The Random Fact Obsession


In 77,798 years, Thanksgiving will again coincide with the first night of Hanukkah.

The comet, Hale-Bopp was seen in July of 1995. It will return in 2,400 years.

The last time the Kansas City Chiefs went 9-0, they finished the season 13-3.

Why does humanity spend their time pondering these seemingly random and, in a lot of ways, one time occurrences? Of the three facts above, the Chiefs stats are probably the most likely to be witnessed again by presently living humans. There are people out there full of facts and nuggets of information that are more or less useless beyond their intrigue. The winners of Jeopardy are well read of course, but they possess a ridiculous amount of novelty information that wouldn’t save their lives; well, unless their lives were in danger due to capture by a sadistic game-show host. (Does Alex Trebek make the contestants pay money to the show if they end up in the red? I like to think he does. Alex Trebek. Debt Collector. “I’ll show you the money.” I’d watch that game show.) Sports announcers spout off facts and random happenings all throughout the game. Every year, Guinness releases the Guinness Book of World Records. Kansas City broke the decibel record at Arrowhead Stadium in October and lost it on Monday night back to Seattle. (Has anyone taken into account the fact that the Seattle stadium is a dome and therefore echoes whereas Arrowhead is an open-air stadium?) Regardless, the point is: facts make the world go round; especially now that you can just Google® them.

Yes, in 77,798 years, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will be celebrated together. It happened this year and led to the interesting hybrid word, “Thanksgivukkah” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/04/thanksgiving-hanukkah-_n_4211643.html). But why does this matter? And yes I appreciate that it’s a crucial moment where Americans who are Jewish can celebrate their Jewish and American heritages simultaneously. That is very cool but is not the issue I’m discussing today so please don’t think I’m harping on a certain religion in this post.

No one who currently exists and witnessed the collision of these two major holidays will be alive in 77,798 years to experience it again. Will humanity still exist then? Will Turkeys? Will Thanksgiving? Will the United States? Will Judaism? No insult is meant by that statement. I’m just pointing out how much can change in such a large expanse of time. Countries, empires, religions and animals rise to power and fall to extinction. I’m not a scientist. But, we eat so many turkeys that the few that are given a reprieve might create a tiger-reminiscent bottlenecking of genes which could theoretically lead to ravaging by disease and complications due to turkeys with too closely related DNA sequences procreating. Not to mention the ravages they experience from all the hormones pumping up their breast size to astronomical proportions. I love turkey. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a writer. I just pulled that story out of thin air and formed the image of a possible future. Sorry to be all doom and gloom on your holiday spirit.

Anyway, I think our collective fascination with these random statistics is more than just that we enjoy ooing and ahhing over mind-boggling facts. It is actually a combination of things. These tidbits add an unforeseen significance to our existence by expanding our reach beyond the present and our short lifetimes. We are better able to conceive of time and to accept its ravaging if we can control it or if we at least engage in activities which give us the illusion of control. We control it by cataloging things that have not yet happened. Of course we can in no way predict the future. But, we do know that in 77,798 years, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah—provided that humans, turkeys, the United States, Thanksgiving and Judaisim all still exist—will be celebrated on the same day thanks to some simple mathematics.

Mathematics provide order and suggest that the universe is ordered despite the fact that it seems to be in constant disarray. I’m convinced that human beings in general like order. They like to catalog things. We catalog animals and plants by their scientific names which are applied due to existing attributes of each individual species. We catalog fellow members of our species by their looks and their background. There are rules and laws and governing bodies which—theoretically—keep things in order. There are even stores that only sell storage containers. We’re obsessed…or addicted.

The Internet has led to a spawning of websites that cater to the fact obsessive nature of humanity. UberFacts is a very successful Twitter® account that tweets little known tidbits about every topic imaginable. I follow UberFacts on Twitter® and frequently am intrigued by the facts they share. Cracked.com and The Huffington Post frequently release lists that ooze random facts. The Internet also brings us memes and infographics. If you visit Daily Infographic, you are treated to a new horde of facts on a daily basis. We fulfill our craving for random facts with these sites. And for a moment, we are satiated. The world has order and meaning. We are in control of our environment and our trajectory.

Lastly, I would argue that the obsession with facts allows people to one up each other. America tends to convey a one-upmanship culture. Daily conversations consist of topping our friends and enemies. We horde facts to create scenarios just like the one you see here below and we think, “Damn does that feel good” when we achieve one-upmanship success.

Photo Credit: Dilbert by Scott Adams http://www.dilbert.com/
Photo Credit: Dilbert by Scott Adams
http://www.dilbert.com/

Personally, I’m more interested in when Hanukkah and Christmas align. I find that sharing of holidays to be more intriguing and that is simply a personal preference. In the year 2000, Hanukkah, Christmas and the first day of Ramadan were all on the same day. That won’t happen again until 2065. (http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/holidays-aligned-rare-overlap-article-1.877242) Some of us will actually be alive to see that. I’ll be in my 80s. Boom!

Advertisements

One thought on “The Random Fact Obsession

Comments are closed.