Saturday, April 08, 2006

This guy goes to a psychiatrist

This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." - Woody Allen


I gave my mom some balloons on Valentine's Day. Here at work we have a helium tank, and so I filled them myself. I opted for hi-float, a gelatinous goo that coats the inside of the balloons to make them float longer before deflating and sinking to the floor, unable to support their own weight. Much longer, in fact. Stopping by her house today (note that it is now April 8th) I saw that while the rest of them had suffered their inevitable slow voyages from cheerful decoration to depressing metaphor for life, one balloon is still completely floating with it's ribbon almost as tight as when I first inflated it. It has been thrilling for us all. Every conversation between Mom and I since Valentine's Day has included the balloons and we've agreed that it is supernatural.


So kudos are in order to the inventor of high float, right? This person saw a problem in the world (balloons only last a couple of days) and set out to solve it. I mean we're all fighting entropy on a daily basis, but this person contributed to the struggle in a very tangible way. The balloon is still floating. There is no denying that.

Or else hi-float is just another patent number. Just another obscure product that most people will never hear of. It makes balloons float longer, but nobody's life is actually better as a result.

Does hi-float matter? Does this improve anyone's life in a way that matters? As one of my professors always asks us retorically, "Is this a difference that makes a difference?"

Let's blow this way out of proportion for a moment. Let's suppose I continue my current course of study until it turns into a career. Dr. Uchino, one of my thesis advisors said that I will probably not have my thesis published in a peer-reviewed journal, and that even if I do, it won't be as glorious as I might think. He noted that despite his publications, he is not famous and will probably not turn out to be influential, wealthy, or mentioned in textbooks years from now.

But we're all adding to this growing body of knowledge, he says, and it is a prerequisite of being a scientist that one believe that more knowledge is better than less knowledge, that the net effect of science is for the benefit of humans, and essentially makes a difference that makes a difference.

Now let's really overgeneralize and carry this metaphor way past its sensical boundaries (this is fun, isn't it?). Belief in God, belief in other people, belief in ourselves. Really there is no logical reason to believe in any of these. I see mountains of evidence against God. Other people have let each of us down more times than we can count. I, for one, fail at something at least once a day. But we still get out of bed. We still depend on other people, and I keep going to church. I am not saying if you don't believe in God then you are giving up on all of humanity and the whole universe. All I'm saying is that you're still around because you believe in something. Science is good. Hi-float is wothwhile. God is a real person. Doorknobs are not equally distributed throughout the universe. Whatever it is that's keeping you going, let me just say, good for you.

9 comments:

Dear Lovey Heart said...

good for you

Creativity Escapes Me said...

Doorknobs aren't equally distributed. You're correct sir. That was one of the things I missed while I was in the Stan.

kel said...

i believe one of the most important things about this balloon observation - and its being blown out of proportion (pun intended) - is how it has given you, and therefore us an oportunity to wax philosophical at no extra cost, even though hi-flow was a few cents more.

Laverna said...

Who says that using hi-flow in your balloons didn't do any good? This is coming from someone majoring in a field where results are not always tangible, but they are there nonetheless. Your mother enjoyed the balloons, did she not? Then they did the world some good, in their small way. Magnifying their calling, if you will.

jo said...

and this is what I mean by science being a means to an end and a means to be held onto. I think I remember saying that the lyrics were good because everyone feels that way at some point or another and you said, "no, I don't think they do." I had to think about that one for a long time. I still haven't figured it out.

randi pants said...

think of it this way.... if there wasnt hi-flow, you and your mom wouldnt have anything to talk about.

T.R. said...

People, it's hi-float.

anyway, I've been thinking, Jo. Maybe you were right. Maybe some people are just better at suppressing that or not admitting it, but everyone does feel that way. It's question for the centuries.

ms. pants: my mom always has something to talk about.

Michelle 2021 said...

The yellow one is the sun.

The Mediocre Gatsby said...

I had never heard of Hi-Float baloons before, so I was intrigued by this. Now I am even more excited about Hi-Flow baloons. Can you give me more details?

Your thesis may never end up in "el Booko de la Thesis", but you've got your stuff published in a blog - and some would argue that that is even better since not just anyone can have a blog. Know what I mean?