“Our whole existence is an attempt by the relative to be the absolute, or by the local to be universal” – Charles Hoy Fort
We abhor an anomaly, a monster, or a UFO because they highlight the fact that we are fundamentally creatures whose ascendancy is rooted in disharmony. Our swift rise to the top of the food pyramid is largely attributable to our penchant for changing horses in midstream and sneering at the supposed rules of the game. With our big brains, we deliberately and decisively extricated ourselves from nature, donning clothes that expanded our range, sharpening spear points to give us an edge on predators, and building walls to deter the monsters lurking in the woods. We looked around us at a world of equilibrium and concluded that there was no point being the smartest kid on the block unless it meant we could stack our odds of avoiding imminent death or disfigurement, buy ourselves some leisure time, and turn our attentions to contemplating the elusive meaning of life.
Few of us care to return to a time when our primary concerns were running from saber-tooth tigers and collecting enough nuts and berries to avoid starvation, but we also don’t like to be reminded that our lofty position in the Great Chain of Being is largely attributable to marshalling our opposable thumbs and massive intellects in the interest of disrupting our natural environment and forcibly removing humans from the equation. We are ourselves a natural anomaly, or as biologist E.O. Wilson observed, “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” Basically, in detaching ourselves from the whims of the natural world, we to some degree made ourselves ecologically irrelevant (well, relevant only insofar as we’re especially good at destroying things).
Thus, our notions of “harmony” were closely restricted to human harmony alone, and anything that pushed us, our societies, and our kindred away from our own species-specific version of equilibrium (everybody we choose to care about is safe, secure, and following the rules), required a unique label which seemingly has no meaning for all those other living critters and inanimate objects out there. We had to invent evil. And then we had to choose sides and start hating on anything with a scent of anomalous experience outside our currently prescribed formulas for social harmony. While the universe seems to strive for some sort of balance, we ourselves do not.
The resultant confusion of the principles of human equilibrium with natural equilibrium and the relation to our notion of evil was specifically remarked upon by Jean Baudrillard, who said “The world is not dialectical – it is sworn to extremes, not to equilibrium, sworn to radical antagonism, not to reconciliation or synthesis. This is also the principle of evil”. Consequently, our monsters and madness proliferate, not because we are searching for some sort of universal equilibrium, but precisely because we are not. That which is disharmonious for human civilization, or uncontrollable, or “beyond the pale” is regarded as monstrous or insidious. We are enemies of the liminal, the natural boundary which we already crossed, and we jealously guard our border, determined to prevent further immigration.
Having rejected the reality we were born into, our heart’s desire is to remake our local reality into universal truth. Science, technology, and theology are the undeniably effective tools of our trade. As long as we can maintain the harmony of human existence, we can deny the fact that we ourselves are an aberration, that it is possible and often productive to step outside an accepted “reality”. As a result, the eruption of “otherness” into our tenuous and carefully manufactured equilibrium is a source of disdain, fear, denial and hate. We can’t stand an anomaly because it represents another existential con man getting in on our hustle.