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Mir Sayyid Ali: Persian Miniature Complex Palace Scene (1539–1543)
"I might have been more right than I knew."

Most of us sense the significance of anything larger than us. Big might not necessarily be better, but it's sure a whole lot more noticeable. We learn early not to sweat small stuff, for small doesn't usually represent any obvious threat. Dedicated to making some significant difference, we focus upon the bigger chunks, ones where, if we can influence them, we'll probably get noticed. Appearances aside, this bias for the big might imperil us most, for small changes, those which go unnoticed, seem to more readily replicate than the huge gallumping kind which quickly raise our defenses. An almost indiscernible one percent change, if persisted over time, can leave us wondering why in a radically different place. A spark becomes a blaze. A drip grows into a flood. We see ample evidence that tiny can become tyrannical, yet a TinyTyranny usually slips right through our defenses.

Innumeracy explains some of this condition.
Few of us seem terribly sensitive to the effects of exponentiation, for instance, a calculation we cannot simply do in our heads. The formulas for it look deceptively simple. It seems of trivial significance. Most of us cannot perform the math, which employs metaphors we never grasped, demanding a unique manner of thinking. We fall back upon models which usually properly characterize our situation without even thinking about it much. Confronted with an apparently non-sensical number like 5 in 100,000, we easily ignore every suggestion that it might hold any significance, for even we, blessed with tenacious innumeracy, can count the zeros between .0005% and 1, and even one seems awfully small to ever prove to be any threat to us at all. Further, those who do know and deeply understand have yet to find a Rosetta Stone translation to explain in simple-seeming language what they deeply understand that we do not comprehend; perhaps cannot comprehend. It too easily appears that those damned eggheads are playing us again.

Their explanations makes no sense because they exist beyond what senses can register. Nobody can see, hear, taste, smell, or feel such subtle significance, for it's genuinely nonsensical, requiring alternate means besides the five senses for validation and verification, means which also exist outside the realm of what we refer to as common sense. Common Sense seems to be an innate Flat Earth sort of telemetry whereby we prove obvious tautologies, similar to explaining the existence of something with a reassuringly misleading "because." Beyond sensory experience, universes open up before us. These seem to require considerable trust to influence us. We simply must take the training wheels off of our common sense if we're to find any significance there. Many of us would rather extend that trust toward people apparently much smarter than us rather than master those calculations ourselves, but absent that trust, we're blind to whatever understanding such nonsense might provide us.

I've tried to Google my way out of this dilemma. I asked why 5 in 100,000 represents a threshold positive infection rate justifying mandated sheltering in place, and Google was not able to explain it to my common sensical satisfaction, probably because I could not properly frame my question. Search isn't research because it's not curated by people who specialize in effectively framing questions to access useful information, another nonsensical profession. Search never insists upon anything beyond a user's naive Flat Earth characterizations and so produces a rather high rate of tautological responses, ones which tend to reinforce ignorance rather than encourage real insight. It generates remarkably satisfying 'becauses.'

This Damned Pandemic invites me to humble myself, a challenge under any condition and yet another TinyTyranny. How could such passive responses vanquish any foe, even one as apparently insignificant as this so-called flu? This virus does not behave like any flu we've ever known before. I've come to accept, without necessarily understanding, that passivity might just be This Damned Pandemic's death ray. COVID-19 invisibly thrives on sociability, relying upon a few of us to distrust those few who better understand the utter nonsense of its nature. We cannot replicate the expert's results and they cannot very successfully explain their conclusions to us, so we're challenged to trust that a TinyTyranny might actually prove to be a significant risk to us. None of any of this makes the least little bit of common sense, but the evidence seems to suggest that the experts' unlikely insight might actually apply to even the least of us.

Stupid seems to be the tenacious inability to extend trust toward anyone who might know better about us. Worlds exist beyond what any of us can sense. I wondered, during those seven years spent between graduating high school and entering college, just what those colleges taught those kids who went there that I hadn't gotten out on the streets. The streets taught me plenty. I gained real insights into how this world actually treated me. I felt unfairly held behind by my absence of any degree, for I could not see what they'd gained that employers seemed to value so. It might have been that those college grads had earned some sort of certification in humility, that they'd gained some deeper respect for what they could not see and might never comprehend while I had learned only what my meager experience might have taught me, something radically different from humility. It seemed a TinyTyranny to me and I might have been more right than I knew.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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