The big jol is over and now is as good a time as any to contemplate your navel, or Sunspot 1092, says Zander Heeger, which some predicted might just be our sizzling destiny earlier this week.
As the Soccer World Cup drew to a close, many of us experienced a profound sense of loss. Aw gee, it’s over. We’ve been at the centre of world attention for a month, scores of royalty, celebrities and tourists have graced our shores and we have reveled in all the hype and excitement. It’s been such fun.
Alas, fun is but a finger long. I don’t think there is such an idiomatic expression in English. I confess, I’ve cribbed it from Afrikaans: Lekker is net ‘n vinger lank. The more elegant English version would be ‘All good things come to an end’, albeit somewhat less graphic and lacking in alliterative punch. Either way, they both serve rather well to demonstrate the transitory passage of pleasure, the fleetingness of fun, the passing rush of happiness and, inevitably, the very transience of life itself.
Would you believe that American scholars (some will say that is an oxymoron, a la virtual reality) have now made the study of happiness an academic discipline at tertiary level? Perhaps that is not so surprising if you see the number of Yankee books on the pursuit of happiness on display – and selling well – at virtually any book store.
Recent studies suggest that happiness can be measured. The so-called Satisfaction with Life Index is an attempt to show the average self-reported happiness in different nations. This is an example of a recent trend to use direct measures of happiness, such as surveys asking people how happy they are, as an alternative to traditional measures of policy success in relation to GDP or GNP. Hmmm, I wonder…
The point is, there are clever okes out there who make a living by putting a price on joy. It’s what economists do as well – find value for the intangibles in life. They’ve even conceived a mathematical formula for happiness: R/E or reality divided by expectations. There are two ways to be happy, they say: improve your reality or lower your expectations.
Now, that is just so pat and typical of the American penchant for easy-speak and slick jargon. But, I admit grudgingly, I rather like the sound of that. It makes good sense to lower your expectations if you are unable to change circumstances that make you unhappy. Whether that is a sure-fire way to be happy is a moot point, Buddy. Perhaps it is simply a way of making you less unhappy, which is not quite the same thing.
Nudge this train of thought a touch beyond the finger-long borders of pure pleasure and joy, and you would embrace, perhaps with a touch of bête noire, the broader spectrum of human emotions, including suffering and sorrow. Some of the more evolved spirits in Noordhoek or Scarborough will gently point out, while casually fingering their crystals, that joy and sorrow are, like, simply two sides of the same coin, hey. Be that as it may, the pleasure pundits have now joined the ranks of the litigators by quantifying human emotions. They claim to establish the value of a smile, they will determine how many points you could get for a belly laugh and will even tell you how much an orgasm weighs on the pleasure scale. On the other side of the coin, lawyers and judges are well versed to establish the currency for sadness and pain and they are forthright in their judgments on exactly where rape and murder will be tipping the scales of justice.
But I digress into the frothy entrails of human triviality of fun and frailty. What about Sunspot 1092, I hear you ask? Well, Sunspot 1092 was an explosion the size of the earth on the sun’s surface. Astronomers at NASA earlier this week warned of solar flares from a ‘huge space storm’ that would cause devastation. “The explosion, called a coronal mass ejection, (sic, I swear) was aimed directly towards earth, which then sent a solar tsunami racing 149 million kilometres across space.”
Well, it seems these predictions were, fortunately for us, somewhat dramatic and alarmist. But it makes you think. I don’t wish to be a killjoy but it is common cause among mainstream scientists and intelligentsia that humans will perish in the not too distant future. After all, the planet has experienced at least 20 spectacular mass extinction events in its discernable past. The last significant one, which happened a mere two billion years ago when an asteroid slammed into earth near Vredefort in RSA, unceremoniously, and without a glimmer of appreciation for our misguided perception of the sanctity of life, destroyed more than 96 percent of all living species at the time. In fact, more than 98 percent of species that ever lived are now extinct.
When we were doing the soccer fan walk surrounded by thousands of elated people, I was struck by all that human vitality, and it was impossible to imagine that all this, this intense and complex thing called life, could end in a flash. Just a thought, hey…
Zander Heeger is a free-lance copywriter. While dabbling with some psy-chic’s crystals, he was profoundly inspired to invent – and patent, mind – a sunscreen product called Block 1092, which is guaranteed to counter the devastating effects of coronal mass ejection. It employs the cunning Heeger manoeuvre (not to be confused with the Heimlich manoeuvre) and is also a sure-fire birth control therapy. Place your orders now through any Scenic South outlet.