Monday, March 5, 2012

Maybe Not

Would you stand before a lawn-mower and ask it to calculate the diameter of its own wheels? No. You would not. You would not do this simply because the poor, non-sentient landscaping machine would not understand. It cannot understand such a request; therefore, you would stop speaking to it without further cogitative expenditures if you had, for some reason, ever begun.

Would you ask a loaf of bread to pass the salt? No. Why? Same reason. (That, and its rather blatant lack of arms.)

Do we all see the fruitlessnes in explaining to our shoes that we are experiencing a spiritual crisis? Do we comprehend what a waste of breath it is to assure our car that we will fill it up with gasonline, soon?

Yes. We do. This is because we know the nature of these objects and, if not, after one embarrassingly useless conversation with a knitted scarf, most of us learn our lesson.

Likewise, we wouldn't hit up symphony conductor for answers to questions about the nature of biochemistry; nor an auto mechanic to explain pseudo-scientific trends in the pre-Christinan theology of the aboriginal inhabitants of, say, Fiji. Granted, it is not impossible that these people might know something about difficult subjects outside of their fields, but, chances are, given the demands of their respective professions, they haven't had the time to aquaint themselves with such complex -- and, let's face it -- extraneous subjects.

Faust says "maybe" to Mephistopheles.
We, as a species, tend to not want to waste our time in connecting linguistically with others who cannot hear what we say, either literally or metaphorically and who, we know, in the end, simply cannot benefit from our chuntering.

No, dear readers, we are stingy with our words, down to the very phoneme, in situations in which said syllabations are tossed into a void.

So, why, could you please tell me, as both a teacher and as a father, do I ever utter the word "maybe" to either my children or to my students? For (may I turn into a candy wrapper and blow away into the gutter if this isn't true), heed my words, children between the ages of three and eighteen are utterly incapable of understanding the meaning of the word "maybe." Worse, "maybe," to them, is nothing short of a solemn promise -- a blood oath -- that requires its speaker to do what they requested; the breaking of which falls just short of a damnable offense.

"Dad, can you play video games with me later?"

"Maybe, son."

A half hour later, after Dad explains that he is too busy: "But Youuuu praaaaaahhhhmised!!!!" Tears fly in all directions. (At which point, Dad begins beating himself about the face with one of the stuffed Angry Birds that litter his house and make it, at times, feel like an avian tomb.)

...or: "Mr. Mat -- will you have those papers done by Monday?"

"Maybe... I have a lot of them to do this weekend, Ted."

On the Monday, following: "What? They're not done? Not cool, Mr. Mat. Not. Cool." Ted strolls jauntily away down the hall. (Mr. Mat envisions beating Ted with own book bag but realizes this is not a wise career choice.)

Yea, verily, you have as much chance of convincing a pile of mulch that young Domonic Brown is ready to be an everyday right fielder for the Philadelphia Phillies than you do of getting across the idea of "maybe" to anyone under twenty. (For any exceptionally intelligent piles of mulch who read this blog [just in case]: he's not.)

And, now, if you will excuse me, I am off to play video games with my son because my committment was etched in stone a few hours ago with a firm (and legally binding) "maybe."

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