This past summer and into the fall I have been spending much of my spare time building a cabin in the woods a short drive from my home here in remote Labrador. I’ve had a lot of help from friends and family and things are going well. I’ve also spent a lot of time working alone and I have enjoyed the time, working in solitude.
It’s easy to get lost in thoughts when you’re miles from anywhere and anyone. When the task at hand is relatively simple and repetitious it’s very easy. That’s when reality comes and gives you a swat to remind you it’s there. In my case reality’s swat came in the form of the head of a 22 oz. framing hammer coming down hard on my thumb as I was nailing sheets of plywood to my roof. The resulting string of profanities would have made an Australian sailor blush.
So I leaned back and waited for the throbbing to go away. And I got lost in thought again. Minutes ago I had been musing to myself about how great it was that I was building a little safe place for my family away from the stupidity of the world. A place free of woo and pseudoscience (except maybe for a few good campfire ghost stories). We were going to set up our telescope and take advantage of the excellent seeing and sit back and watch the frequent appearances of the Aurora.
Then I woke up out of my daydream. Did I really want to run away from the world? Was I feeling that fed up with my species? Yeah, pretty much. The news hasn’t been good. The constant bombardment of Anti-vaccine lunatics, TV psychics, young-earth-creationists, and emails selling me homeopathic pills promising everything from a cancer-free future to giving me a bigger penis had left me burnt out. How do you compete? How do you cope?
But I wasn’t competing or coping. I was withdrawing. I was surrendering. For the last few years I’d let myself get into a rut. I’d contented myself thinking what a great skeptic I was; I listened to the SGU and Point of Inquiry every week AND I read all of Michael Shermer’s books and look at that! A hardcover edition of “Demon Haunted World”! That’s some skeptical cred right there. And, yeah, I applied it to my life. If I got sick I took science-based treatments. I never put any weird crap in my car engine. Even in my darkest moments I never sought the help of some psychic charlatan. But I’d been keeping all of that to myself. With the exception of passing on tidbits of science and critical thinking on to my wonderful and inquisitive step-daughter I’d given up on spreading the word.
Now I want to spread the word. I want to put some of my thoughts and research down in a public forum and invite all kinds of dialogue. I am outing myself again as a skeptic.
So here I am writing a blog. It doesn’t seem like much but it is a start. It’s a start for me reaching out. Reaching out to the skeptical community at large but in particular to those of us who live in remote or rural areas who don’t have access to the amenities of a major centre where we can attend lectures or have big pub-style skeptical meetings. In more than one sense, we are the Voices in the Wilderness. Let’s stick together.