Mystic and skeptic in bed: skepticism is sometimes just an excuse

Penguins at Vine Arts Center
Ze penguins. Zey bicker. pic by Diana Rajchel

My husband is a scientist. He identifies as such. He doesn’t think there’s no such thing as spiritual experience because the numbers tell him that there probably is something along that line, somewhere. Even so, he identifies wholly as a skeptic. Most of the time we operate pretty well – his skepticism does push him to research things and he gets to feel like he’s protecting my safety by understanding what I’m doing without going about it in a paternalistic and patronizing way. Sometimes, though, he’s not really being skeptical – he’s just being inert.

Such as my latest adventure. I got my hands on a DVD labeled “yoga for your eyes.” If it does make outrageous claims about perfecting your vision, I can’t read it because I think it’s printed in Afrikaans. The reason it got my attention at all is because a few years ago I watched an interview with a 108 year old woman who actually got herself off of wearing glasses at all after she discovered some eye exercise book in her public library. ((She also figured she was alive because God forgot about her. Personally, given how pissed she was, I think maybe her God was just afraid of the earful she was going to give when he finally did show up.))

My husband and I are both terribly nearsighted. We both have astigmatism. While corrective lenses and surgery are definitely options to us, I thought this might be well worth exploring. We have plenty of options without yoga.

Even so, I’ve watched the exercises and it doesn’t seem like I’m likely to hurt myself. In fact, I might even relieve the eyestrain I frequently give myself on days I don’t take enough breaks from my computer. And if I think something has changed, I can go to my optometrist and get an objective measure of whether or not my eyesight has improved. I know I can’t correct the astigmatism without surgery, so I’ll never get 100% – but slowing down the need to hold a book two inches from my face with my glasses off might be kind of nice.

The subtext of the conversation with my husband is a regular one I’ve had over the years with other skeptics, and it’s one of the reasons I get so impatient with them:

A lot of them insist because something might not work, there’s no reason to try it. This can come from fear of failure, or from fear of being wrong. This does not include situations where skeptics, doing their jobs, have actually proven whether something does or doesn’t work. This is stuff where it’s all inconclusive.

My husband isn’t quite on the fauxhemian/douchetastic/hipsteresque bandwagon where people “cynic” themselves into non-motion. But this particular argument suggests he’s been infected by too many people that do think it’s better not to try at all.

Scientists rely on failure. It’s actually part of the query process: you try stuff, and most of it just doesn’t work. So you keep trying stuff, until something does. It’s the same way with serious and intelligent mystics: not everything you try is going to work. But just because it’s in an arena other than science, the damned skeptics get all upset – maybe it’s because if the stuff we do works, they’re going to have to go back and do more science experiments and fail at a bunch of stuff to figure out why.

Not trying something that won’t hurt you just because it might not work is, in my mind, a shameful heap of bullshit. By golly I am going to try it. If it doesn’t work, I can’t see myself being particularly upset – I’m in a position where I do have other options for my vision health anyway.

For heaven’s sake Mike, it’s not like they’re asking me to poke out my eye!