A Zillion Words Ago, UFOs, Ghosts, and Tea Leaves

January 4, 2009

First, I want to touch on a topic I wrote about in October. Yesterday, January 3, 2009, marked the 24th anniversary of the day a very green and nervous out-of-work concrete-mixer-driver stepped hesitantly into the rickety, dirty confines of the old Gettysburg Times building and became a reporter.

That was me.

I figured I might last long enough for warm weather to arrive and then go on out to the local concrete plant and get a job doing something I knew something about.

Two dozen years later, I’m still at it, and sometimes still wondering if I know what I’m doing. I do know that usually, driving a mixer-truck would be less stressful, but not as interesting. Considering the state of the newspaper industry right now, I must point out that Gen. George Armstrong Custer was in trouble at Little Big Horn. But he wasn’t bored.

And, well, here I am, in an industry that sort of feels like I’ve got a penthouse suite at the Towering Inferno, rack and ruin and uncertainty on every side.

As one of the resident “Chicken Little” and “Well, back in MY day” residents of the newsroom, I stunned myself by giving a pep talk to one of our whippersnappers.

Our newsroom is now filled with children of 30 or younger. I keep looking for Captain Kangaroo.

I told her that I wish I was 30 again, because the next five years are going to be really ugly in our business, but what she and I do isn’t really any different than it was when geezers like me were hammering stories out on manual typewriters.

My colleague Alan Hayakawa, who retired last week, sent out a farewell message. Part of it goes like this:

The keyboards have changed several times since then, but the work we do is very much the same. We’re the eyes, the ears, the voice and sometimes the conscience of our communities.

That won’t change as long as we can continue, whether we publish on paper, on computer screens or by projecting stories and pictures onto the clouds

I really hope I get to see what’s on the other side of all this mayhem, because I like what I do, and, dammit, it’s still the most fun I’ve ever had with my clothes on.

OK, enough of that.

I tucked away a piece I found on the Business Wire Dec. 10 that piqued my interest.

“More Americans Believe in the Devil, Hell and Angels than in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution,” the headline said.

OK, I can understand that. After all, it’s a lot easier to just buy all that creationism stuff than it is to understand enough about basic biology to understand how evolution works. And most of us have a really hard time picturing the huge blocks of time required in order to get the whole “changes in organisms over time” thing. In a culture where getting to the pick-up window at Mickey D’s seems to take an eternity, the hundreds of millions of years it took, say, for dinosaurs to become birds, is a stretch. I understand that perfectly: Sometimes the space between paychecks feels like a day of Eternity.

I don’t really have that much of a problem with religious belief per se. Every religion has its whacko quotient, but on the whole, the mainstream faiths are benevolent belief systems and, as Elton John and John Lennon once sang, it’s “whatever gets you through the night.”

But what gets me is that “substantial minorities believe in ghosts, UFOs, witches….and the belief that they themselves were once other people,” the story reported.

All these figures came from a Harris Poll in which more than 2000 adults were surveyed online between Nov. 10 and 17.

Creationism – which you may recall has been thoroughly debunked as religion dressed up as a patchwork of phonied-up science – is accepted by 40 percent of those polled, only slightly lower, at 47 percent, of those who believe in the theory of evolution first proposed by Darwin.

Critics of evolution, having little in the way of valid arguments, are fond of saying of it that it’s “only a theory,” as though that carries a lot of weight. Gravity is only a theory, too. So, go jump out of a window. I’m sure you’ll be just fine.

Both those figures, by the way, are only slightly higher than the percentage of people who accept the idea of UFOs (36) and reincarnation (24). Catholics are more likely to believe in ghosts than Protestants (57 percent vs. 41 percent,) and more likely to believe in evolution (52 vs. 32 percent.)

I have no idea what that means, other than being evidence of a fair amount of ignorance.

For example: “…only 26% of all adults believe that the Torah is the word of God, even though it is the same as the first five books of the Old Testament. Presumably many people do not know this.”

(BTW: If you’re interested and into this sort of thing, the full data tables and methodology for the survey are available at http://www.harrisinteractive.com.)

Well, I’ve got to sign off; I have to plan my work schedule for next week. I wonder what’s going to happen. Maybe I should roll some dice, or read some tea leaves.

© 2009 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
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