Our instincts are not as strong as those of other animals. In animals, those instincts are engraved in the very structure of their existence. They can learn new things. They can change some of their habits… but the instincts stay with them. A cat doesn’t have to ask himself if it would be worthwhile to clean himself this morning. But a human being, watching the cat, can barely stop asking himself, why does that cat have to clean himself again? He just did that an hour ago. As one of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut, wrote in his classic work, ‘Cats Cradle’, “fish gotta swim; birds gotta fly; man’s got to sit and wonder, why why why”.
Seems to me that on the whole, it is to our advantage that we are rational beings. For one thing, there is in that rationality, our ability to innovate and improve the conditions of our life style in our environment. It also give us an advantage in the competition with our natural enemies in this world, from wild animals to disease. But sometimes, we get too clever for our own good. And sometimes we try to understand what is beyond us, and keep beating our heads against a brick wall. It is difficult for us to admit that we can’t understand. And it is not rare, that unable to understand why something happens, or the way it is… that we invent stories to explain it. Sometimes, these stories become widely known and believed… sometimes, they become myths… and sometimes they become scientific theories… until they are disproved.
I have long struggled with this problem myself. It is hard for me to accept that I don’t understand something. And my continuous love affair with the world of computers has given me many opportunities to feel helpless and miserable because I just didn’t understand why a certain thing happened. The computer bug is one of the most famous and popular myths of our time, and I have struggled with more bugs than I could count; virtual bugs, of course. I haven’t yet encountered a real bug trapped or toasted on a printed circuit. But sometimes, a tiny bit of dust is enough to do the damage.
This morning, for instance, my keyboard didn’t work. I should have just disconnected it, and then reconnected it, and it probably would have worked. But I spent a few hours, trying to understand why it was happening, and went so far as to try another socket, to see if that would solve the problem. There was, of course the possibility of connecting it by way of the USB, but I wanted to maintain the PC connection. All the other alternatives I tried, worked. And ultimately, I reconnected the keyboard as it had been connected at the very start of things, and that worked too. Reluctantly, I accepted the fact that I no longer had a problem… but I was still bothered by the fact that I didn’t really understand why it had happened.
Let me conclude with special thanks to my friend, The Walrus, who enlightened me as to the ability to transfer audio tapes to MP3 memory on the computer. I have a very large collection of excellent music, that I transferred to tape cassettes from reel to reel and old fashioned records, as these methods grew old and impractical. Meantime, tape cassettes have also been replaced and forgotten. And though I tried at one point to transfer them again to computer memory, my method was cumbersome, and I found I didn’t have the patience to continue with the project. The Walrus introduced me to the use of the ‘Ion Tape Express’ and so far, it seems to be the answer to my needs and hopes.