A Fine Length

While the young (and not so young) often believe in a black-and-white world; and even those who accept other hues at times wish for simpler choices. However, compromise might be a necessary part of civilisation; thus it is more useful to judge a person not by whether they compromise, but by the compromises they make. Even if those compromises are a touch abstruse.

How many of you built the device you are reading this article on? Of those who didn’t, how many of you could build the device but didn’t this time? Given my understanding of my audience, I’d guess a significant minority. But of that minority, how many of you read “build” as assemble from pre-made parts? If the question was, given access to metals, hydrocarbons, and power, how many of you could build the device you are reading this article on, I suspect the minority answering yes would be tiny.

Now consider the same question about the clothes you are wearing, the home you live in, the vehicle you drive, and so forth. For each of them, some of you might have produced them from first principles and some of you could if you spent the time. However, I am almost certain there is no-one reading this article on a device they made from materials extracted and worked entirely with tools made by hand, while sitting in a house they built, wearing clothes they wove from sheep or flax they raised.

A cat sitting on a woman's lap with documents resting on his back
Jasper compromises on lap use
(©Dave Higgins)

We compromise repeatedly; and not only the large social things, such as restraining our own actions slightly in favour of everyone having a reasonable amount of freedom. Sometimes we choose not to learn how to build a computer from first principles in favour of learning something else instead. Sometimes we choose to buy a less healthy lunch in favour of having the time making a more healthy one would have taken. And those compromises between not doing everything ourself and having more time and energy to devote to other things are the same as many other people.

But sometimes the compromises we make are very personal. For example, I am strongly fond of nuances of typesetting and style. To the extent that, where others grudgingly use text speak on Twitter, I forego em- and en-dashes on social media so that needing typing more complex than a simple SHIFT+[key] might not slow my comments still further than my contemplative nature already does.

What tiny compromises do you make? Do others consider them a charming whimsy, or a desperate oddity?

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4 thoughts on “A Fine Length

    1. The desire for consistency is probably programmed by the way our attention spans shape reporting (or vice versa). Short-burst media turns everything into tick-boxes, so there isn’t room to represent someone who eats more red meat than the sustainable average but also cycles instead of driving and has wired their house to run entirely on solar and wind energy.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Only a fool or a blackguard would do what he knew to be wrong, so I certainly believe that the beliefs I hold now are a useful approximation of correct; however, many of the beliefs I held in the past have shifted or become more nuanced over the years, so I would be a fool or blackguard to close myself to new evidence.

      Liked by 1 person

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