Saturday, September 13, 2014

#LICHEN - or - He's a Complicated Man And No One Understands Him But His Woman

Famed post-post-postmodernist philosopher Dieter Schlemp had spent his entire career setting out to prove various things in the hopes that he would fail to prove them. He didn't like to be proven right. Dieter prided himself on his lack of pride but he did not like to be proven wrong either. Right or wrong is such a dull paradigm. What Dieter liked was if the results of his investigations presented something entirely unexpected and bewildering. What Dieter ultimately wanted to prove, although he'd loath to admit that he wanted to prove anything, was that all enquiry was folly and that reality was incomprehensible. Some may argue that without enquiry our species never would have crawled from the sea and mastered the land but Dieter reckoned that we were better off under water. Dieter believed that the human experience was the result of a profoundly boring cosmic mistake and the only thing that interested him was to prove this, or not as the case may be.

Dieter's latest thesis argued that people were more interested in talking about things happening than things actually happening. For example, imagine you witnessed a UFO landing in your garden but you could never tell anyone. Now imagine you could tell everyone a UFO landed in your garden but such a thing never happened. Which would you prefer? Dieter suspected that the vast majority of people would choose the latter because what really interested them was getting attention and being listened to and valued. Most people would not say as much but, from what Dieter had observed during his fifty five years on this planet, it was what they really thought. People liked to talk above all other things, even if it meant talking about nothing. In fact, as far as Dieter could make out, the closer to nothing the subject was the more people liked to discuss it. It was easy to have an opinion on something that barely mattered at all. Things that did matter were a lot more trouble so people tended to keep those things off the conversational menu. This, for example, is why puff pieces about shoes get more column inches than meditations on mortality.

After garnering the largest bursary ever awarded to a humanities based academic investigation, Dieter hired a large PR firm to create a commotion concerning lichen. Dieter instructed the PR company to get the media talking about lichen more than it talked about red carpet events. What Dieter wanted to do was make the spreading of lichen and the patterns made by lichen and other phenomena particular to lichen water cooler moments. #Lichen trending like a boss for at least three weeks was what Dieter wanted and that's what he got when the PR company arranged for Kanye West to pose for photographs with some lichen and share his opinions on lichen. 'Lichen just be chillin and shit' said Kanye of the lichen. Then the PR company manufactured stories about sick children whose last wish was to stroke some lichen as well as stories about how lichen stroking was being used to treat PTSD and fight the signs of aging. 'For too long we have taken lichen for granted', said an op-ed piece by a popular columnist who genuinely believed that he was writing his own thoughts. Almost everyone agreed with the columnist and even those that didn't were still talking about lichen when they expressed their opinion and therefore maintaining its 'trending' status. Pixar then made an animated film about lichen that was voiced by Kaley Cuoco and Donald Sutherland. An awareness campaign about lichen sclerosus was also launched and everyone bought anti-inflammatory ointments and smeared them on their genitals. 'I'm so glad people are finally talking about this', said one daytime TV host who did not suffer from the condition or know anyone who did.

So, Dieter's thesis was proved correct. People liked to talk, no matter what the topic and the blander the topic the more they liked to talk about it. Dieter was, of course, miserable to be proven correct and moped around the house irritating his wife, Annabelle, for weeks afterwards. Being proven wrong would have been just as bad for Dieter. 'What did you expect to happen?', Annabelle asked him. 'Something new, something different', said Dieter dolefully, 'something bloody interesting'. Annabelle knew her husband well and lifted his spirits when she posited that something interesting had indeed happened. 'Isn't it interesting that people can be interested in something so uninteresting?' she asked rhetorically. Then she delivered her stroke of mercy, 'why is that, do you think?' she asked non-rhetorically and with fake nonchalance. Annabelle then watched as the spark of enquiry once again grew in Dieter's dying eyes and she knew that he would soon be off on another folly. Dieter would never realise what Annabelle had done for him and Annabelle knew that he would never realise it but that didn't matter to Annabelle. She too prided herself on her lack of pride and, really, she was just glad to get him out of the house.

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