Caution: Contains spoilers for “WandaVision” Episode 8
Do we know too much? Can a person know too much? I think maybe. After all:
Banning books = bad. But:
Showing inappropriate material to young people = bad.
And yet these things are kind of mutually exclusive. Lest we think we are for totally free flowing info all the time everywhere, ponder what you might filter (quite appropriately) when with a child.
You might say – but they are children and we are adults. Well, is there, perhaps, some way in which adults might know too much? It’s tempting to say no. I am liberal, I love the free press, I read those banned books. I never thought Eve’s apple bite was a bad idea, not really, because shouldn’t she have learned the fun of a stylish leaf outfit?
But I do wonder if perhaps some of our deep, systemic problems as individuals and as a society come from knowing too much, too early. We know how to kill each other efficiently, but we hardly know how to understand the person next to us. We have the power to bend the planet to our will but we barely understand how it works. We control politics and resources but we do so with the compassion and agility of a schoolyard bully.
After all, as Jeff Goldblum says so wisely in “Jurassic Park,” “you were so preoccupied with whether or not you could do a thing, you didn’t stop to think if you should do a thing.” And we do things to extremes well before we have even considered the question.
Zooming up to the present day in pop culture references, I was reminded of this during Episode 8 of “WandaVision.” Agatha’s evil nature is supposedly proven by her use of dark magic, but what her mother actually says is that she used it too soon. She used magic she wasn’t ready for. It’s a transgression we all understand, so when she wipes out the witches we kind of get it. But what if she had waited? Or what if her mother had been a smidge more lenient and tried to reason with her…?
Who knows. But the “dark magic” that we all play with is not what we consciously chose. We were all born into this system and taught flawed things our own flawed, well-meaning parents. If there is original sin, I think that might be it – a biological and cultural disparity between what we are capable of and what we understand.
Rampant depression and anxiety present in humanity comes, I think, from how we know just a bit more than simple animals – a bit more about how vast the universe is, how complicated our minds are, our individual potential and what we can achieve together. And yet we are stuck in the brains of animals who are full of needs and base instincts. We are like children who know too much. We are like Chidi seeing the time knife in “The Good Place.”
Perhaps there was an apple of a sort in a garden of a sort. In the book “Sapiens,” Yuval Noah Harari describes a “Cognitive Revolution” in human development that occurred between 30,000-70,000 years ago, allowing us to have fantasy and imagination. This research is disputed, but in any case at some point we developed the ability to dream up pesticides and atomic bombs without the wisdom of what might happen when we use them.
Knowledge, as they say, is knowing Frankenstein was not the monster – while wisdom is knowing that he actually was. That wouldn’t stop us from making a zombie if we could.
What, then, can we do, being as we are all Agatha, already having tampered with the dark magic? And already having been condemned (perhaps?) not by our coven but by the universe itself?
Maybe a start is to just realize that that is the way of things. There’s just no point in thinking that you are an atheist and you know there’s no God (God, in this case, meaning a higher power or whatever makes all this happen.) Likewise, there’s no point in thinking your religion has it all right down to the dots on the I’s. I for one am going to try to be a humble agnostic, creeping forward in knowledge and understanding as I can, but wary all the time of my limitations.
That’s one reason I like yoga’s “om” chant, as we try to resonate with the vibration of the universe. We aren’t controlling it. We are just part of it. And that’s not a bad thing – Agatha herself has brought us great joy, after all. Never change, awesome jingle-singer.
That said, “WandaVision” will probably not end with Agatha and Wanda in yoga class together – but I’m just saying, it might help them if it did. 😉