Active Disbelief

An equinox meditation

Today’s the equinox, something I noticed coming a few days ago.

As I write about in Being Pagan (specifically, the chapter on connection to pagan time), years of giving attention to the movement of ‘natural’ time becomes a kind of inherent rhythm. Look at the moon every day for a year and you will find yourself knowing what phase it is in without looking at or it thinking about it, in the same way that putting on your clothes or taking a shower become activities that no longer require conscious thought.

The lead up to the equinoxes and the solstices is always a peculiar moment for me, moments of tension leading up to a moment when that tension is something else. I’ll use another metaphor here, that of biking. When you’re riding uphill and have to downshift, you feel that the momentum you are using to turn the pedals is slipping, requiring more strength to maintain. So you downshift, and the momentum continues with less resistance. Similarly, going downhill you feel your movements no longer catch the wheel so you shift up and suddenly it catches again.

The days before these solar moments feel exactly like just before those shifts. You can feel something you are doing not clutching to the world around you, and then everything changes and you’re moving as you need to move, rather than as you previously needed to move.

So here I am, right at the very moment of that change writing this, though of course by the time you read this it will all be in the past.

I had been thinking about writing on the matter of censorship, de-platforming, and some strange things coming out about some falsehoods everyone I knew was certain were true. Maybe I still will, but I want to write about something else I was certain was a lie that turns out, oddly, isn’t.

Now perhaps you have already heard this and could look past my ignorance here. However, if you didn’t you’ll probably think this is all pretty crazy like I did.

I first heard about this really insane, unbelievable thing a few months ago. Some people I know who are a bit conspiratorial-minded mentioned it, and when they did I shook my head in disbelief and pretended I didn’t actually hear them.

Then, another person a month later referred to something similar, and I reacted the same. It also made me suspect they were all reading similar conspiracy sites, which worried me.

Then my partner mentioned it.

“No,” I said. “That’s not true.”

The thing is, he’s a deeply critical and cautious person. It really concerned me that he had fallen for something so ridiculous as this, but also concerned me that one of the most grounded people I know accepted something as truth that I didn’t.

What he and the others all told me was this: Putin uses weather manipulation to ensure clear days for national events. China has done the same, and the United Arab Emirates have also begun manipulating the weather.

This is crazy talk, of course. But then…well, fuck.

For instance, there’s this news story from the Independent on Russia’s cloud seeding efforts, this one from The Guardian about China’s, and this one on Forbes about the attempts over Dubai.

Now, while weather manipulation itself is worth multiple essays—at least one of which would be on how “crazy” animist peoples were considered to be on account of their beliefs that humans could cause rain—what’s most interesting to me here is my immediate active disbelief.

We all do this. I’ve mentioned this problem before in my piece, Ideology and Its Immune Response.

From The Forests of Arduinna
Ideology and Its Immune Response
Yesterday, I forced myself to look through an archive of thousands of screenshots I really didn’t want to see. I’ve been doing things like this a lot lately. Part of it is for research, as I’m working on a book to be published next year about the “woke” madness, its historical causes, the role of bodily alienation in its political framing, and what the l……
Read more

In particular, I noted how I had refused to even consider the increasing reports from people that the threats mentioned in that piece were actually happening. I’ve also mentioned this somewhat in regards to the many reports I was hearing from people wrongly attacked by Antifa in the United States.

It continues to fascinate me that this happens, that I immediately dismiss something as crazy because I want to believe something else instead.

We all do this, absolutely. The truth is pretty ugly sometimes, and we rarely handle it all at once.

Of course, there’s also efforts to make sure we don’t get all of the truth, or that we will dismiss those who might have truthful perspectives from being considered as potential truth-speakers. In this case I think particularly of the matter of the lab-leak hypothesis for COVID-19, and particularly how Facebook made sure that anyone mentioning it as even a possibility would not be seen in the social media feeds of others.

What’s also deeply fascinating to me is what we end up believing because other people manipulate us into doing so. If you haven’t heard, the source of the “smoking gun” that proved Trump was in secret communications with Russia has now been indicted for making false statements in investigations over the matter, and as several journalists have pointed out, the charging document details quite a bit about the actual source of these narratives—the Clinton campaign.

I initially didn’t believe the original accusations about Trump, since it sounded too perfect for the Democrats. However, it was that “smoking gun” (the supposed back-channel communication between Trump and a Russian bank) that convinced me maybe there was some truth in the matter. It turns out there wasn’t, but I seriously doubt this will actually filter through to liberal Americans for years.

Of course there’s a well-understood mechanism happening here. When you tell people one thing that outrages them, and then later tell them the opposite, they will still believe the first thing for a long time. It sears in their head like an after-image of the sun, and those don’t go away so easily.

The only counter to that mechanism has its own flaws that I know intimately, because it is what I do. Rather than accepting something as truth the first time, I always approach these things with a deep measure of doubt and skepticism. That’s how I could hear multiple people telling me about weather manipulation, and then read articles about it, and even still not really fully accept that this crazy thing is something actually happening.

I think in the end this is still probably the better way. Agnostics aren’t really known for joining crusades the way true believers are, though we’re not necessarily so good at noticing everyone else just marched off to go kill unbelievers, either.

All this is to say that I’m glad particularly for this equinox and the dimming of the day. There’s a lot I need to sort through and also a lot more I need to purge from my mind, and this time of the year is particularly good for such work.