The Black Box has become legendary. We are always hearing about recovering it from the downed plane. The idea — applicable to modern society in general — is that somewhere, somehow we are able to recover all the facts & stats needed to learn what went wrong.
Applause. Applause. Surely it’s better to have Black Boxes in our lives rather than simply uninformed blackness. There’s the cliche: “Research is finding out what went wrong only after it goes wrong.”
Wouldn’t it be grand if humanity had something more than a Black Box to fathom more than simply the facts & stats? These are important of course, but like the fallen bricks to some ancient desert site, researchers can’t always be sure how the bricks once stood. Was this a temple or a bank? a jail or a brothel? Some cynics suggest 500 years from now our high school sites might be thought of us prisons, what with all their straight-line corridors, closed-in rooms, and metal-detectors.
To get a fuller picture, researchers at the sites need also to know something of the people. Their thoughts, their feelings, their fears, their gods. Hard not to recall another cliche: “Once we have all the facts, we have only part of the truth.” An arguable proposition which says the aficionados of Black Box thinking can only tell us so much about us. The rest [and perhaps best] about us and our doings depends on those sifting not only through the bricks, but imagining the buildings themselves.
Enter today’s other kind of researchers: philosophers, poets, novelists and composers. Is it not possible there is more to learn about our species — whether at the plane’s controls or lunching back in the cabin — from a Shakespeare or a Dostoevsky than from a dozen site-sifters?
While that question echoes, here’s a second. In this time of growing anti-government sentiment and voting, what has happened to that White Box which has sat under the American Christmas Tree sent by Washington? Ever since the 1930s New Deal, whenever opened it’s been the reason for both hope [social security, medicare, highways, drug control, food inspections, scholarships] and for derision [the new anti-hero Wisconsin Governor Walker].
Two boxes, two ways of opening them, maybe too little time to be sure how best to use their contents.
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