Wednesday, November 15, 2017

OOPArts and Creative Disruption

Lately the topic of "OOPArts" or "Out of Place Artifacts" has been popping up. 

I liked the name, so silly, like they are an OOPS, a mistake of the Universe, a mistake of our understanding. OOPArts are artifacts that challenge the general assumptions that human Science uses to understand the timelines of Earth's History from origin until now. Items found that are older than they should be for the workmanship or materials used. Fossilized remains and tools that pop out of coal, putting a lie to everything around which we build museums and elementary curriculum. 

Fact plus Art equals an Artifact.

A great deal of effort goes into proving OOPArts hoaxes, or apparently hiding them. Others extol their existence as proof of a larger belief system. Still others highlight them as the underbelly of widespread conspiracy in the scientific community. It's almost impossible to know for sure whether these OOPArts are real, have been dated properly, or even exist. Some have been proven hoaxes while others have not; some proofs have been debunked to leave more questions. 

I find this all strangely comforting. Disruption ensures survival by stirring up entropy :)  If everything we know about our origins doesn't allow for new evidence, then many closed questions require re-opening. Scientists should be very excited about that. Science isn't about closing questions forever proven, amen. Science is about evolving understanding through open inquiry. If OOPArts keep popping up, I can feel assured that some scientists will be forced to open the questions they raise, even against their conventions, and keep us moving forward. It's like a check and balance in the system.

OOPArts appear in our lives, too.  Artifacts show up in our lives out of sequence, out of our understanding of our own timelines, who we are, what we are meant to be doing. When 99% of what we encounter supports the consensus view of reality and the quasi-droned approach of day-to-day, it's easy to forget that maybe, just maybe, there are other ways of being. But over and over, these anomalies pop up, like niggling doubts, to make us question the very foundation of our science of life. 

Memories we can't place. Deja vu that doesn't jibe with our personal stories of what happened when. Someone else's memory that shakes our belief in what we know about our past. A photograph that proves a memory wrong. The reappearance of a lost object where it couldn't be. The lyrics of a song or the power of a tv show not matching our memory. Pathetic fallacies. We chalk all this up to our imperfection of memory or understanding. We assume we've "dated it wrong" and drop it. It's a hoax we're playing on ourselves. 

Maybe so. And, at the same time, these OOPArts in our own lives offer a chance to open questions we may not realize we ever closed. They are triggers we can choose to pull, to open ourselves more fully to the possibilities of this impossible life on this impossible world in this virtual reality of life.