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Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Zen of Zed

Three lines. Two pianos. One oratory. Three gushes. Two pixels. One alibi.

The writing’s on the wall. It’s written in the stars. And there are yet other things to read between the lines. Your job as reader isn’t all that easy, though I’m not about to enable you. Where would the fun be in that?

I miss philosophy being at the forefront of rational thinking. I like the good ole’ days when Aristotle and Plato would direct traffic while chanting existential mantras to the passers-by. They’d hand out bumper stickers that said “Honk if your cerebral cortex is at least semi-functional.” People weren’t impinged upon at the prospect of hypothesis. Not so anymore.

The trouble today could be that we don’t ask enough questions. Our experience is so immediate that we perceive everything to be no further than our fingertips, and get disinterested when we have to extend a thought anywhere past that. Why would I want to bother when I can get seven camera shots on TV within a 3-second span? I’m getting fed machine gun images, sending a rash of stimuli to the hungered neurons. At that rate, who has time to ponder?

So the questions go unasked, let alone unanswered. This starts early. But let me backtrack before I reminisce. But before I do that, let me write whatever it is that I’m going to write. Thank you for not intervening. You scratch my back, and I agree to not write auto repair manuals in this space. The differential is astounding.

Where was I? Oh, it doesn’t matter. I can edit this later. But anyway, as a culture we should be closely examining what causes things to make sense, so that we can make more sense out of more things. A little utopian, I know.

We should be asking questions like “How many is any?” Well, maybe not start there, but work our way up to it by leaving ourselves breadcrumbs. But questions such as “Does logic solve all the important problems, and can that be answered without the use of logic?” or “Are 1- and 2-dimensional existences imaginary?” or “What’s the statute of limitations on clichés?” or “Why does the origin of species place all its focus on transition?” or “Is the bottom of the barrel all that bad?” or “What color do blue and purple make?” or “When they say a product is back, where did it go?” or “What comes after closure?” or “What does free will entail, and can it be legislated?” or “Are all Mexican dishes just a matter of different packaging?”

They could have at least one TV show about these things on network programming, with various perspectives being discussed. And our attention span changes the channel. OK, maybe throw in some exotic dancing competition, and then at the end, the audience gets to boo them off the stage. But it would need to be set on a remote island where civilization barely exists, and it would be done at night so the host could stand between two flaming torches to add credibility, and he'd speak with the distaste of a malcontent queen bee that's been let down by its underlings. Now I'm seeing real possibilities.

At least Steven Wright is trying. He wonders out loud, “What do batteries run on?” I’ve heard attempts at this before, and it typically spirals into a discourse on cellular activity, networking, and calling plans. And then beyond that, if cells are the building blocks of life, what makes cells operate? Show me the sub-cells. And then show me the sub-cells of those sub-cells. And if there are no more levels of sub-cells, what material makes up the lowest sub-cell? I know — porcelain.

We may need to establish some of the things that don’t exist before we can adequately examine things that do exist. Exhibit A as the most obvious example is the rumored number zero. We spend too much time giving it attention, and it hasn’t earned it yet. Essentially, it’s done nothing. I will argue that zero does not exist, and as such should be exiled into the netherworld. It has no value. It has unvalue. It is the anti-value. You can’t divide by it. The biggest red flag should be that your spreadsheet will snarl at you if you attempt such blasphemy.

With that in mind, my hand sanitizer claims to kill 99.99% of germs. This raises a couple questions that need to be addressed. Firstly, what exactly is that 0.01% of germs that it can’t kill? Should I be afraid of them? I want to know what those germs are that are so incredibly strong they can outmuscle a sanitizer whose sole intent is to kill them. It would also be useful to know precisely the identity of those germs so I can try other tactics to combat them, like Lava™ brand patented heavy duty pumice hand cleaner, or possibly other untested thermonuclear cleansing agents.

And then secondly, if they already know how to kill these 99.99% germs with the sanitizer, why don’t they just kill them before they get to my hands? I mean, think about it… Does it take a blogger to come up with these ideas? Shouldn’t we instead be trying to kill germs in advance of when they make contact with our skin? Why wait till the last possible moment to take action, right before they unleash their toxic damage? That’s a little overly dramatic for me. I like suspense in my movies, but not so much in my daily hygiene itinerary. Give no ground here. Be proactive about this. Go to the source and nip that sucker in the proverbial bud. The bottom line is we need pre-sanitizers, and if none of you invent one, I may give it a go at some point.

For a social application of our modern dilemma, I give you excess. Our mailman probably hates us since we only go to our mailbox about once every ten days. But it’s not really our fault, if you think about it. Who allows all that junk mail to be sent? Did we ask for any of it? No, in fact, we asked for less of it. Do you realize what brought down the Roman Empire? It was junk mail. They smothered themselves out of existence. Their papyrus backfired on them big time. Our governments today complain about garbage disposal problems, but yet they’re allowing the problem to fester with the mass production of flyers, envelopes, inserts, cards, what have you. (The what have you will likely be our downfall) Another question sans an answer.

As I was learning to read, I became rather disenchanted with the English language. After all, what business did Wednesday have being spelled that way? How was I expected to know that intuitively? If you had given me fifty chances, I would have spelled it fifty other ways than that. Wensday. Winsday. Windsday. Winzday. Qualadrapathia. (Every once in a while, it pays to throw in a wild card just in case, because you never know) In short, there was no discernable pattern for that spelling.

Here I am in the 1st grade, and they’re telling me that ‘shoulder’ is pronounced predictably enough — so far so good. That was just to get their foot in the door. But then good luck with ‘should’. Or ‘would’… or ‘could’. All of a sudden, the ‘L’ is now silent, and the ‘u’ acts like it wishes it was an ‘o’. By my way of thinking, if a letter is silent, then it ain’t doin’ anything in the word, so just take it out. Kind of like junk mail. Unless… unless they’re trying to fool us.

In Kindergarten, you start out with numbers on the first day. 1-2-3 is easy enough. Everything is peachy and you’re on top of the world with your newfound numbering system that you’re going to use to confiscate all your older brother’s money. They even make fun little songs about counting to make you feel good about it. But that’s how they indoctrinate you. Once they have you hooked on their numbering scheme, then later you find out that ‘2’ is mysteriously spelled ‘t-w-o’. Where the heck did the ‘w’ come from? That’s what I want to know. The ‘w’ has no right being there any more than an ‘x’ or the international symbol for choking, and as a young grade schooler, I’d like to be given an opportunity to challenge the linguistic establishment on a philosophical matter. That’s what would have expanded my academic horizons more.

But do they ever teach you why the ‘w’ is there, or do they just expect you to accept it at face value without questioning? Learning doesn’t really start until ‘why?’ is asked. (and don’t ask about the ‘h’ in why) You’re not allowed to question, only to answer pre-fabricated questions. Which is what led me to mathematics. It was the least threatening and most antiseptic of the disciplines.

To sum up (without the need to use the hapless zero), numbers have values, so zero, at the very most, is still an abstract concept. You can’t have zero of something. Rather, you simply don’t have it. In no way no how can you expect to be saved by zero. Otherwise, in my hand I’m currently holding zero marbles, zero barnacles, zero bubbles, zero dipsticks, zero Werther’s Originals, zero flashlights, zero pictures of Yeti monsters vacationing in Belize while drinking Mai-Tai’s, zero zeros, zero nothings, zero emptinesses, zero vacuums, zero anti-matters, zero Grey Poupons, zero gravity, zero copies of “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” in Braille, zero gwoycyx’s, and the list could go on ad infinitum. It still hasn’t described the state of what’s in my hand. Zero lends nil to the equation. The most accurate statement is that I’m not holding anything in my hand. It’s a negative affirmation, if that doesn’t swallow itself in logic.

There are zero pink elephants in my living room. Yeah, so what? Leave me alone, zero. Go bug a quantum physicist.

Three fedoras. Two wallabies. One penchant. Three salutations. Two palindromes. One ricochet. Nope, certainly no room for zeroes here… I now hereby invoke my zero intolerance policy. So let it be spoken, so let it be done.

1 comment:

Byte said...

As I drink from the fire-hose of modern life that comes at me too fast I am apt to ask questions. When I do I rarely become satisfied with the answers. As you say, I get non-answers. Perhaps if I just adapt to the non-answers I will be better off.

While cleaning the pool, I had occasion to whip up a concoction that I am sure would get the other .01% of germs - I think we had better put up with the .01% as the burning sensation and skin grafts may not be worth it.

Once again Rusty, thanks for the ride!

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