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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Recalcitrant Dissonance in Nascent Autonomy

An age-old question that’s worthy of further inspection: Why do I write on blogs? Maybe for the same reason that Sir Edmund Hilary said he climbed Mt. Everest. When queried on his desire to ascend its lofty heights, the esteemed Hilary reasoned, “Because it’s free.” He was truly a man before his time, and it’s too bad he couldn’t have blogged about it back then.

I’ve always taken for granted that flocks of ducks are noisy just because, but then I started wondering why it would be that they are all quacking away on a long journey. I’ll bet if we understood their language, we would be hearing a cacophony of “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Quack-quack.” Odds are 3 to 1 that that’s what they’re saying. What else is there to talk about up there? Do they know the Spanish term “Andale, andale!”? I tend to doubt that.

I saw some small birds yesterday on the sidewalk, and about seven of them were feverishly bickering with another one, and walking after him. He seemed to have a piece of food that he wasn’t sharing, although their reaction to him still seemed quite bizarre even for that. He didn’t fly away, and so they were all scurrying about on the ground. As I came near, they all flew about fifty feet away, and then continued on with their grudge match. A few seconds later, it took them into the street. The funny thing was, the birds weren’t paying attention to the traffic. Cars had to keep stopping for the birds, who would eventually get the hint and scoot out of the way, but then go right back to what they were fighting about. I was on my way back to work after lunch hour, but I had to keep peeking out the window at them. It proceeded for several minutes. The bird in question was the same size as the others, but with a blacker coat of feathers. Maybe he was from another flock and he was trespassing onto their territory. Now, I’m assuming it was a he, but I’m not certain. As it crossed the road, I noticed that it didn’t ask for directions.

At some point during a profound thought recently, I realized that the hair on the average person’s head grows collectively at a little over 1 inch per minute. No wonder it’s hard to think straight, with all that activity going on. And that comes out to over 130 feet per day. You’re sprouting and you didn’t know it. What this also means is that the cumulative hair growth of all humanity is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 miles of new hair every minute. And over 40 million miles of new hair per day. (Don’t worry, I already accounted for all the balding people in the world) There is definitely a market for giving haircuts. To offset this tremendous growth of hair and curtail hair overpopulation, barbers and hair salons must work furiously on a continual basis. Think of the great service they’re offering here. If we had a hair-cutting strike for three months, there could be over 3 billion new miles of hair, in addition to what was already there. Where would the world store 3 billion miles of hair? Well, I guess it would still be on our heads, but it would make things a lot more cramped. I’ll bet if we all got haircuts regularly, no one would even think there are too many people in the world. There, I just solved another apparent crisis.

Have you ever considered what life would be like without salt? How much harder it would be to make a tasty dish? If salt didn’t exist, what would you ask someone to pass? I mean, we’re really lucky on this one, because it was that close to not having something available to sprinkle on our food. Let’s say you’re having squash, cooked until it’s hinting of collapsing, with steam emanating from its inner being. As good as squash is, like most foods it needs that little extra umph to give it just the right taste. So if we had no idea about salt, what would we do? “Could you please pass the, uh… uh, the rosemary?” Talk about a culinary faux pas. In short, we would be perplexed. Hence, salt is one of the greatest features of life. But we take it for granted, because it’s always been there as far as we can remember. Just because it’s that way doesn’t mean it has to be. Be grateful for salt, and everything else like it in life. Think of that when you’re shaking the little morsels again. They work hard for you.

The other day I thought I might be getting bored (it turned out to only be an idle threat), so I got a long strand of hair, caught me a housefly, then lassoed its neck with the hair and then held on to the other end. Instant fly pet. It will follow you around everywhere. Definitely the most loyal pet I’ve ever had, too. Of course, then you have to get a new one every thirty days, but that’s just a minor inconvenience compared to all the benefits. And putting two of them in the same vicinity doesn’t work, because they get tangled up, and at least one of them ends up doing a nose dive. So remember to keep these ferocious pets at a distance from one another so that they may peaceably co-exist. Some of you may be saying it’s cruel to put a leash on a fly. Well, what about dogs? Domesticating flies: the next new wave.

You do a lot of your best thinking while you’re eating, which could be because you’re generally not overthinking about something but have to spend some of your mental energy on your food, and your digestive system is praising you all the while, giving you props, handing out endorphins and basically making you feel loved. So anyway, in the midst of my clear thinking, I developed a theory that at some undetermined point whenever I’m eating a sandwich, invariably it assumes the precise shape of Idaho. It doesn’t matter what kind of sandwich it is. Peanut butter and jelly, lunchmeat, tuna fish, grilled cheese… you name it. I even tried weird combinations like an onion and banana sandwich to try to fool it, but no such luck. I think this could be a clue in the mystery of life. Maybe something about… wait a minute. If I tell you, what are you going to do with that information? I better patent this first. I’m sure Google will want to capitalize on the mystery of life so they can make an app out of it. But just be aware that our sandwiches are trying to tell us something important.

My four-year-old boy made a profound admission the other day. “Daddy, I don’t know how to count to zero.” And before I could follow up on that, he asked, “What number does zero come after?” And before I could think of a suitable answer for that, he said, “I think it’s the last number.” Which actually isn’t such a bad proposition, since infinity and zero are thought by some to intersect. I explained to him in as simple terms as possible that zero had no value and was therefore essentially an imaginary number, and that technically the field of mathematics was theoretical to begin with, so numbers may only exist in our minds. He seemed satisfied with that, and went back to playing with his toys. When he starts asking deeper questions, though, I know I’m in trouble. I hope the teachers don’t enable him in kindergarten. That’s all I need is for his mind to expand. He won’t be in kindergarten for another year and a half, so this could all get interesting. We might be able to send him to remedial school to keep him from getting too smart.

I’ve been thinking about infinity, and until I finally looked at it in another light, I hadn’t really understood it. It turns out it’s just an 8 that got tired, and that is precisely why philosophy is better equipped to handle the more difficult questions we face. Math, meanwhile, is stuck in equations that were built to input questions and output answers from the same original source. So if we didn’t know coming in what a concept was, math wasn’t going to tell us anything outside of that system. Math is much like a self-fulfilling prophecy, replete with assumptions. It assumes that whole numbers are real. It assumes that existence is not singular. It assumes a necessary linear progression in most facets of existence. And it all makes a big assumption that reality is quantifiable. Note that I have to think about these things so I’ll be prepared to answer my child.


bajmaj said...

Long-time reader, first-time commenter. I wanted to be the first responder, but I guess that depends on how long it takes me to reply. (This is my second try - my first try was unsuccessful as I did not have an identity.) Why is it that geese fly in a "V" formation? How does a goose aspire to be the leader? Is it considered an honor or a sign of status? Is there a name for the position? I guess all I need to do is google it or check wikipedia. That is where I go to get answers for most of my questions.

Natasha said...

Brian, geese fly in a v formation in order to benefit from the lift of air they get from the birds in front of them. And they all take turns being the leader. How do you not know this? ;-)


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