Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rain dance

Yes! We have a rhythm! The crash cart was brought in and the laptop screen breathes again (I love this code blue-screen-of-death analogy, can you tell? Small pleasures, blogsters, small pleasures). A cause for celebration, n'est-ce pas? It would be, but I am suffering a profound explanatory anxiety. To wit: the damn thing was revived using precisely the same method as last time. I say precisely, and I mean that in the most unscientific and superstitious way possible.

I feel exactly like a member of those fictional ancient communities discussed by social evolution theorists and other nut-burgers (actually, I think traditionally speaking ancient communities don't have members, they have denizens. We'll go with that) who stumbles upon something really cool and useful, like say the production of crystal salt from seawater or fermentation or the use of penicillin moulds to treat ill denizens (I read a memoir of the West Country once which claimed that the local wise-woman-denizen used to keep a little bit of mouldy jam in the bottom of a jar and give it to sick kids. This is almost certainly apocryphal like this whole explanatory strategy anyway but it is still a good story). So anyway, naturally the story goes that the denizen has no specific idea about the causal relationships involved in the production of the cool outcome. I mean, she could make like Semmelweis and try to control the various factors to narrow down the instrumental ones, but that might be a pretty expensive epistemic exercise, especially if you can just remember everything you did last time and do it all again. Of course, you risk forgetting the one thing that actually did have an effect, and waste hours and hours stirring the water or waiting for the hummingbird you saw last time to buzz past again. But as long as you can remember the right part, and especially if you can develop a handy ritual for all the random parts, it's all good, right?

No way. I don't know how to handle the uncertainty. I lifted the screen bezel. I looked in there in a Laptop! Heal Thyself! kind of way. I kinda pressed a few things. I kinda blew on it a bit. I put the bezel back. And then it worked again. Was it even anything I did? Maybe it would have worked that particular boot-up anyway!

This would all be pretty minor but it provoked a mental cascade where now I'm wondering if I have a handle on the instrumental causal relations of anything in my life. I mean, maybe everything works because I sleep oriented north-south! Maybe I got the job because I licked that application pack envelope especially well that day! Causal angst, dude. I don't recommend it.

1 comment:

EOL said...

Causal mystery is one of my favorite things.

It could be that you managed to clean dust from some component.

But it could also be that you're on Candid Camera, or that you weren't properly respectful to the computer's version of Osiris.

In any case, I'm sorry it's stressful, but I'm in love with how you think about it.