughts and desires and fears. Our work here has demonstrated that's the totality of our existence. Make of that what you will."

"What does this mean for us, Doctor? How do you think this will affect people?"

"Beats me. Go ask your philosophers. Better yet, ask your science fiction writers. If anyone has a clue, it might be them. Me, I've got to go shut down a cyclotron and clean up about two hundred slides."

Shot of anonymous university building. Honey Jones: "We found Dr. Hans Whitman at the city university's philosophy department. Conveniently, he was visiting with a colleague, Friar Milt Schwartz, when we asked for an interview."

Shot of academic in tweeds with arm patches and wool tie. "Dr. Whitman, what do you have to say about today's announcement by the QUEER Institute?"

"Well, Honey, we're still looking at the evidence, but it appears cut and dried. Our physicists here tell us it's irrefutable. So Dr. Schwartz and I have been talking over the implications. It's too early to issue any real public announcement about this, but I can tell you we're all pretty rattled by this development. It completely undermines our model of what's real and what's not, and therefore the value systems we are used to working with."

Friar Schwartz broke in. "Hans, wait. I can't agree with that. Look at it this way, Honey. You're sitting in a chair, right? Holding a microphone? Probably just like you did before this announcement?"

Honey: "Uh…yeah."

Friar Schwartz: "Does the chair or the microphone seem different to you now?"

Honey: "Um …I guess not. Not really."

Friar Schwartz: "So there you are. Our reality, or our _sense_ of reality, hasn't changed. Concrete or dream, it's all the same."

Dr. Whitman: "Milt, you're trampling my territory there, don't you think? I mean, that's a philosophical proposition."

Friar Schwartz: "C'mon Hans. Am I wrong?"

Dr. Whitman: "Well …no, I suppose you're right. But it's obvious, isn't it. Almost an apriori statement. A chair is a chair because it's a chair."

Friar Schwartz: "Yes, and …?"

Dr. Whitman: "Nothing. Nothing."

Honey: "Dr. Schwartz? Or is it Friar Schwartz? Or Father?"

Friar Schwartz: "Doctor is okay. I have a doctorate degree, just like Hans here."

Honey: "Okay. So how does this affect your, uh, practice, or teaching, or ... you know, whatever you do?"

Friar Schwartz: "Oh, it doesn't change anything. I teach and write about the human spirit and our relationship with God and ... like that. I can't imagine any of that changing."

Honey: "But …if everything we experience is a dream …I mean, does that mean God is a dream? Or part of our dream?"

Dr. Whitman: "Exactly. See, Milt, that's what I was trying to tell you before these folk showed up. Honey. You put it rather simply, but effectively that was what I was trying to get Milt here to consider."

Friar Schwartz: "Hans. It makes no difference, don't you see?. I mean, how concrete did we think God was before this announcement? He's not a dream, he's not physical the way we are - or were, excuse me - He's way beyond all of those definitions. My work continues as usual."

Cut to new face behind a desk: a haggard, middle aged professional who needs a haircut. Honey: "This is Dr. Larry Littleman, a psychologist at the Center for the Mentally Challenged, located here in our city. Dr. Littleman, would you care to comment on this morning's announcement by the QUEER Institute? About how nothing's really real anymore?"

Camera holds on Littleman's face for a long time as he says nothing and appears to grow more and more distressed. His clenched hands begin to shake. Finally, "Uh. Well. Uh. You know. It's changed some things around here. We're, uh .…We're, uh, considering it. That's all. Some people here are a little, uh, uncomfortable with this. I can't really talk about it."

Honey: "But sir, how is it affecting your patients?"

Littleman (increasingly nervous): "About the same as it's affecting the staff, I guess. We're …surprised. And a little ...." (There is the sound of a long scream in the background. Camera shakes.)

Cut away to Honey at news desk. "There you have it. People may have differences of opinion, but it looks like life goes on pretty much as it has. Some people, it seems, don't seem to be taking it very well. How does this announcement affect you? Drop by our web site and leave us a comment. This is Honey Jones for The News That's New. Now here’s Tom with the weather."


  1. The names in this are perfect, and you have several great lines. I'd hate to have to think about this as reality, (such as reality is) - I'd be sure to have a headache. :)

  2. "How does this announcement affect you? Drop by our web site and leave us a comment." Awesome line, saying so much about our culture. I love this piece, asking an age-old question that many people either ignore or choose to ignore the implications of the possible answer. I'm surprised the philosophers didn't pull the epistemological rug out from under the physicists. Glad to see the theologian is doing his job keeping God beyond both becoming AND being. Lol!

  3. Great comments, both of you. Thanks much! Nothing quite as fun as making fun of the way we insist on interpreting reality according to our own individual terms and wishes and expectations. I think I'd have to be Vonnegut to do justice to the subject.

  4. Life basically goes on the same. Everything will change for many scientists and philosophers, but for most everyone else, what's different? Good story.

  5. The biggest news ever is treated as just another newsstory. Frighteningly true> Nothing really affects anything else and life goes on as normal. Whatever normal is.

  6. Eric and Rachel, thanks much. We will not let anything rock our "reality" boat.

  7. Do I spy a Bill Hicks reference? Great story.

  8. Now I have to check out Bill Hicks. Probably a good thing. Thanks for reading, placebythefire.

  9. Mike, I got here via Valerie, and enjoyed the piece. I feel it needs to be read somewhere that people will think it really IS factual, then it's really alot of fun. Knowing it's fiction you of course read it very differently - but as I am astranger to your blog I wasn't sure there for a bit


  10. ashfeldt: I'm tickled to think there might have been a moment when you considered it a "real" newscast. You're right, of course, context makes a difference. Now if I can find someone to do this on the six-o'clock news for me as performance art ...