alea iacta esto

The Skinny On Fucking Up

Last week, at work, I screwed up big time. I gave numbers to a manager that went higher up the ranks and then when I ran those numbers again a few days later it was clear the earlier ones were wrong. I ransacked the application system looking for explanations I could proffer to get myself off the hook. I stumbled over red herrings like a drunken oaf over street dustbins. My incredulity, stung numb, groped for salvation from something somewhere. In the end it was clear where the error lay. It was an input error. My error. Nothing is truer than if you put garbage into a system you get crap out. The really annoying thing was it wasn’t even the numbers that I put in that screwed things up. It was the ones I forgot to put in that nailed my coffin. I was mortified. It was one of those moments when one wonders what the hell one is even doing here on this planet.

The earth is around 4.5 billion years old and the sun approximately 500 million years older. From what astronomers can deduce from other stars, our sun is about halfway through its life span. In another 5 billion or so years it would be all over for the solar system and our planet. In truth, long before then the game would be up because before the sun blows up it will first swell to an enormous size, possibly gobbling up the earth in the end, but first heating up the planet to temperatures exceeding anything life can cope with. The oceans will evaporate and life in time would be snuffed out. We think. If we move somewhere else we had better find water! No water, no ecosystem, no algae and plankton and no rivers or oceans and no Little Fish or Big Fish. We can’t just colonize some bare dry planet. What are we going to eat? Where will we graze our cattle, rear our sheep, grow our crops and what will happen to wildlife? You might wonder why I care, I won’t be here. But I do care because I have a brain and it’s in its nature to worry about things even ones that don’t matter. So I worry about the error on my spreadsheet. And I worry that we will blow ourselves up before the sun is old enough to do it to us.

If I believed in a heaven then there would be comfort from the belief that God will protect me. But since I have chosen not to believe in fairy tales my salvation comes from the calm acceptance of the uncomfortable reality of the ultimate futility of life. Wordy that but bear with me. We’re lucky to be here at all and those of us alive now may be the luckiest homo sapiens of all. Who knows when the next dinosaur-killing comet is going to slam into us? Therefore I conclude that there is no point in worrying about silly little things like a mistake on a spreadsheet. All those people of ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt who scuttled around royal palaces, paper scrolls in hand, where are they now? All those petty administrators in the old British Empire, the senior clerk or governor in his khaki and crisp white shirt, I mean, the world does not care. If it does, the universe doesn’t. We are used to thinking that each human is special with God-given talents and we need to affirm that through success. When we fail we’re crushed. Suppose instead, we start from the premise that life is, well, futile. Well, then, what are you going to do about that? Cry, die or live?

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2 responses

  1. Dimi

    Live, in a way that hopefully won’t make me regret it!

    November 20, 2010 at 7:17 pm

  2. d3mola

    Amen to that!

    November 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm

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