Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On the Difference Between Awesomeness and Fuckwittery

An observation I have about the world is that the difference between stunning awesomeness and incalculable fuckwittery is only a fraction of one percent, and I expect this principle is built into the universe.

The universe, for instance, is expanding at the perfect rate for it be really hard to determine if it will expand forever, or eventually contract in a 'big crunch.' It's a legendary urban myth that if gravity was slightly stronger, the fusion reaction in stars would burn too fast and there wouldn't be time for life to evolve. And by the same authority, if gravity was slightly weaker, stars wouldn't form. Their fusion reactions would never start up, and we'd never get elements more sophisticated than hydrogen and helium.

I think history, or at least how we look at history exacerbates this misunderstanding. We look back in time and paint Hitler in black and white as a completely unredeemable fuckwit, and a whole procession of Catholic saints as unmitigatedly awesome. But nobody confronted Hitler.  He wasn't always powerful, and as a young man learning to be a painter in Austria, do we know for certain that he was unkind to cats and, say, other lousy painters? Maybe he smiled at the baker when he was buying bread, and maybe he took his lunch by the river and greeted passers-by with cheerfulness. And the saints, could they always, all of them, be clearly seen to stand head and moral shoulders above everyone else, with visible halos abounding and good works created and distributed by the dozen? By the oxen-cart load? No, the saints were dicks to people too, and had lousy days, and might have been cruel to cats.

For myself I'm never quite sure if I did the right thing. I make a call, do a decision, usually by the seat of my pants, and then I pray and cross my fingers and hope for the best. Maybe you had this feeling: you're at the outdoor rink in the park and you shoot a puck at the boards and it's a little high and it bounces up and into someone's back yard and hits the brick just an inch away from a window. Holy shit that was close, and how different might things have gone if you'd applied a force a fraction of one degree to the left?

And that time in traffic you accelerated at that yellow light?  You were in a hurry...

And Rob Scuderi, if he'd been prepared for the hit, which he should have been? It's a game of inches, all of life, from beginning to end.

Dear internet, people who think they know something with some kind of absolute certainty, they frighten me, because the difference between remarkable awesomeness and stunning fuckwittery is, in fact, very subtle.

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