My love and I were talking about the Pythagoreans because that’s the kind of people we are. Also because the Pythagoreans are interesting. They have that mix of philosophical and mathematical ideas fused into something too nutty for Ancient Greece to put up with. It’s hard to be sure we know much about the Pythagoreans that’s true and not the result of people making fun of them.
Thing is, Pythagoras must have had something going for him. Remember, he was able to tell people he could write on the moon, appear in many places at once, and show off a golden thigh in the Olympics. And he still got followers. Most of us couldn’t lie about our cell phone’s camera resolution and get anyone to believe it. Maybe he was just that charismatic; maybe he had a good organization behind him.
There’s stories that Pythagoras had children. Maybe that’s a pious myth from his followers, attributing all the cult’s children to him. Maybe he figured he had a mass of children inside the Sun. Maybe he actually did, though. Maybe there’s, even now, people directly descended from Pythagoras out there. What’s got me is that after Pythagoras’s cult got broken up, possibly by running them into beans, that’s the last we hear of them. There’s no sad little attempt to put the gang back together led by his son or some fan who figured the thing just needed better presentation. It’s just gone.
Or is it? What if the Pythagoreans just went underground, building their number in the strictest of secrecy? And then working to alter the world to their liking? They might pull stunts like rejiggering the way we write numbers so that it’s based on “ten” or pushing the idea that the planets move around the sun. We realized we’ve got the seeds here for a nice and stupid Dan Brown-esque novel here. And every time we need comic relief just stuff in one of those stories people keep telling about the Pythagoreans.
This got me thinking about conspiracy theories. Why do people like secret-masters-of-the-world conspiracy theories? The traditional answer is that the world is big and scary and looks crazy most of the time. But if some secret organization is manipulating everything to their benefit, well, all right. It may make no sense but at least there’s some plan behind it all.
A couple months back I heard of a conspiracy theory behind Whitney Houston’s death. Apparently she said something about the Illuminati while appearing on Ellen and they got her for it. And that’s got me wondering. Suppose the theory’s true. That implies someone found the Illuminati and thought joining the secret rulers of the world was a great idea. And the guy went through the intense screening and interview process. Think what his résumé must have looked like. Think of his getting letters of reference from imaginary people so far as anyone can prove. The guy showed up for the first day of Illuminati work — imagine what the paperwork is like! — and watched all the training and harassment and drug policy videos. And then after all that, he gets his first assignment. And it’s “watch the daytime talk shows in case popular singers mention the Illuminati”. And he couldn’t even complain to people about the lousy job he’s got. He knows he’s monitored by the guy in Secret Cubicle SOC1-L7-07A. (The cubicles go right from SOC1-L7-07 to SOC1-L7-08 without an ‘A’ in-between.) And that guy’s fed up with IlluminaTwitter notifications.
OK, maybe some super-technological monitoring system means they don’t have to watch everything. Maybe their IlluminaComputer tells them when someone said something too much. That means there’s secret rulers of society having meetings about whether the time has come to kill Whitney Houston. Maybe the appeal of conspiracies is the fantasy of being part of an organization that has purposeful meetings.
I mean, you never do hear about someone who joins into the secret conspiracy ruling humanity, and finds it’s full of the same petty office politics and dreary paperwork and meaningless action as anyone else’s job is. Though in that circumstance, you know, well-done.
Confidential to guy in SOC1-L7-07A: I’m not saying the Illuminati have any connection to the Pythagoreans. I know you guys brand around a pyramid, which is a completely different kind of triangle, unless you imagine folding it in half. I’m not looking for any trouble. I only watch Ellen when someone left it on at the vet’s office. And I didn’t even realize Whitney Houston had died. I guess she did. That would be a weird thing to fake, unless she was needed in some secret bean work.