When is too much ash, not too much ash?

Europe is flying again. Following the 6-day reign of terror of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull, wherein most of Europe’s aircraft were grounded due to the safety implications of flying in volcanic ash-laden skies, restrictions on flight have been lifted allowing us to soar once again.

According to The Guardian
, authorities decided to:

‘establish new guidelines allowing aircraft to fly through low-density ash clouds. Under the new regime, swaths of UK airspace that were no-go areas 24 hours ago have been designated as safe for passenger flights’

This of course was following intense lobbying by the aviation industry who were losing money hand-over-fist due to the ban.

What I find interesting about this is the idea that there is no less ash in the sky this morning than there was last night, but having thought about it (or rather having had their arms twisted) the powers-that-be have decided now that it is safe to fly in such conditions, whilst 24 hours previously it was not.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the absurdity of day-light saving time. This idea that instead of changing our physical habits to match or better suit our environment, we simply change the rules by which we do things. So rather than getting up earlier, we simply change the clocks. Instead of finding alternative arrangements, we simply change the safety rules. Our rules, the rules we imposed, can simply be altered when they no longer suit us. Which begs the questions, are they rules at all?

I am reminded of this video of the late, great Robert Anton Wilson. Wilson was asked to explain Quantum Physics, so in order to help do this, he tells an anecdote about a time when he moved house to Santa Cruz and suffered a burglary. In his efforts to have the crime investigated he discovered that, depending on who he talked to; the Post Office, the Police or the local Newspaper, he lived in three different places at the same time. This he then used as a jumping off point to help describe the similarly contradictory nature of particles in Quantum Physics.

(highly recommended viewing)

Again, what this does is help remind us of the arbitrariness of the rules we create around ourselves, and our propensity to mistake these rules for the real thing. We can move the goal posts at any time, because we made the goal posts.

Now, i’m not saying that we shouldn’t revisit these things. It would be crazy to suggest that having set up some kind of framework for understanding the world or going about our business, that we could not revisit nor throw them out completely. But I think it is important to remember that these are just rules and ideas and guidelines. Clocks, calendars, regulations and maps are imposed on the world, they are not the world itself.

To quote Alfred Korzybski: “The map is not the territory”