The Flat World
R: The world is not flat. It’s simply a fact.
I: What’s a fact?
R: Observable phenomena.
I: I haven’t observed it.
R: I could show you. There are pictures from space; airplanes base their trajectories on it; the day itself is based on the rotation of our round world.
I: Well, maybe I’d believe you if I saw it, but I haven’t. Why is it so important to you?
R: It’s a fact!
I: But it’s important that the world is round because it’s a part of your worldview and to call that into question is threatening to your worldview.
R: If we can’t start with facts, we can’t have a discussion.
I: Can you consider why the world’s being flat might possibly be important to me?
R: Well, I suppose there may be some comfortable myths based on a flat world.
I: Yeah? Invent one.
R: Invent one? Okay, let’s see. Once, a great leader named Idios walked to the edge of the world.
I: Aha! See? Right away, you get to the most interesting part of the flat world: the edge.
R: The edge? Why is that so interesting?
I: Because it’s true. There is an edge to the world, a precipice beyond which we cannot go, beyond which lies a great, mysterious chasm of eternity.
R: Are you talking about death?
R: What do you mean “sure”? Don’t you know what you’re saying?
I: Death fits well. So do other things. I’m talking about the edge of the flat world, which is a truth, though not what you’d call a fact since you’ve never observed it.
R: Okay. I see what you’re getting at. The flat world is a story you’d prefer.
R: Still. I believe in rationality, and I can’t really believe any other approach to the world.
I: You’re going to have to. Your own sciences are discovering quantum physics and other such theories of the way the universe functions, all of which are pretty irrational. Like that famous thought experiment, Schroedinger’s cat? The cat is both alive and dead at the same time? I mean, c’mon, there are limits to rationality.
R: Still, as a teacher, I need to employ rationality as a yardstick. I am trying to prepare my students for citizenship in this country and world, and without abilities to reason and rationalize, they won’t survive.
I: Well, they may survive; they just won’t necessarily gain power.
R: Right. My job is to empower students and if they refuse to learn the norms of Cartesian philosophy upon which this society is based, they will not be empowered.
I: Well, empowered in the sense of having a position of power in society? You’re right. They won’t get it. But there are other things that empower people. Like love, belonging and purpose.