YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Talk About Your Bad Breaks

November 14, 1994|Jack Smith

As fate would have it, I am obliged to search for the answer to the ultimate question--why are we here?--by the hunt and peck system.

I have broken my left wrist. It is in a cast. While the fingers are free, they are too swollen and constrained by the cast to serve the touch typing system.

I have been a touch typist since I was 13 years old, and it seems a cruel irony of fate that I should be reduced to one finger just as I was about to solve the great cosmic riddle.

Perhaps it would be prudent of me to shelve the subject until my wrist is healed, but, like Sherlock Holmes, I feel that the game is afoot and I must pursue my quarry while the trail is hot.

Actually, the search may already be over. John Degatina, a faithful correspondent of mine, writes that I solved the puzzle some years ago when I wrote, "The answer is to keep on living and see what happens next."

That indeed seems to me as good an answer as any, and I will continue to live by it. Meanwhile, however, I feel obliged to quote some of the thoughts of readers.

Rich Locasso of Huntington Beach writes: "My thoughts crystallized just this past week after watching of all things an episode of my favorite show--'Star Trek: The Next Generation.' Data was talking with someone and the topic was his favorite, on being a human. And the comment came out that humans did indeed have a purpose in life, and that purpose is to care.

"Clearly, as an old professor used to say, our purpose is to care. To care is the only thing I can think of that separates us from any other assemblage of molecules, atoms and cells that happens to be in some unified whole. It is truly the only behavior that we have that is unique to us as a species. And the logic (to me) holds water: that our purpose is somehow bundled up in our uniqueness."

But is it true that as a species we care, and that in caring we are unique? A glance at the front page any day will shatter that belief. Ethnic factions murder each other. Mothers murder their children. Husbands murder their wives.

On the other hand, don't polar bears and foxes care about their young?

June Kawasaki of Monterey Park writes: "You keep wondering why, if God is infallible, did we turn out so bad? The gravity of current social trends is serious and does call for reckoning. I feel the 'why' is we are being tested whether we live up to the image intended by providence--as a journalist, doctor, scientist, cleric, husband, wife, parent or otherwise. Man is given a finite span of life, but humanity is infinite, and each is tested for his or her part. . . . The why is up to you."

If humanity is indeed infinite, we'd better get cracking in our search for new planets to plunder or in 15 billion years or so we're all going to be fried.

If we don't die of overpopulation.

"In a recent column," writes Eunice Schmidt, "you wrote of the calamitous results threatened by the population explosion. I couldn't agree more! I have never forgotten what our sociology professor said in 1924--yes, 70 years ago.

"'The greatest enemy of the Dove of Peace is not the Eagle of Conquest or the Vulture of Greed, but the Stork."

Several readers have responded to my suggestion that we would have no population problem if God had made procreation a result of washing the dishes instead of sexual union.

"What a wonderful idea," writes M. Roy Seidler. "Instead of the woman having the proverbial headache, the man would suffer from dishwashing trauma.

"Imagine the setting in which the wife proposes to her mate: 'How about a little dishwashing, honey?'

"He: 'Dishwashing again? Didn't I do the dishes with you last week or was it two weeks ago?'

" 'C'mon. You haven't done dishes in ages.'

" 'So what. You know I'm not into doing dishes. It hurts my hands. It's woman's work.'

" 'There you go with your male chauvinist remarks,' ad infinitum, ad absurdum.

"And so the battle of the dishes rages onward, and the result is unwashed dishes and fewer babies worldwide. Man would no longer saturate our small planet with his teeming hordes. We could look forward to the future with hope for all mankind.

"Jack, if you and I can figure out how to accomplish this task we could get the Nobel Prize."

I really had no such glorious ambitions, but I'm willing to do my part.

The next time my wife suggests we do the dishes together I'm going to say, "Not tonight, honey. I have a broken wrist."

Meanwhile, I hope to stay alive and see what happens next.

* Jack Smith's column is published Mondays.

Los Angeles Times Articles