The Invading Ocean

I shook my head at Alan. “You’ll have to tell me. I’ve been trying to figure it out for two weeks. What’s behind the enclosure?”

Alan shivered. “Don’t worry about it. Shift change is in ten minutes.”

“Come on, man. No one ever talks about it.” I sat back down in front of the panel of occasionally-flashing buttons.

“Something you wouldn’t believe anyway. A bio experiment gone horribly wrong. There’s nothing in there at all now except a very dense mass of baby spiders. Like if you … compressed them.” He shivered again.

I heard the door clang shut. “The next guys must be coming in.”

“Yeah. Or else they’ve auto-sealed and the enclosure’s about to drop.” He smiled and looked up. We both saw that no one was coming.

The thick walls of the enclosure dropped. Topping it was a living dark mass. The lights failed.

The Dracula Had An Aardvark Theory

As I’ve always struggled with the burden of too many possibilities in the moment, I was motivated to eventually come up with my own theory, which, the name I’ll have to explain in a second.

My theory is that it can be useful to intentionally over-simplify situations according to a system of -2, -1, 0, +1, and +2 (very bad, bad, neutral, good, very good). You can apply that to different frameworks, like doing a pros and cons, or trying to figure out the dynamics of a situation.

For example, if you’re wrestling with whether or not it’s good to make fun of the President, you could pros and cons it. The satisfaction of getting some feelings out is a +1. The drag on your positivity will be a -1, and bringing up politics in mixed company is a -1. So it would seem to be a bad idea.

Sacrificing necessary food money for clothing — which is an all-too-common dilemma in this world — could be pros and cons’d this way too. Getting new clothes is an investment, so if food is a +1, buying clothes is definitely a +2. Going hungry is a -2 though. So if you decide not to buy clothes, the +2 and -2 haven’t happened, and you’re left with the +1 of buying enough food to live on. If you choose to buy clothes, be willing to operate at a 0 until the next time that you have food money, because the +2 and -2 have canceled each other out, and you don’t have the +1 of having food.

Asking someone on a date depends on whether or not the anxiety is a -1 or -2, and whether or not the likelihood of not being rejected is a 0 or a +1. The -2 of rejection, and the +2 of acceptance cancel each other out, so really it’s about anxiety and taking risks. You’re probably going to operate at a -1 or -2 during the process, but that just has to be accepted, if you want to succeed. If you fail, however, you will go from operating at (perhaps) a -2, to operating at a -4, and only positives will drag you out of that, so you might be talking a good couple days of being way down. It’s a risk.

In terms of figuring out the dynamics to a situation, you can weigh whether or not to say something based on this theory. It’s been said, only say it if it’s kind, necessary, true, and helpful. Those would all be +1s. Along the lines of don’t say it if, perhaps it could be if it’s too much information, if it shouldn’t be said in mixed company, or if it’s awkward. These would all be -1s. I know it’s a lot of variables to consider, but really it’s a feeling of equilibrium in the heart that you develop over time. You shouldn’t burden someone’s heart, so perhaps if you can tell that there’s an overall -1 to what you want to say to someone, you should keep it to yourself. If you can feel that overall it’s a +2, you almost have a duty to tell that person.

The name comes from the idea that if I had come up with my own theory, I could give it a random name and then demand that it be referred to that way. The name itself is self-referential, in that it refers to the random moment when we see an armadillo scuttling about at the beginning of Tod Browning’s Dracula (with Bela Lugosi). I like self-referential / recursive names, even though I’m a Windows person, and not a Linux person — where the habit is tradition. (I had gotten the name of the animal wrong. But that’s part of the randomness of the name.)