June 09, 2005

When a Nerd Has No Problems...

My favorite proverb is a Russian proverb: “When a peasant has no problems, he buys a pig.”

Here you have your fortunate peasant. He’s been able to buy a small, productive plot of land over the years – he has a good family, strong sons to work the fields, a few chickens, a roof that doesn’t leak – he has time in the evening to smoke his pipe and look at the stars – a few kopecks saved up in a knotted handkerchief buried in the dirt floor. He’s sitting around thinking, “This is a good life, how can I make it better, what should I do now?”

“The Ivanovs bought a pig,” his wife says.

So he walks to market with his knotted handkerchief, and comes back leading a healthy young sow. A promise of ham and bacon, a roast at Christmas, and little piglets who will grow up to enrich him further. Plus a living fourlegged garbage recycler.

And the sow gives him something to do every day. She’s breaking down the fence, she’s fighting with the dog, she’s biting the grandchildren, she’s terrorizing the hens, she’s invading the house, she’s trespassing on the neighbors, she’s spilling garbage all over the ground. He bought all the problems of prosperity.

When a nerd has no problems, he starts a blog. Here it is, after nine o’clock, and I’ve done nothing for two and a half hours but wonder what to post, read other blogs, touch base at metablogs, pore through comment threads, get my thoughts and emotions stirred up about issues I don’t care about in the slightest. If British football (soccer) fans chant derisively “USA! USA!”: at their opponents, is it a sign of Anti–Americanism? Can a computer program tell your racial characteristics and personality by analyzing your photograph? Who were the twenty greatest philosophers of all time?