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The SDD: “Much Ado About Something”
14th Nov


The SDD: “Much Ado About Something”

The anniversary Gala this year on December 6 celebrates that the Friends of Goodale Park has been around for 30 years! This three-decade milestone seems important, and other year-related milestones seem important too. Your 16th birthday is important (allows you to vote), your 18th birthday legally makes you an adult, at 21 you can buy alcohol, and 25 years old means that men start paying lower auto insurance premiums. All of these milestones are measured in years. That doesn’t seem surprising, at first. But what is a “year”, really?

A year is only meaningful because of our planetary periodicity. We celebrate anniversaries and birthdays merely because of the time it takes for the Earth to complete one orbit around the sun. A “year” isn’t even real, in a universal sense. Instead, a “year” is real only in a global sense. We all have just agreed that this global “year” thing is real.

On top of that, why are we making a big deal of this particular anniversary, the big three-oh? Why didn’t we make a big deal about last year’s 29th anniversary? The reason appears to be related to one more thing that we invented that isn’t quite real: Even more arbitrary than the circuit of the Earth around the sun is our decision to count using base ten (resulting in decades feeling important to us). We use base ten solely because we have ten fingers and ten toes, which we found convenient to use when we started to count things. If we had evolved with a different number of fingers, another system of counting would have emerged.

I remember watching Schoolhouse Rock in-between Saturday morning cartoons, and being astounded by their “Little Twelve Toes” video. It encouraged me to think outside my daily experience that I took for granted, and imagine what counting would be like if we had twelve fingers and twelve toes (which would have led to our using base twelve instead). The idea and the implications were mind-bending for me.

Similarly, our ten fingers are also the reason why the tickets to the December 6 Gala are $50. The happenstance of evolution results in our tendency to set prices by tens. If we had twelve fingers, the tickets would cost $60! What a comparative base ten bargain.

And while we’re on the subject of happenstance and relative truth, even the money you use to pay for your ticket is surreal, only considered to be “real” and “true” because we all agree that “money” has value, when really and truly, it doesn’t, in an objective sense. The only actual value of anything emerges when two people agree to trade things or services that have equivalent value, like when I was six years old and my neighbor Ricky Hall traded his Tonka truck to me for my jackknife, or when my classmate Herbie LaDue traded his friendship for half a candy bar.

Value and worth are completely subjective, although we are usually convinced that objective value is real. For example, I don’t argue when Taco Bell Team Members tell me that the Chicken Crunchwrap costs $3.49. On the other hand, the Franklin County Auditor claims that my house has increased in value to $700,000, but the actual value of my house only becomes real when we put it up for sale and someone agrees on a specific amount of money (or a herd of cattle, or maybe a very pretty rock) to trade for it. And sticker prices on new cars are assumed to be starting points for haggling. Maybe in the future, you’ll barter volunteer time in the park for a different Gala ticket price. Or maybe you’ll get Saturday volunteer tokens like the beer tokens you get for volunteering to pick up trash at Comfest.

Friends of Goodale Park is 30 years old in 2017, but in what way is that age actually meaningful? What happens when organizations age, and when individuals age? For individuals, we typically use age to assess qualities like responsibility, wisdom, and health, but age is only a marginal predictor of these. I didn’t magically drive better on my 25th birthday, but my insurance company believed that to be true. My colon didn’t suddenly become susceptible to polyps when I turned 50, but the medical community believed this strongly enough to insist on a colonoscopy.

Still, 30 orbits of our planet around the sun is a long time for FGP to have been making Goodale Park a beautiful place for you to hang out, play tennis, meditate, exercise your dog, and listen to music. That is meaningful, and it’s enough of a reason for you to contribute 50 dollars that aren’t nearly as valuable as the park that you’re supporting.

Click here to learn more and purchase tickets

The Sesquipedalian Dumpster Diver

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