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April 2005 - Rationally Speaking - "Useless feats" 
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Post April 2005 - Rationally Speaking - "Useless feats"
Below you'll find the April 2005 Rationally Speaking e-Column entitled, "Useless feats."




N. 60, April 2005

Useless feats


I may be going out on a limb here, but I just don't get it. I have just watched the ABC News coverage of millionaire Steve Fosset's solo flight around the world without refueling a plane. To put it bluntly: who cares? In the past few years we have seen people getting to the North Pole, around the world, on top of Mount Everest (all for the nth time), while abiding to a variety of artificial restrictions, just to make it a little bit interesting.

While these actions are billed by the media as stunts of human ingenuity, endurance, and courage, they are largely entertainment. Dangerous entertainment, but entertainment nonetheless. What really made history and made us feel part of a species that could achieve incredible feats was the first time that somebody



Thu Apr 21, 2005 11:13 am
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Post Re: April 2005 - Rationally Speaking - "Useless feats&q
I've always felt this way about the circus. What is the purpose of perfecting the art of swallowing fire, or swords? Or hanging upside down by one ankle while swinging far above the heads of sane people? Or lying on your back twirling plates on your feet? It really is a big 'so what'.

OK, and while I'm at it, what's the purpose of collecting money for you to walk a lot of miles, or run a lot of miles or bike a lot of miles, after which you give the money to charity? Why the effort? Why not just collect the money, and give it to charity? Why the intervening pointless athletic activity?

Or athletic contests of any type, for that matter. The Olympics have gotten us to thinking that athletic endeavors are important, but really, they serve no purpose other than as a measure of personal achievement and entertainment for the rest of us.

Is it due to a built-in desire to achieve....something? And the media simply glommed on to a good thing as they saw it?

I think we are witness to so much pointless feats and activities in our lives that we just don't really think of them as such any more. We just say "Oh, wow. Look at that." and go on with our lives.

Marti in Mexico




Thu Apr 21, 2005 3:06 pm


Post Re: April 2005 - Rationally Speaking - "Useless feats&a
Awfully serious from the contributor of the dog's balls joke, which I shared with my running partners on our daily noon hour run. They were entertained both by the joke and by the fact that I actually remembered a joke for more than a few minutes.

Why engage in sports? Well I am never going to be Joan Benoit Samuelson or Greta Weiss, but that does not keep me from racing the guy ahead of me. What do I get out of it? A very low resting heart rate, the ability to eat donuts when I want, and daily companionship from other crazy people like me.

I also admit to engaging in mildly risky activities such as spelunking, diving, etc. I know that I will never be first to climb a mountain, explore a cave, visit a reef, but that doesn't bother me at all because each adventure is a first for me.




Fri Apr 22, 2005 12:02 pm


Post Re: April 2005 - Rationally Speaking - "Useless feats&a
One could question the worth of scientific or philosophical inquiry in the same manner as the pursuit of "entertainment." Why fill our heads with the facts of the universe for the worms ultimately to eat? What is the substantive value of such pursuits except for enjoyment or self-aggrandizement?




Fri Apr 22, 2005 1:33 pm
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Post Re: April 2005 - Rationally Speaking - "Useless feats&a
When you really think about it there isn't a purpose to anything we do. Everyone has to decide what they value and the reasons why. Some people thrive on adrenaline, while others think that taking risks is just foolish.

We're all different, but one thing of which I'm thoroughly convinced is that there is absolutely no inherent purpose or value to anything at all. None. Hats off to those people with the balls to jump out of airplanes, dive into underwater caves, or race cars at over 300mph. They're living life like there is no tomorrow, and for some of them - there won't be.

The upside to being so damn intelligent, as a species, is that we have enormous free time in which to think about or even do crazy things. The downside to being the most intelligent species on this rock is that we actually spend enormous amounts of time thinking about and doing crazy things. We're always after that rush of excitement to make life worth living. In the past we might have received it from hunting down our next meal, or avoiding being another animals next meal. Now we have conquered just about everything nature has to offer, so we create our own obstacles just for shits and giggles.

Meeting life's challenges is a part of what makes us human, and is a part of how we made it from the primordial soup to landing on the moon. When I see my fellow humans attempting to climb mountains or dive to the bottom of undersea trenches...I applaud them. Whatever it is that is driving them to take such risks is of survival benefit for our entire species. I'll be worried when we all sit on our asses all day and watch TV (or read books!). ;)

Chris





Sun Apr 24, 2005 9:50 pm
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Post Re: April 2005 - Rationally Speaking - "Useless feats&a
I agree with Marti -- why do we watch this stuff? As a Canadian and minor hockey nut, this last year has shown me, and many others, that watching hockey (the NHL) is not necessary to our lives. I miss it as a reason to go hang out at the pub on a Saturday night to watch a game and drink beer with other fans, but Tessa is right, I could very well just go out and play hockey myself.

So the question is: Why do we watch instead of do? (sports, music, movies, books, etc.) We're consumers instead of creators -- why? because we're lazy. Because we have developed a cult of perfection -- don't do it unless you can do it well. Because...?

Karaoke is a good example. In Korea and Japan, people sing. Good, bad, or indifferent in talent, they all sing. Anecdote: I was sitting in a friend's car in Korea, driving down the road, and he pops in a tape, saying "This is me last week at a norae-bang (karaoke in Korean)." But in Canada and the USA, if we want to do karaoke, we've either got to be drunk (very drunk), or actually good singers. My partner loves karaoke, because he can actually sing. I like singing, but am not good at it, so don't do it publicly.

Lori

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."




Tue Apr 26, 2005 3:09 pm
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Post Challenges?
"Meeting life's challenges is a part of what makes us human."

Voluntarily swallowing swords or bungee jumping off a bridge are not exactly 'meeting life's challenges.' Rescuing someone stuck on the roof of their house in the middle of raging water as a result of a storm, or searching for victims of an earthquake, or rebuilding a destroyed village....that's meeting life's challenges.

But I guess if we talk about useless feats, perhaps that does include everything, which brings us to that ultimate useless activity, a discussion of the meaning of life. When everyone knows the meaning of life is chocolate.

Marti in Mexico




Tue Apr 26, 2005 7:27 pm
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