Mediums are full of it

I got drawn into a discussion the other day about whether of not mediums really could talk to dead people. My conversational opponent had a few anecdotal accounts which, they claimed, resisted any other explanation. “How could she have known about her Grandmother?” As I reflected on the matter, I found it easiest to refute the existence of true mediums by simply imagining what the world would be like if mediums really could talk to the dead.

Let’s Pretend

Let’s just imagine how amazing it would be if someone actually could communicate with dead people. First of all, mediums would be star witnesses in courtrooms around the world. Victims of murders, accidents, and all sorts of sticky situations could come to give their own accounts of what happened. Specific details of how crimes unfolded would be readily available, if only we could ask the victims who were there. Think how famous trials such as OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony, or Jodi Arias could have changed with testimony from the victims.

In addition to trials, police investigations would be powered by medium resonances everywhere. Mysterious circumstances like the death of Heath Ledger, or disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, would be easily solved. Reports given by these medium interactions could be easily validated and confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt.

Historians and mediums would go hand-in-hand. What better way to solve mysteries, find lost treasures, and understand the way of past cultures than to speak to them directly? Historians would have way to find artifacts and receive detailed explanations of how they worked. Ancient languages could be studied through these interactions, and even learned. Eye-witness accounts to all sorts of amazing historical events could be summoned easily and documented, compared to archaeological evidences, and verified.

No wedding or funeral would be complete without mediums present to allow loved ones to stand in attendance. Funerals would be lifted by highly-personalized goodbyes from the actual dead person to their bereaved family. Lost grandparents, parents, or brothers and sisters could attend weddings and other important family events, delivering their own speeches and touching reflections through the medium.

And of course, by now we would have amazingly detailed accounts of what “the other side” is really like. What does it mean to die, and what is the afterlife these spirits occupy? Any resonance from the other world would be able to give details and information, any of which would be absolute gold.

The Most Important Career

It seems that almost no avenue of human life would be complete without access to the dead. Politicians could consult famous predecessors, military ground troops could use intelligence from captured and killed comrades, scientists and mathematicians could consult long lost personalities for insight (Fermat’s last theorem, for instance). Religious groups could actually commune with their ancient prophets and influential thinkers.

If medium accounts could be confirmed, as would be easy to do in any of the above examples if their talent was genuine, then mediums would be the most important and the most valuable members of any human society.

It seems strange they are instead relegated to sideshows in vegas, and rely on silly anecdotes and small shapeless stories to establish their veracity.

Or maybe, they just aren’t real.

What Came First: Chicken or the Egg?

I do not mean this as a metaphor or allegory. I mean it literally, because I have never understood why this paradox remains unsolved. Is not the answer is obvious?

The EGG.

Chickens have been around for about 12,000 years, and eggs predate their species by hundreds of millions of years. Eggs existed way before there was anything like a chicken.

That is not what we meant…

Perhaps you mean, “what came first, the chicken or the chicken-egg?”

In that case, I suppose it is slightly more confusing, but still easy to answer with a little insight from evolutionary biology:

The CHICKEN.

We know a thing or two about how mutation occurs in species: during the early formation of the embryo, as chromosomes are copied from the mother’s egg and the father’s sperm, errors can occur resulting in genetic mutations, or evolutions. Although the transitional lineage of animals is perfectly smooth, for the sake of argument we can suppose there is a genetic definition of what constitutes “a chicken” as compared to a “pre-chicken.”

Clearly, then, it must be within the egg of a pre-chicken that the first chicken formed, the result of an accidental mutation in copying its pre-chicken parent genes. This first chicken emerges from its pre-chicken egg, and eventually comes to lay the very first chicken egg. Thus, the chicken came before the chicken egg.

Of course this whole rant is pointless, the paradox is not meant to be literally examined. It is a silly way of saying, “a circle as no beginning.” But still, for the pedantic nerds among us, the matter is settled. Boom: headshot.

Dumbledore was kind of a dick

I know the Harry Potter train is so long gone, most of us can’t even see the back of it.  An unexpected series of events, however, lead me to recall and old frustration I had with this impressive character, so I figured a short rant was in order.

Recall the Story

Near the end of the fourth book, there was a crucial moment between Harry and Dumbledore, one that caused much speculation when the text was first published.  Harry returns from the graveyard, tortured and beaten, having witnessed the rebirth of the Dark Lord.  As he recounts the tale for Sirius and Dumbledore, he tells them that his own blood was used in the regeneration.  At that moment there is a “look of triumph” on Dumbledore’s face, but he makes no further comment.

Dumbledore

It is not until the finale sequence of the series that we discover what information Dumbledore gleaned at that moment, that evaded the rest of us: upon taking in Harry’s blood into himself, Voldemort “re-doubled the connection between them,” and ensured that his living body kept Harry’s mother’s sacrifice alive.  This double connection ensured that, when Voldemort fired the killing curse at Harry in that lonely forest in book 7, Harry did not die.  The unintentional 7th horcrux that had lived inside him was blasted away, but Voldemort’s living body ensured that Harry would survive again.  So he did.

The Greater Good

Nobody seems to call attention to what this admission really means.  Had Voldemort not used Harry’s blood, the killing curse would have finished the full job: Harry and the 7th horcrux would be gone.

But wait right there.  Are we to suppose that Dumbledore anticipated this sequence of events?  Had he known 13 years earlier as he laid out his “plan” for Harry’s protection, that this double-bond would eventually be formed?  It seems not, from the triumphant look he lets slip in the fourth book.  The meaning of this is simple: for the first 13 years of Harry’s life, Dumbledore’s full intention was to train him up, and send him to die, just like he told Snape.  He never meant for Harry to survive, because as long as he did, Voldemort’s immorality was ensured.  He planned to one day sacrifice Harry for the greater good, a motivation that had lead him astray even in his youth.

It seems to be serendipitous that his plan was able to manage a last-minute rewrite, and for the last three books only, was the possibility of Harry’s survival even an option.

Pool Severus

Another victim to run afoul of Dumbledore’s plans for the greater good is the tragic double-agent Snape.  We discover in the dreamy-rendition of King’s Cross, as Harry encounters Dumbledore, that it was part of his plan all along for the elder wand to fall to Snape’s hands.

The plan would have meant the elder wand lost its great (and terrible) power: having never been really defeated (Dumbledore’s murder having been pre-arranged and even pleaded for), Dumbledore’s old wand would have seized to be the elder wand, and become merely a wand like any other.

It seems unfathomable, however, that Dumbledore would not have understood the implications of this decision.  Indeed he shows every sign of guilt in the story for Snape dying in the manner he did.  Voldemort was inevitably going to seek out Snape to claim the wand as his own.  Once again, Dumbledore was more concerned with servicing the greater good: terminating the power of a deadly object.  This was a much greater priority for him than the inevitable horror it would summon upon his supposed friend.  The backfire in the plan was only that Malfoy ended up as the owner of the wand, and therefore its powers were not broken.  This was not enough to save Snape, although it does not seem like saving him was every Dumbledore’s purpose.

The Bottom Line

The books and character accounts make it clear that Dumbledore is supposed to be a character of immense good, and his darker undertones are portrayed only as fleeting traits from his youth, and sore but benign temptations for power, all of which he was able to keep in check nearly all of his adult life.

This polished account seems to glosses over the sticky fact that Dumbledore actually remained dedicated to the greater good, at the expense of many other characters, throughout the novel.  In my mind, this makes him much more like the other “imperfect heros” of the story, from the obvious Snape who is evil as well as loyal — or Ron, who abandons his friends — or even Harry himself, who was drawn to the dark arts twice, in books 5 and 7 (not counting an unintentional third time in book 6).  These other imperfect heros stumble through their role, combating their personality and passions.  Dumbledore is of a different mold, because his wickedness is as premeditated as they come, and his lies more tightly wrapped still.

Or, in a sentence, Dumbledore was kind of a dick.