Thursday, July 19, 2007

Things I Could Never Do If I Lived To Be 1,000

Skydive. I was in the Air Force. I don't jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

Teach in public schools. I tried it. I was a substitute teacher at a middle school -- for one day. During that day I did what the regular teacher instructed me to do, and read articles from a science magazine for kids. I found myself reading environmentalist propaganda. As I read, I mumbled a few interjections to the baffled students that contradicted the point of the article. That and the fact that I could not make them shut up -- "Um, could you guys, uh, be quiet? Hello?" -- ended my career as a teacher.

Have sex with a man. Nothing against homosexuals, but men do not excite me. Besides, I know what men are like. They would just use me for my body, then the moment they were satisfied they would be thinking about how they can get rid of me and even if some relationship did develop, they would watch football with their buddies instead of shopping for shoes with me. Why would I want that when I can do all that myself to a woman?

Watch "American Idol" sober. I apologize now to all you "American Idol" fans because I must be snarky. It's glorified karaoke. These crass people warbling in melissmatic excess to boring tunes that drone on and on -- it screams bad taste. It's like something dreamed up by Alvah Scarret in The Fountainhead. Goethe said we are what we turn our attention to. If Goethe is right, then those who watch "American Idol" long enough turn into mediocrities of limited intelligence that are incapable of understanding the finer things in life.

Be a Stand-Up Comedian. Now, this is different from the activities above. There's nothing inherently bad about stand-up comedy, it's just something I can't do, like sing opera or dunk a basketball. I have been paid to write comedy for radio morning shows, but no one would pay me to stand before an audience and tell a joke. The professional comedian has to look at the world in a skewed way. He tends to stick to surface issues and human foibles. I tend to think philosophically, which I believe Aristotle would have agreed means looking for causes. The philosophical way of thinking, when it is a part of one's character, habituates one to seriousness instead of looking for the humorous twist.


Galileo Blogs said...

I skydived when I was 19. I'm glad I did it then, because I sure as hell wouldn't do it now.

I recommend doing it once. It is quite an experience. I actually enjoyed the slow descent with the parachute more than the freefall. It is quite an experience to be suspended thousands of feet up and survey the scenery around you, hearing nothing but the soft rush of wind. It was magisterial to sit on my suspended throne, and survey the lands, pulling on the right cord to gently shift right, the left cord to gently shift left. Look at the forest in the distance over there, the power plant over there. The landing was as gentle as stepping out of bed.

Of course, the chute worked and I am here to talk about it. Would I do it again? Hell no. Instead, put me in a New York City cab with a Bangladeshi cab driver whose last vehicle he drove was a mountain goat. Now I feel safe!

Galileo Blogs said...

Uh, change that to Pakistani cab driver. I don't think there are any mountain goats in Bangladesh...

Or just say my Bangladeshi driver drove a donkey before driving a yellow cab on the streets of New York. That sounds better.

Myrhaf said...

If I tried to skydive, the terror I would feel would be so great that I wouldn't enjoy the experience, at least not until the chute opened and I knew I would live.

A slightly related issue: the most ghastly and unsettling thing about 9/11 is those pictures of people falling. Such horrors are not psychologically healthy to contemplate because if they become central to your view of man, they work against the benevolent universe premise. Horrors and accidents must be kept in their place; they do not define man's existence. Better to focus on value achievement.

I'm not saying thrill seekers are irrational because they put themselves in situations in which they might die. To be honest, I'm not sure what my point is in bringing up 9/11. Maybe the point is that I tried to skydive, I would think of 9/11. All of which is not to say I would have skydived before September 11, 2001.

Terra firma, baby. I'm here to stay until I'm gone.

Galileo Blogs said...

On 9/11, I was working 8 blocks north of the Trade Center that day. I did see people jumping, a sight I had to turn away from. It is the most awful memory I have of that awful day.

Not much to add on that topic here, except that I love the city and have worked harder than ever to maintain a benevolent outlook since then. I believe I have succeeded. 9/11 propelled me to focus more of my attention on the good wherever I find it. I did so out of necessity.