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A Little Bit of Pain Never Hurt Anyone
8 March 2007. Just before lunch today I ordered a ‘hot water’ from
the drinks machine. Upon trying to extract the cup with, as it turns out,
distressingly scolding contents, the water gushed over the side, leaving me
paralysed in the right hand for the remainder of the day.
Some idiot had evidently decided that the
drinks dispenser should output water which felt at least 100 degrees Celsius
in temperature, while ensuring also that the cups are literally filled to
the brim, thus guaranteeing the poor unsuspecting sap ordering a drink is
dealt a violent surprise when innocently reaching in to retrieve it.
Left: Nothing says "good morning" like a proper
For the rest of the day my thumb was holed-up in a cup of cold water
(ironically from that very same machine). At lunchtime, however, I decided
to take a walk to the park, for which I bought a bottle of water to store my
intransigent digits as a short-term stopgap. Holding the bottle with the top
pointing downwards, the neck full of thumb, it served the purpose or
regulating the temperature of my scolded hand
back down to bearable levels. It made me look a bit unhinged to fellow park
dwellers I’m sure, but that is not the issue.
Here’s the thing. As I held the bottle upside down, leaning on my thumb, my
brain was telling me “this is an accident waiting to happen”. This was a
sure recipe for disaster; it was surely only a matter of time before the
valve-like effect of my thumb, preventing
the water from taking nature’s gravitational course all over my trousers,
became unstuck. What do you think happened next? I’m not actually going to
say it, as it’s pretty obvious what transpired, right?
So why didn’t the voice of reason and logic which is buried somewhere in my
head over-rule the other voice who (fairly reasonably) wanted my thumb to
remain cool to prevent pain? The logical action was outranked by benefits I
affixed to the “gamble” of continuing the balancing act. ‘Just
a little longer’ I thought, enjoying the nullifying effect of the
water in the bottle. Then water went all over my trousers. Which caused a
major policy rethink within the political institutions of my cerebral
There are numerous examples of this all around us:
I’m not an idiot. Or, if I am, then I am far from being the only
one. People in general always push the boundaries of what is possible to
beyond breaking point as part of our nature.
My guitar has a dodgy E string. When you tune it upwards too far it twists
round and resets itself at a lower tone. When I tune my guitar, I always
edge it closer and closer to this breaking point. ‘Just a little further’, I
think. You get a better sound if it is tuned higher. Or at least you would
do, if it were not physically possible to get it beyond a certain point.
What happens every time? I get proverbial water all over my
metaphorical pants, of course!
I suspect that this simple observation on human behaviour is true on a
global scale. We’ll all be going on polluting the planet and not worrying
too much about global warming,
continuing to push the boundaries for that ‘just a little longer’ which is
so much more comfortable. Combine this with other factors: monumental
cognitive dissonance of global citizens, rich companies and politicians who
don’t care, cows on a baked bean diet.
Then that will be that. Massive earthquakes, even
bigger Godzilla’s, and irreversible global damage will no doubt
follow. And then we’ll all have looked like we’ve just pissed ourselves.