Thursday, 2 February 2012

Does reality have to be so confusing?

There are things that I understand completely but which I still find baffling. 

Take the curvature of the Earth. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? It makes perfect sense — why, a schoolchild can understand it — that the time is different in different parts of the world. At the same time.

Of course I can get my mind round that. My mind’s fine with it. It’s just the rest of me. I mean, somewhere deep inside me, it makes no sense at all to me. I can cope with the fact that the French insist on being an hour later than us. That’s just the French. It’s the kind of thing they do. OK, and the Germans, the Spanish, the Italians, why even Liechtenstein. They all play that game. It’s part of their charm.

I even have colleagues in Ukraine. They claim it’s two hours later. I can manage that too. They just start work early. Fine. That’s their business. Sometimes I can't sleep late either.

But last week I was in California, and it just got silly. People were going to bed when I was getting up. Or was it the other way round? I couldn’t come to terms with it at all.

Take my birthday. I got up and found that people had been sending me birthday greetings for hours. Very kind, very touching. But they really got off the mark ridiculously early. And then, a while later, the greetings were still coming in, but with apologies for being late. Late? They weren’t late. It was early evening. What was their problem?

In the end, it felt as though my birthday had gone on for about 36 hours (OK, OK, 32, but who’s counting?) Now of course, the little voice of rationality was saying to me ‘it’s all about the curvature of the Earth, local time in one place is different from local time somewhere else. That’s why they call it local, for crying out loud.’ But somewhere else, a much more believable voice was saying ‘a 36-hour birthday? Enjoy it! You’re not likely to have a longer one.’

And it occurs to me that maybe I should pay attention to the voice of my instinct. Why should I  have to listen so hard to cold reason?

This stuff all proves that the arrangement of the world is completely bizarre. Mind and instinct in contradiction. Who’d do things that way? What’s the point? When it’s midday, it should be midday everywhere, not two o’clock in the afternoon in one place and four in the morning somewhere else.

Easy to understand and yet completely incomprehensible
It’s the same with the seasons. I mean, I went downstairs yesterday morning pleased as punch that it was light outside. Wonderful. And then I found the car covered in frost and froze my hands scraping it: I didn’t have time to fetch any gloves. 

Now, what’s the sense in that? It’s getting light. It’s a good time (sorry, southern hemisphere people). So why does it suddenly get bitterly cold? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the cold when it’s dark, so we can got the whole ghastliness over in one go? Why spoil the returning sunlight with a cold snap?

It's the other way round in what we laughingly call summer in Britain. Nice long days but that only gives the rain longer to spoil things. In a properly organised universe, the days would be warmest and driest when they were longest.

That’s why I laugh when people talk to me about intelligent design. You call this intelligent? If it were intelligent, I’d be getting back to my desk after lunch at pretty much the same time as people I might want to speak to in Tokyo, Berlin or San Francisco. The long evenings would be the balmy ones when we could have barbecues that didn’t get drowned out by storms.

And I wouldn’t have to keep calling on reason to explain why things aren’t the way they feel they should be.

No comments: