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We Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

We Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet &Raquo; Notes To Self By Mark Obrien

We live in a horse race. Two nags, Gluefoot and Gimpy, are neck-and-neck coming down the stretch, and we have no idea which horse will cross the finish line first. Gluefoot represents the uncertainty of whether we’ll persist in our belief that we can control (because we’ll be blamed for) everything. Gimpy represents the uncertainty of whether we’ll come to realize we’re insignificant and ineffectual beyond the ability of our imaginations and our egos to comprehend such a thing.

Exhibit A is climate change.

I came across an article in The New Yorker entitled, “What a Major Solar Storm Could Do to Our Planet”. While we’re sitting down here thinking we have anything at all to do with the planet’s climate and, even more absurd, that we can fix it, there’s a bomb ticking some 93 million miles from Earth, give or take a few yards. We’re not terribly concerned with the incomprehensible power of that bomb, largely because we’re preoccupied with misguided notions of our own power. But consider just this one example of the limits of our power (to say nothing of our knowledge), from the article:

During the Vietnam War, the United States started sowing the waters outside North Vietnamese seaports with mines that had magnetic sensors, to trigger explosions when steel-hulled vessels passed overhead. Three months after that program began, many of those mines—four thousand of them, according to one contemporaneous source—detonated almost simultaneously. An investigation determined that the plan had been compromised not by Hanoi but by a newly discovered solar phenomenon called a coronal mass ejection.

The potential for phenomena like that, of course, is why God invented the Law of Unintended Consequences. He thought it would make us think about things more, think longer before we made any assumptions or engaged in any boneheaded shit. He thought it might remind us to look before we leap and to be more mindful of the fact that we don’t know what we don’t know. But we didn’t do any of that. We still don’t.

Diametric Opposites

We’ve forsaken the middle ground and made camp on opposing fringes. Maybe that indicates the extent to which we’ve been successfully politically polarized. I don’t know. But I do know we’ve abandoned that middle ground, along with common sense, empiricism, and — especially as it pertains to politics — our sense of irony.

I came across Exhibit B in the same New Yorker article:

In our private lives, we tend to focus on the high consequences: your nine-year-old will almost certainly not be kidnapped while playing alone at the local playground, but you don’t let him do so, because the potential cost is too devastating. By contrast, corporations and nations tend to focus on the low odds and therefore wave away the possible consequences. “I’m working with people and they’ll say, ‘Why do I need to spend a cent on this issue? I’ve been here for forty years and I’ve never seen a problem.’”

Think about that. As Grandpa O’Brien loved to say, “We’re chasing the mice while the elephants are running down the street.” We’re refusing to let our kids be kids and grow up, even as we’re ignoring all manner of legitimate risks and threats. And all the while, in between the two extremes posed by Exhibit B, we continue to persist in our thinking that we can control Earth’s climate. Wow! You really can’t make that up.

The older I get, the more I believe people who don’t believe God has a sense of humor were never born. If they were born, they’re just not paying attention.

Man, it’s astounding to be human.

Originally Published on https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/category/lifecolumns/notes-to-self/

Mark O'Brien Writer, Blogger

I'm the founder and principal of O'Brien Communications Group (obriencg.com) and the co-founder and President of EinSource (einsource.com). I'm a lifelong writer. My wife, Anne, and I have two married sons and four grandchildren. I'm having the time of my life.

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