Why this Blog?

A place where I can lament the changing times; for eccentric comments on current affairs and for unfashionable views, expressed I hope, in cogent style; also occasional cris de coeur largely concerned, I regret to say, with myself.


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Tuesday 4 March 2008

Resistentialism - or "Les choses sont contre nous" (Things are against us)

My last piece about the superb ruggedised Dell laptop computer reminded me of a concept that has entertained and amused me for many years since I discovered Paul Jennings's wonderful piece in which he introduced the oh-so-familiar concept of Resistentialism: the reality described eloquently by Wikipedia here that many of us have encountered: the fact that "Les Choses sont contre Nous" - or in English "Things are against us". By "things", Jennings was referring to inanimate objects.

The concept has been explored further and this quote from Wikipedia is most attractive for enthusiasts of the genre:

"The concept also appears in the Discworld novels of English author Terry Pratchett, where it is referred to as malignity or malignance; one practical example the author gives is the tendency of garden hoses, no matter how carefully one coils and stores them, to unloop themselves overnight and tie the bicycle to the lawnmower. It is associated with the Auditors of Reality, and possibly also with Anoia, goddess of Things that Stick in Drawers."

Of course the piece is a parody of Existentialism, but Jennings's reports of the opinions of Pierre-Marie Ventre have a distinct air of authenticity nonetheless

The keyboard on which I am typing this article is a very good example: from time to time an individual key will "bind" or stick resulting in rubbish on the screen. The next time that the key is depressed, it works perfectly; this is Resistentialism in action.

Jennings's piece includes wonderful examples, such as the Clark-Trimble Buttered Toast experiments in which carefully graded pieces of buttered toast were dropped on different carpet samples ranging from cheap cotton to the finest Chinese silk. Of course the toast landed face -up every time on the cheap cotton and nearly always face-down on the Chinese silk except when the different grades of carpet were shielded from each other, in which case the toast didn't know that there were superior and more expensive grades of carpet available - so naturally the toast fell face down nearly every time.

Fortunately Jennings's article is available on line and I heartily recommend it, especially to those who, like me have daily difficulty with sticking drawers, the car that starts perfectly every time until one is in a hurry etc., etc.

Until the next time.

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