Jun 24, 2005

Biggles Of The RAF

No, I'm not going to post about Biggles, I'm going to start off with one of those pseudo-philosophical jokes and work my way from there. The Biggles thing was just a red herring. My apologies to Biggles fans everywhere.

A man is walking down a beach in California late in Fall. It's cold, and a little clammy, but he's enjoying the quiet. As he walks, he kicks over a bottle, and lo! what should appear but a Djinn, a towering giant clothed in smoke and a turban.

"Master, you have freed me from the bottle. For that boon I shall grant you one wish" booms the Djinn.

"Well now, let me think" says the fellow, being ever the pragmatist. "I wish for a bridge from here to Hawaii, so that folks who come from two very divergent groups of people can get together and share their experiences and come together as friends."

The Djinn looks far out to sea, looks back at the man, and says "I am truly sorry Master, but that's just too much doing. See, I've been in there a long time, and I'm a little rusty on doing magic, and what you're asking would take such a sheer volume of magical effort, not to mention the time I'd have to get into as far as getting workers out here and the materials and the danger...it's simply not worth it." The Djinn shrugs and booms out "Try again."

The fellow rubs his chin thoughtfully, not questioning his good luck at having a wish in the first place, and says "Okay, I'd like to know what makes people tick. I want to know what goes on inside their heads to make them think and act and behave like complete fools sometimes, and saints the other times. I wish I knew what makes people do what they do."

The Djinn crosses his mighty arms, looks thoughtful for a second, looks down at the man and says "Okay, so you want two lanes or four?"

I feel like that a lot. And I know I'm not the only one who feels that way. I know Shakespeare spent a lot of time studying people and how they behaved. People as far flung apart as Freud and Plato did the same thing: study people and how they behaved, trying to get to some root cause. It's simply an impossible task right now, with the abilities and tools we have. There's too many different factors that go into the development of a person for us to be able to point at a critical junction or an important cusp moment and say to each other "Aha! Here's where it all went bad!" or "And you see here, on the seventeenth genome, that's what makes our boy a recidivist." Unfortunately we're still on the "And this is the nerve that, when stimulated with a mild current, makes that bit over there go 'boing.'"

I can't even begin to fathom what makes people do what they do. Cats I can mostly figure out, dogs are dead simple, fish...well, fish don't have much of anything going on but somehow can still manage to evade my best efforts at catching them in the wild, but that's neither here nor there. People. That's where the problem lies. People can astound me and in the same breath make me want to pour a big bottle of Chlorox in the gene pool.

So you tell me. Give me some examples from your own life of people who have either astounded you with their saintliness or who have made you abhor them with their foulness. Maybe between the jillion or so of us we can come up with an answer. And if not, maybe we can get that highway from here to Waikiki.


chadsta said...

My wife astounds me. How she can consistently tolerate my behavior and attitude astounds me. She is quite the saint.

Irrelephant said...

Good on her! We all need the light to balance our dark, don't we?

Vulgar Wizard said...

I abhor the foulness of RMB, but you knew that was coming.
More Clorox, please!