Wednesday, 10 November 2010

On optimism

I have a friend – or rather had, because that, like almost everything else in my life, has gone to shit – whose catch phrase is ‘it’ll be alright’. If he were an executioner he’s the sort of bloke who’d say to a condemned man, while gently adjusting the noose around his neck, ‘just take a few deep breaths and everything will be fine’. Indeed, so suffused with a rosy glow are the lenses through which this man views the universe, he’d probably be saying the same thing to the hangman if the roles were reversed.

It’s generally considered bad form to piss in the pints of those irritating cunts whose glass is always half full but haven’t you ever been tempted? If not, like said individuals, you may be unfamiliar with the second law of thermodymanics, the only principle in science that does any real, deep explaining.

This law can be expressed in many ways. ‘No process is possible in which the sole result is the absorption of heat from a reservoir and its complete conversion into work’ is how Kelvin put it. He was a dry bird, however, and fortunately there are other ways of getting the gist across. In no particular order: Murphy’s Law; anthropogenic global warming; the steady cooling of the coffee in your (half empty) cup; the cosy crackling sound a good hardback makes as it burns; the extreme effort required to write a book or even a blog; the observation that whereas falling off a barstool requires little practice, balancing a barstool on your forehead after a night on the tiles is a seriously cool trick; and the fact that demolition crews earn less than architects are all manifestations of the undeniable fact that, whereas there are many ways to skin a cat, it’s tricky to stick the fur back onto a flayed feline in a way likely to satisfy the RSPCA.

Fucking up is easy. Avoiding fucking up is hard.

Vishnu - Destroyer of Worlds
All organisms, including humans, are little machines for temporarily and locally reversing entropy – the ineluctable tendency of everything to disorder – but sadly entropy always wins in the end. While some lucky sods seem to have the knack for deferring their inevitable appointments with entropy for years at a time, certain adepts progress through life moving seamlessly from one gigantic fuck-up to the next. Among these adepts I am a virtuoso. I am Mozart to the Salieri of really bad decisions. I am Jesus Christ to the George W. Bush of unintended consequences. I am J. Robert Oppenheimer to the Alfred Nobel of blowing things up. This blog is my story. 

Fish Face - Destroyer of My World
Oppenheimer, seeing the results of his work on the Manhattan Project, famously quoted the god Vishnu: ‘I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ It strikes me that Oppenheimer would have been closer to the mark had he said that death becomes us, we humans. It suits us. ‘In my beginning is my end’, as T.S. Eliot put it in ‘East Coker’. This story begins in the middle and shall end I know not where. Let me offer a friendly piece of advice right now, however. If you are the type who thinks ‘Notting Hill’ (the movie, not the place), is a heart-warming and inspirational tale of the redeeming power of love, may I suggest that you look away now?

It won’t be alright.

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