XIV — The point about the Werewolf is this
The point about the Werewolf is this: a popular conversation about categories of things. One subset of that conversation is about two categories: things you can imagine and things you can’t imagine. You could spend a long time trying to imagine something you can’t, but you can’t. That’s it. There’s nothing else to say. But the other type of thing, the thing you can imagine is much more of a problem. It’s a comfort believing in the laws of physics because they generally, that is in the everyday sense, they generally fulfil our expectation and make the world a predictable place to be. In the very local and very everyday sense of the word. An apple drops off a table and it falls to the ground. A fuse will burn out if you pass too much current through it and so on. That’s a good thing. We need to believe in these rules because if there are rules and the rules involve causal relationships between things then we know how things are going to behave. And if we know that, they’re less of a threat.
It extends to people too. We spend a lot of time making up rules that can tell us what this person is gonna do in this situation, or what this bunch of people will do if you put them in that context and turn the heat up. The point is to make them all less of a threat too. People kid themselves that they like adventure. That they thrive on new experiences. When it comes down to it, whether it’s the monotony of going out your front door each day for forty years and catching the same train for forty years to do the same job with the same company being told by the same boss the same jokes at the same points each year for forty years. Or whether you get off jumping off tall things all over the world. Whether it’s big or small, so subtle you can’t see it: you’ll be following a predictable pattern. Your own predictable monotonous routine. Keeping it safe. Try and laugh it off. And then look back over the last year, ten years. You’ll see it. Predictability is a commodity. That’s what you buy in every shop and with every finance deal. For you and your children. That’s where it is at right now. And the bed-mate of predictability is probability.
Flip a coin and it’s fifty-fifty. But would you bet on getting ten heads in a row? Probably not. That’s where the subjective comes in. The thing is that most people for some reason that they probably never thought about are not gonna bet on ten heads because it just doesn’t happen. They think that they’re lucky if they flip three. The thing that most people don’t stop to think about was that there is absolutely no bearing of how many times they flipped a head on the next head coming up. Each event is unrelated and the chances of getting ten heads in a row or a hundred are possible. It just doesn’t feel like it. It just doesn’t feel. Right. Does it? Sure enough across a million flips of the coin there may be a tendency for equal numbers to fall out but in that million throws who’s to say you didn’t get a hundred heads straight followed by a hundred tails? You had absolutely no part to play in it.
People use probability to make decisions when in fact they don’t have any fucking control over what happens at all. Would you play roulette with a six-chamber revolver with one bullet in one chamber? Spin it for a million dollars? Would you play roulette with a million-chamber revolver still with one bullet in it for a million dollars? No sane person even considers the first one. Sane? But you may find yourself pondering the odds of the second one. What if? But who can say in which of the million chambers that bullet is. You like to believe it’s nowhere near the one you picked. But who can say? You have no control over it whatsoever.
Physics may have been a pretty sane affair but it bends over itself now messing at the fringes; coming up with ever-more ingenious ways to cheat the odds and keep the predictability going right up to and past the edge of the universe. And even that notion is up for grabs. Even the notion that thinking about an event is more likely to make that event occur has made it into the plot. And if you watch the event then you are sure to have a huge effect on the outcome. But all in the quest to maintain predictability.
So imagine something right now and ask yourself: what’s the chance of that happening? Think of the least likely thing to happen that can be thought. There’s a kid sat in school in middle of the day. It’s a normal high school in a normal town where nothing strange ever happens and no one goes missing and no one is shot any more than in any other town. Normal. Struggling with a math problem and chewing the pencil. This young kid looks out the window of her ground floor classroom and says to the teacher: Miss, there’s a lion outside looking at me. Think of a scenario where this is possible and maybe it doesn’t seem so strange. It actually happened. The thing with the type of things you can imagine, the types of thing you can think, is that they may not be probable as you understand it. But are they impossible? Can you be sure that they’re gonna happen? Or that they’re not? Can you imagine the absolutely craziest thing you can think about and then conjure up an equally crazy and unlikely scenario by which it can occur? That bead of sweat gathering on your forehead is predictability seeping away and heading for the door.
People lose their job. People cheat. People go missing. Can you be sure it will never happen? That door across from you. That closed door. What’s behind it? Say to yourself aloud the things that you know are behind the door. Take your time. Those many predictable things that are there because they’re always there. It’s a safe world you live in. But I know there’s something different behind that door that at the moment is closed. It’s crouched low to the floor. It breathes quietly to itself so that you can’t hear it. Yet, if you could, you might think that the way it breathed belies the anticipation of what it’s going to do to. It crouches to the floor but when it stands up it towers over you. Its dark claws are longer than your fingers and they hook over sharp like needles. Its ears prick forward and can hear you now. Yellow eyes betray its design. The dark fur that runs thin from its snout down thickly on the shoulders and upper-arms before thinning again at steel-sinewed feet. Not grey, nor brown nor any color you can name because when you see it all you get is just an impression. And you won’t see it for long. It’s waiting. Just behind that door, that it knows you are going to open. Crouching low to the floor. You like to think it isn’t there because you live in a predictable world. But if you imagined it. It’s possible. And the beauty of it is: you only get to open the door once. Sit still for another couple of minutes and stare at the door. Listen carefully. Check you are breathing. And when you are ready and are absolutely sure it’s safe to do so. Go and open the door and be reassured?