Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I received an email forward today.

It was quite interesting. Basically it shows the relative sizes of planets and stars. The comparisons gradually get bigger until it shows you that despite the fact our sun is roughly 620,000 miles across, when you compare it to Anteres, the size difference is roughly the same as comparing the Earth to a basketball.

Then, if you compare the size of Anteres, a single star, to the size of the planet Earth…if the planet was Anteres, the earth would be smaller than a grain of sand.

I found it fascinating until I got right to the end, and read:

“Now how big are you? How big are the things that will annoy you today? For that matter, how big are the things that are important? KEEP LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE”

Why is it that people feel the need to pass on these glib little comments? Is this supposed to be deep? Am I supposed to be inspired?

If you really think about this, what it’s saying is “Hell, if you’ve just lost your job, can’t make rent and you and your kids are going be homeless by this time next month…there’s a ball of flaming gas about a thousand light years away that’s literally millions of miles across! Doesn’t that make you feel better?”

In a word, no it doesn’t.

In fact, a smaller comparison would have much more of an effect.

“See how you banged your head today and it really hurt? Well today, a few thousand people worldwide just lost a loved one. Things could be worse.”

I suppose what bugs me the most about these things is that they’re self-indulgently ‘pseudo-deep’. You can almost feel the self-congratulationary pat on the back the author gave himself when he managed to tie that picture of a weird looking cloud formation with a hallmark-esque statement.

“Wow, that’s just beautiful. I’m so clever and deep! No one else could draw a comparison between people’s day to day problems and the cosmos. I must be special!”

You can’t get deep in a hallmark card, and you certainly can’t get deep in an email forward. If you want deep, log on to TED.com and listen to one of the many talks on science, technology, environmentalism or religion.

‘Deep’ makes you think and stays with you. You know if something is deep if it’s capable of disturbing you as much as ‘enlightening’ you.

A warm fuzzy ‘isn’t everything just great’ sentiment tenuously linked to a picture or fact isn’t deep. You know why?

Because everything isn’t great. The world’s going to hell in a handbasket.

But people like these ‘inspirational’ forwards because they make you feel good. They give you that warm fuzzy feeling that everything’s going to be ok.

I suppose my point is that if you can be uplifted by an email forward, if calling a picture of a cloud formation ‘The Hands of God’ (a picture that some kid photoshopped to look like the goatse image, by the way), can put a spring in your step and restore your faith in humanity… that just shows how truly shallow you are.

1 comment:

OzzyC said...

I agree with your sentiment. Most of those forwards of forwards of forwards of inspirational email drive me nuts.

But little things do sometimes make my day. On my way to work today, I saw a beautiful red sunrise, with lots of gray clouds and fall-colored trees in the background. That was inspirational.

I didn't forward it to anyone.