Monday, December 17, 2007

A piece of the distraction

I was reading this post on Dot and Mars about how Mars almost had an epiphany. Which is to say, she had a series of random thoughts about unrelated matters that almost led up to a deep and profound discovery about the nature of life, but then got distracted and didn't make the discovery after all.

Now, I have to say, that out of all the things that don't happen in the world, an almost epiphany is one of the nicest. Why, there must have been times in all of our lives when we've thought a series of random thoughts that almost led up to a profound discovery but then we got distracted and didn't. Almost epiphanies come in all shapes and forms: there is the revelation that you didn't quite have about String Theory and quantum physics on the evening after dinner last week, and the sublime insight into the nature of God that you were distracted from having today at work. Sometimes you might be idly pondering cows, and your pondering might cause you to almost-but-not-quite solve Fermat's Last Theorem. At other times, you might be contendedly meditating on sausages, a meditation which will all of a sudden just fail to give you a stunning insight into Freud's theory of the subconscious.

Interestingly, there's no telling what sort of form your almost epiphany will take. Your random thoughts about Fermat's Last Theorem might just as well lead to an almost-but-not-quite epiphany about cows as the other way around, for instance. And a series of unrelated thoughts about an abstruse chess problem, frogs and puddings might suddenly lead you to almost make a curious discovery about a complicated origami design, or even stunning thoughts about grass. It all really depends on just how you choose to get distracted at the time. Which, paradoxically, you can't.*

The nicest thing of all about almost epiphanies is that it doesn't matter who you are - you'll have them anyway. Ethical philosophers may be paid to philosophise ethically, but that niggling almost epiphany about black cats is just one thought away. And theoretical particle physicists may fulfill a vital need by laying out the laws of the universe, but even they can't help stumbling on not-quite profound thoughts about lemonade.

I'll see you all later. I'm off to have a disconnected series of thoughts about orange shoes that may or may not reveal to me the secrets of existence.

*If you find yourself getting distracted by this distraction business, just remember what Douglas Adams said about flying: all you have to do is fall to the ground and miss it. Or, alternatively, don't.


Steve said...

I find the shower is the best venue for near epiphanies. Then the temperature needs adjusting again and it is lost.

TimT said...

Hmmm - for some reason there seems to be wide agreement on this point: that the proximity of water will quite often cause almost epiphanies. I feel a Freudian not-quite revelation coming on!

Mars said...

near epiphanies are grossly frustrating, in my opinion... however, you make an interesting post on the topic... much better than mine. who would have thought my drivel could be so thought provoking for someone else! ...not i.

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