Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Wizard and the Priest


I do not understand electricity.

I mean, I have gathered some facts.  There is something in there about water; water and electricity don't mix.  I also learned from painful experience that just because a table knife and an electrical outlet look like they would fit together, that they are not supposed to meet (I was four, and at my grandmother's house, but it made QUITE the impression).  I know that there is something about wearing rubber-soled shoes.  I also learned the left-hand and right-hand rule in Mama Chang's high school physics class, but I am not sure exactly what it governs.

Diagnosing electrical problems, therefore, is a fascinating process for me.  Mostly, it follows the following rubric:

*flips switch*
*nothing happens*
*flips switch*
*flips switch*
*flips switch*
Me: "It must be broken."

My wife, who grew up with a dad who had electrical engineering training,
can explain to me what the real problem is with a series of pretty simple tests:

*flips switch*
*nothing happens*
*unplugs item and takes it to a different "circuit", plugs it in*
*flips switch*
*nothing happens*
Diagnosis: it is broken.

Or:
*unplugs item and takes it to a different "circuit", plugs it in*
*flips switch*
*item turns on*
Diagnosis: the "breaker" needs to be flipped.

You will notice that I put the words "circuit" and "breaker" in quotes.  These are not, I am convinced, real things.  That plug, over there, is the same exact plug as this one over there.  Plugging it in one or the other; it makes no difference.  The words "circuit" is a metaphor for a metaphysical realm that underlies all of the priesthood of electricity.

What my wife is really doing is using these words to utter incantations to appease the magician in the wall.  Sometimes that magician requires offerings of toasters and hairdriers.  Once he has absorbed the soul of the appliance, he is appeased, and he no longer sends angry lightning bolts out of the wall.  Other times, he is appeased by kneeling at his altar outside the house, praying for a brief moment, and then flipping the one switch facing the wrong way.

And when things are really broken in your relationship with the magician, you make an financial pledge/offering to the local priest and have him make offerings, invoking the spirit of the Volt.  And incantations to to the Amperess, or something.

My next door neighbor has tried the same explanation path on me.  He explains the principles of "grounding" and "DCs" and "Adapters" as we are on our walk.  At which point, I wave my hand in front of the house with the motion-sensing light.

The light comes on.

Magic.  Pure magic.

At this point, Adam just shakes his head and laughs at me.

Other things in my life use similar diagnostic tools.  My car runs on liquid offerings, and stops running when I stop making offerings (and sometimes requires a different local priest to fix my relationship there).  My computer connects to an "internet" using a "router" and an "IP".... and a bunch of hocus pocus words like that.

And other priesthoods exist.  I even know a place where shamen take dried, ground seeds and some plant matter, mixed with fermented curd and processed flesh and, using some unknowable thaumaturgic process, make the most mystical transformation to pizza.  (I worship at this synagogue quite a bit.)

Turns out that we are all priests of one variety or another.  It might be that you are a religious specialist in the realm of real estate, waste disposal, or project scheduling.  The accountants that I talk to have a royal priesthood that worships at the altar of what I think they call ERS (originally, the word was shortened from "Errors", I feel certain.) They even have a national holiday, in the Ides of April.

Even I am a priest.  I can bring any party to an early close by beginning to talk about reduction strategies of the ancient Maya knapper.  (Not a whole lot of tithing comes my way for my specialized religious knowledge.) And my knowledge of wondrous, mystical concepts like "3x3x3", "OMRR&R," and "204 projects" is of critical concern to the local sponsors with whom I work.

The job of the priest is to communicate arcane, hidden knowledge to the parishioners.  And to serve as intermediary when one is needed.  Most of the time, the information is not needed.  But when needed, the priest is called on to serve.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go answer a data call.  The high priests at my agency are asking for J sheets. I am devoted to making sure that those lightning bolts don't come out of the wall.

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