I don’t often (or ever) say to readers that you should go read something that I read. I know how that works, as I am usually reluctant to take time from my planned day to indulge anyone. So my suggestion here is to simply take a glance at the opening words of Michael Crichton to the Commonwealth Club in 2003, and see if you have the same experience that I did. Crichton was such an engaging writer that he held readers rapt for decades. See if upon reading the beginning, you find yourself reading the end too. Maybe so, maybe not.
Here are the opening two paragraphs:
I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.
We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we’re told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems. Every one of us has a sense of the world, and we all know that this sense is in part given to us by what other people and society tell us; in part generated by our emotional state, which we project outward; and in part by our genuine perceptions of reality. In short, our struggle to determine what is true is the struggle to decide which of our perceptions are genuine, and which are false because they are handed down, or sold to us, or generated by our own hopes and fears.
He goes on to talk about environmentalism as a religion. I want to be very careful about that, as there are, as I see it, two types of environmentalist. Our friend and blog writer Steve Kelly represents the first kind, intent on a concrete purpose, to preserve natural habitat against the onslaught of industry and population. I support those goals and admire him for his decades of hard (and effective) work.
The other type is more and more earning my contempt. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, left the group because he could no longer be on board with a group that held people in contempt – that regarded humanity as an invader in an otherwise pristine world. This is, as Crichton saw in 2003, the essence of what was then called “global warming,” now “climate change.” It is not sense and sensible purpose. It is religion. It reminds me of Liz Lemon as she met Matt Damon’s character in 30 Rock, an oddball airline pilot. She looked on him with affection, saying something like “Oh good. You hate people too.”
I don’t regard Crichton’s body of work as anything other than that of a creative man, perhaps a bit Renaissance, fingers in many pies. He spun some engaging fiction that often enough became crappy movies. My favorite, Timeline, was such a bad movie that I could barely sit through it. The Jurassic Park series certainly caught the public’s attention and served as a vehicle for introduction of advances in CGI technology. Also, I remember after sitting through Jurassic Park III (2001) thinking “Wow. That was fun!” That’s really all I ask of movies – show me a good time.
(Which reminds me, here I go again, I watched Men in Black II a while back. It was ridiculous in terms of a gripping plot, but I had many good laughs throughout. It kept me awake, quite an accomplishment at my age.)
Enough rambling. I suppose someone will step forth and tell me that Crichton was juiced, in the peerage, maybe even … Jewish (shriek!!!). I don’t know about any of that. I only know that he was a gifted writer. He died in 2008 at age 66. Yes, I think he really died. Too bad, as he probably left behind many undeveloped ideas as he shuffled off this mortal coil.