Coded green.

Sunday 1 April 2001

Concrete pipes

Pic of the day: Oooh! Concrete pipes! Wheee! And almost exactly the right size! :)

Fools and folly

I hate April 1st, for the custom of deceiving people on that day. I am not one to watch over the calendar, and am easily taken in by a sufficiently elaborate joke. Today, for instance, I read that one of my favorite webcomics was to suddenly end. And not just any webcomic, but the cute and innocent Alice. I was shocked. And then I followed the link to why it was closed down... Aaargh! Fooled again! But at least this time I was glad it was just a joke.

Radio, newspapers ... everywhere is this April foolishness. At least it's Sunday so I don't have to go to work. Of course, the newspapers and radio usually have the good grace to make it slightly unbelievable. That way I usually realize that there is something fishy. Perhaps it is after all a good thing ... this way we learn to view things a bit critically. That can come in handy all year. But the sad thing is that it should be necessary.


I guess it is part of the human condition to do foolish things, and not just one day a year either. Now if this had only been restricted to fools, but no: Even smart people can do stupid things. I'm a pretty good example of that. Despite my good equation-solving abilities, real life often gets the better of me.

Some of you know of my history of taking dubious shortcuts. This is fairly harmless when applied to programming, but quite dangerous when applied to the wild outdoors. I get stuck or nearly stuck in the forest, in mountainsides, even windows. And of course curiosity killed Schroedinger's cat, as the saying goes. My tendency to explore things does not go too well along with my tendency to go alone. It's a miracle I'm even alive. But here I am. Let's just hope it lasts.

And even with all that, I am basically a cautious type. I don't actively delight in danger. Bungee jumping? No thanks! I don't hang out in seedy places after dark. I don't bike fast downhill (anymore). I don't hitchhike. I don't get seriously drunk, I don't smoke, and I don't do illegal pleasure drugs. I don't even take steroids, though Light knows there must be few men who could need them more. In virtually all things I act like a true porcupine. A curious porcupine, but even so ...

You must have heard the old joke: "How do porcupines make love?" "Cautiously. VERY cautiously." Well, I go one better: Not at all. I don't even fall in love ... I know you won't believe that, but really. And let us face it, when people fall in love, the foolishness really takes off!


I have often pondered this. Sanity is usually considered a good thing; and even so, people throw it to the winds to fall in love. They fall, they crash, they hurt ... and they do it again. And again.

I know the easy explanation is that it's all for procreation. The instincts grab the steering wheel. But is it really? Wouldn't it be more natural that society offered opportunities for people to be fruitful and multiply? Indeed, this is what we see for most of the world during most of history. There are institutions (generally referred to as "marriage") that let people have sex, bear children and raise them. All with due respect to the instincts. Falling in love should not be necessary. Indeed, historically it could be worse than nothing: People would fall in love with another person than the one who was their ideal partner, as seen by society. Oh wait, that still happens, doesn't it?

A funny thing now that I think about it: I wanted to contrast this to our rational and efficient handling of other instincts such as hunger. And then I realized that in our societies, we no longer approach hunger in a rational way either. Folly has overtaken a large part of the populace, so that they eat their food in secret, with shame and regret. They resist, they fall, they hurt, but they do it again ... wait, this seems familiar.

OK, we know that we can approach things in a rational way. And even so, we don't. Not just the people with low IQ. Could it be that it is not the primary need ... for food, for sex, for intimacy ... but that the need is used as a battering ram for a deeper need for insanity? A need to let go, a need to breach the walls of consensus reality?

Is this why so many different cultures have invented a Jester's Day, and Mask Festivals? Because the need for folly is so deep within us as to be a basic drive in itself? Does our desire for freedom go so far that we sometimes even need to be free of ... ourselves?

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