Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Some values for N

People who think their chronic discomfort is due to their posture being bad, and that they could improve it by (sitting up straighter, doing Pilates, taking yoga classes, generally being a better person): N = nearly everybody. People who have ever changed their posture by any method: N = practically nobody. (People who have thereby eased their chronic discomfort: N approaches zero.)

People who think they can turn a key, or a doorknob, that someone else is struggling with: N = practically everybody. People who can turn a key or a doorknob that someone else has failed to turn: N = practically nobody.

People who think that if everyone was like them and their friends, the world's problems would go away: N = practically everybody. People who are like themselves and their friends: N = everybody. Problems remaining: N = all of them.

Often we lay down some organizing categories, and build up elaborate networks of thought on them. When we go to explain our thoughts – which are in fact important, or at least interesting – we realize you can't understand them without understanding the categories as we use them. If we're not very very careful we will then take the categories to be profound in and of themselves (since they're the key to understanding all out profound thoughts!) and make pests of ourselves by trying to get other people to use them as we do. People who are likely to adopt our categories and use them as they think we do: N = 3. People who will use them, as we see it, properly: N = 0.5. Probability that those we perceive to use them properly are people with whom we are enjoying good sexual relations: 1.0.


Zhoen said...

The arithmetic of humanity. The algebra of love.

Lucy said...

I wouldn't be too sure about the last one...

That's to say, mutual incomprehension does not necessarily preclude good sexual relations, even if one is in the habit of putting the world to rights the morning after. On the other hand, someone who can get the tops of the jars I can't get the tops off is as valuable as good sexual relations. Or else one could get a strap wrench. But then someone who knows what a strap wrench is and how to use one is good enough to serve as a kindred spirit.

I'm not sure I have totally got your drift, but then QED perhaps.

Dale said...

I guess my drift was that actually nobody uses your pet categories "correctly," but if you're dewy-eyed about someone you can believe they do :-)

Jayne said...

This is why I'm glad I'm disorganized. I never know what to think, much less how to categorize.