Lots of people are talking about what Donald Trump's triumph -- he looks certain to be the G.O.P. presidential nominee -- means for the future of the Republican Party, America, and the world.
To me that stuff is interesting. But I've got my philosophical sights set much higher: on what Trump's ascendancy tells us about the nature of reality.
More specifically, human reality. So far as I can tell, the rise of Trump doesn't say much about cosmology, dark energy/matter, or how quantum physics and general relativity fit into a theory of everything.
But having closely watched the Trump phenomenon unfold through my political-junkie eyes for the past however long it has been (seems like forever), I feel qualified to weigh in on its implications for our all-too-human understanding of how the world works.
(1) Life is unpredictable. Obvious statement, right? Hard to argue with. But we Homo sapiens love to believe that we've got a firm grasp on how reality will unfold. Virtually every supposed political expert confidently predicted that Trump would flame out once voters got to know him.
They were wrong. They had no idea. They were surprised by what actually happened. So were we all, pretty much. (I know I was.)
This should have been expected: that expectations were almost certainly going to be wrong. Stock market predictions; long-range weather forecasts; how well a new romantic relationship will work out -- people are crappy at predicting what will happen in the future, by and large.
Yet we keep on believing that next time, we'll get it right. Of course, we probably won't. Life's complex dynamics are way beyond the ability of the human mind to fathom. Also, computer intelligence, so far.
(2) Stories are a sorry substitute for reality. People adore stories. We love telling ourselves Daytime Stories about how the world is, and what will happen in the future. Psychologists and neuroscientists say that story-telling basically is hard-wired into human nature.
If someone says, "I probably shouldn't reveal this, but did you hear about the embarrassing thing that happened to Sophie on her honeymoon?" we're all ears! Gossip is delicious, even if we're reluctant to admit this. Further, even when happenings can't be linked into a coherent narrative, no problem.
We'll make up a story that fits what we want to hear.
"Trump is an idiot. He's a political flash in the pan. It won't take long for voters to see through his egotistical bullshit. By spring he'll have dropped out of the race." Except, it's spring, and Trump has won the freaking Republican nomination for president!
There are stories about reality. Then, there is reality. Two different things.
Because we can't know reality as it is, only as how it appears through the imperfect lens of the human mind, we like to make life more coherent than it actually is -- conjuring up stories that tell a pleasing tale about the world. Then, those damn messy facts come along, forcing us to either ignore them, or change our story to fit them.
(We should do the change-our-story thing, but the ignore-them thing is so enticing.)
(3) Nobody is in charge. Not God. Not the "establishment." Nobody. This uncomfortable conclusion fits with my first two points. Life is surprisingly unpredictable, and our stories typically are at odds with reality, because most of us assume that someone or something is purposefully guiding what's happening.
God. Destiny. Gaia. Karma. Cosmic consciousness. The Universe. Unfolding of Our Higher Nature. Whatever...
So we tend to assume that events tend toward a happy ending. Or at least, a meaningful ending. There's got to be a reason this is happening.
Um, actually, no. Who says there has to be a reason beyond the blind play of cause and effect?
Trump is on track to be the Republican nominee for President of the United States. That's a fact. There is no evidence of a Grand Design behind that fact. In fact (I love that word, fact), every other candidate who believed they were impelled or chosen by God to run for president has dropped out.
Only chaotic, profane, insulting, irritating, godless (beyond his thin religious facade) Donald Trump is still standing.
I understand the appeal of thinking that there's some ultimate purpose to his presidential candidacy -- he will insure Clinton's election, a Democratic Senate, and progressive Supreme Court nominations, praise Tao! However, there's no evidence of anyone or anything propelling the 2016 presidential election in any particular direction.
Life just happens. What is, is.
Just because those words can fit on a bumper sticker doesn't mean they aren't true.