Saturday, December 5, 2009

Can An Infrequent Negative Be Considered a Positive?

I'm not sure the answer. I've been sitting here for about ten minutes or so, pondering an entry topic. All the while a rave party is raging next door. College kids. They're actually a good group of guys. They always stop by ahead of time to make sure we're good with their plans, and they've given us their phone number in case things get too loud. And they do, but not so much that we can't deal with it. And they happen very infrequently, so I thought, "Count your blessings, Jason. Surely it's a positive thing that you only have to put up with the noise occasionally."

But is that positive? I'm not sure. Is it a positive thing that you only painfully bite your lip occasionally? Nobody wants to bite their lip. Even though the pain is fleeting, it is intense for that brief moment, and you'd avoid the experience if you could. So could even one instance of biting you lip be considered positive?

I suppose on the one hand it is. Chance are that eventually you're going to bite your lip. It's inevitable. So, accepting that a life without painfully bitten lips is impossible, the positivity of the situation escalates the less frequently this unfortunate situation occurs. The less often you can manage to experience inevitable pain, the more positive you should feel about it.

It's the same with any uncontrollable, accidental occurrence. Even if you can't predict exactly what the accident or random badness will be, you know that occasional bad luck is inevitable. So experiencing those flashes of nastiness infrequently is positive.

But in the case of loud frat parties I'm not sure the same logic holds. You can control whether things like that happen. If I wanted to be a total $#@%, I could tell my neighbors that I've got no tolerance for blaring music, and if they do it, I'll call the cops. I'm not a total $#@%, so I wouldn't and haven't done that, but I could. The point is, while it's impossible not to occasionally stub your toe, it is possible to live house-party free. And if it's possible for a particular negative situation not to ever occur, then even infrequent occurrences really can't be deemed positive.

If getting punched in the face was something you could safely avoid your entire life, then getting punched in the face even once in a lifetime would be negative. If something never has to happen, and it does, that occurrence will always suck. And once in a lifetime is as infrequent as you can get. But getting punched once is negative. Biting your lip once a year is positive.

It probably has more to do with thresholds. For any given negative situation, or really any situation at all (I like ice cream, but I can only each so much) we each have a particular threshold, beyond which we can no longer tolerate things. As long as we stay under that threshold we consider it a win. So my threshold for lip biting far exceeds my threshold for getting kicked in the huevos. To be precise, my threshold for the latter is zero. My house-party threshold is a bit higher, a limit that is raised even higher by the fact my neighbors are considerate enough to warn us. My threshold for losing feeling in my right leg while driving because my wallet is cutting of circulation exceeds the party limit be a good bit. Lip biting comes in just a hair higher than that. And then, on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum my threshold for the dinner we had tonight (and the three nights previous to this one), pasta with awesome homemade meat and veggie sauce, is nearly infinite.

And some thresholds modify others. I'd easily be able to reset my lip-biting threshold to once a day if I could try my hand at besting my limitless pasta eating threshold on a nightly basis. But that would probably cause me to exceed my threshold for the size of my waistline. So clearly none of this exists in a vacuum.

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