Maybe So, Maybe Not

Phish @ MSG, 2016.12.30

Phish.

They get a lot of flack for weird lyrics, which I can’t deny.

I was listening to the 1998.04.04 Cavern today, which is a thick-saucy-slowdown funk version, with lyrics like:

Give the director a serpent deflector
a mudrat detector, a ribbon reflector
a cushion convector, a picture of nectar
a virile dissector, a hormone collector
Whatever you do take care of your shoes

That’s weird. I get it.

The song Stash has some of the most absurd Phish lyrics ever, stuff like:

Smegma, dogmatagram, fishmarket stew
Police in a corner, gunnin’ for you
Appletoast, bedheated, furblanket rat
Laugh when they shoot you, say
“Please don’t do that”

First of all, gross. Second of all, what?

But at the end, the lyrics “Maybe so, maybe not” repeat, slowly getting softer while the jam picks up steam.

I find myself returning to those lyrics a lot these days.

Maybe so, Maybe not

Nothing is certain. Not even the most closely held beliefs you have.

Shit, even science is uncertain. Science is basically a collection of stuff that we’ve tested over and over and keep getting the same result so we all just assume that’s how the world works.

Until something changes and we test it again and realize “Oh shit, I guess light IS a particle. And a wave. It’s both at the same time. Wait, what?”

Copernicus threw a monkey wrench into science when he looked up at the sky and went “Woah, like, what if the Sun was actually the center of the universe?” Soon he’d come up with a theory and Galileo was all “That sounds correct, let’s investigate that further and write about it” and then the Church got real mad and locked him up in his house until he died. Then years later, everyone was all “Damn, Copernicus and Galileo were right, huh?”

So yes, everything you know could be wrong.

If you want to be an open-minded person (which I’m assured is of great value towards becoming an objectively “good” person) there’s the inherent difficulty in what the totalitarian society of 1984 called “doublethink”, which is defined as simultaneously accepting two contradictory beliefs as correct.

Because you need to understand that being open-minded literally means thinking:

“I believe X. But maybe not.”

The “maybe not” is crucial. It’s just an admission that you could be wrong. Someone or something could come along and give you an entirely new view of things, one that redefines what you believe.

The Earth alone holds intelligent life in the universe. Maybe so, maybe not.

God is real and heaven exists. Maybe so, maybe not.

The New York Rangers are the best hockey team to ever have graced a sheet of ice. Maybe so, maybe not.

Gay people were born that way, not made. Maybe so, maybe not.

Capitalism is a flawed and unsustainable economic system that inevitably leads to societal upheaval due to the unequal distribution of wealth. Maybe so, maybe not.

Some of these are beliefs that I have, some of them are beliefs I know others have, and the truth is I don’t know if any of them are true.

I don’t think I’ll ever know.

What I do know is that I can choose what to believe. I can choose which beliefs are going to inform the decisions I make, and I believe that holding a set of stupid Phish lyrics in my head will allow me to make the decision to take a closer look at those beliefs, when warranted, because if there’s one other thing I know it’s that I don’t really know shit.


HW Edwards talks about writing, books, life in LA and marketing here at Medium, and writes short fiction at Fictum. He quit Twitter and Facebook and has never been happier.

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