The Life of Facts
We’re never more than one generation away from sweeping change.
So, true story. About half an hour ago, I opened a great email from a Dispatch member (don’t worry, this isn’t a pitch). It was heartwarming and sincere, and it told a great story about how much The Dispatch means to him, his father, and their relationship. It was precisely the sort of email we love getting because it makes it all seem worthwhile. I forwarded it to a bunch of colleagues, saying, “Great email.” And then, right after I hit send, a ball of foulness that reason tells me was crow feces but that I strongly suspect was actually a fist-sized globule of orc phlegm landed right on my laptop keyboard, spraying stygian, chthonic foulness everywhere. It got in every conceivable groove and cranny of my computer. It ruined a perfectly good, just lit cigar, and it immediately sent my germaphobia into at least a 24-hour spike. I have now washed my hands so many times they look like I forgot to put on rubber gloves when dissolving one of my victims in acid.
What’s the lesson here, other than “fecal matter occurs”? I don’t know. As Immanuel Kant said when he wrote the theme song for The Facts of Life, “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life.”
[Editor’s note for you young’ns: The Facts of Life was a TV show in the ‘80s. When it ended it was one of the longest running sitcoms in history until that point.* It was set in a girls’ boarding school. It wasn’t great, But back then we had only a few channels. The main character, Mrs. Garrett, had been the housekeeper on Diff’rent Strokes—a much more popular show—and she dispensed wisdom to the girls in her care.]
But what do we mean by the facts of life? Let’s dispense with the materialist interpretation quickly. Science and philosophy don’t overlap as much as they used to, but one place where the Venn diagram is at its darkest is the nature of reality itself. Entropy is a fact of life, and that means for people, planets, and the universe itself, time is a scarce resource. Even in a world of infinite abundance, if you spend time doing X you will have less time to do Y or Z. You can’t even experience X again the way you did the first time. You can only read a book or fall in love for the first time once. Tradeoffs are simply written into the metaphysical fabric of reality.
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