General: Conspiracy Theories, The Flat World We Live On, and You

A couple of nights ago, I got home late.  I changed into a pair of pajama pants, sat cross-legged in my computer chair with a mug of hot tea beside me and laid everything out to draw.

Usually before I begin drawing, I settle in a bit: I check a couple of websites, sink down into my chair, turn something on (maybe a podcast, a movie, maybe just some music), and kind of relax for a moment before digging in.  And as I was making my way through that routine, I came across an article that I really had no idea how to process properly.

This one–about rapper B.o.B. and why he believes–no, is certain–the Earth is flat.

At the time, I skimmed past it.  I opened it up, read it for a moment, and set it aside to maybe read through later, only to never actually do so–forgetting about it altogether.

Today, while I was at work, I started seeing it again–articles about the modern Flat Earth theory, about Conspiracy Theories in general, a follow-up article about B.o.B. and his beef with Neil DeGrasse Tyson–and it sort of took me by surprise.  What I wrote off as some one off article was gaining traction, garnering attention, and becoming an actual topic of discussion in some circles of the internet.

Naturally, I had to dig a little deeper.  I ate my lunch, my fork dangling out of my mouth, pasta salad noodles strewn in the box beside me, while I quickly read through the pages–in between customers of course.

It was interesting, because B.o.B. isn’t alone in his thinking (even if his way of thinking doesn’t make much sense).  There are people who still believe this, that believe through a number of very convoluted means, we have been lied to–not just about this, but about a lot of things.  And while I don’t have any stake on the main claim that the Earth is indeed flat, I kind of have to hand it to the few people who do because they are actually thinking.

Maybe.

Conspiracy theories as a thing have always fascinated me for this reason, because no matter how outlandish the claim, no matter how inane and baseless it may be, each one speaks to an aspect about us as a species that is unique to us alone: free and, at times complex, thought.  No species is really able to express that–at least, not in the way humans do.  We go against the grain and are able to articulate our own unique, sometimes wrong, sometimes not, ideas about whatever it is we disagree with.  It’s an aspect of our personalities, our cultures, our way of life that we are (theoretically) allowed to challenge without–at least we hope–any detriment to our overall well being.

Now, you could say, “But Chris! We do that in a number of ways.  We challenge our teachers, we debate, we argue, we show that we’re difficult human beings every single day!”

And that’s true. We do that, but the thing that makes conspiracy theories so interesting, from the famous and long thought about (the JFK assassination or the moon landing) to the hilariously benign (Stevie Wonder not actually being blind (found that in the comments)), is that not only do they challenge the opinions of another person, they challenge the opinions and believed “facts” of the entire world–they challenge everything we currently know.

To think that way, to think about something in the world being so different than what it has always been and has been hammered into us as always being, is to acknowledge that something doesn’t add up.  That doesn’t mean bandwagoning a presidential FaceBook conspiracy about the president who has this whole time been a resurrected Hitler dominating the world with his subtle mind powers bestowed upon him by the aliens.  It means genuinely digging in, being the odd one out, believing that something, no matter how out there, is actually true, despite what we’ve been told.

And the reality is, chances are, one of the theories that has been thrown out at some point has to be true.  Not every one is entirely baseless.

The world we live is a secretive place; it always has been.  Forever there have been invisible people, unseen acts carried out in the shadows to balance the world, keep the status quo, or sway the outcomes of major events one way or the other.  History books make note of many of these events.  So it stands to reason that some of the things floating around are indeed true.

Again–that’s what makes them so fascinating.

The world is boring to us–not because it actually is but because it is, has been, and always will be the same.  The thought that something may be different, that it always has been different is intriguing, if not a tiny bit terrifying.  It shakes things up, makes things less samey, lends credence to the idea that being different is good, and thinking for ourselves is even better–and if one claim was right, then another has to be too, and it allows the floodgates of intrigue and interest to be opened upon the world for us to all sift through so that we may find the truth.

That’s why they’re so interesting to us.  That’s why B.o.B. is so fascinating here.  He is thinking.  He is going against the grain.  He is not only determined to show that he is right, but that the world as we’ve known it simply doesn’t exist–at least not in the way we know.

Personally, I believe that the world is round, but Stevie Wonder being blind–I’m not so sure about that.

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