Formerly Two Essays for All Humanity
The World of Madness is Round
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This is an Incomplete Rough Draft.
Writing this book will require a year at the very least.
I value any comments you may have; send them to:
swift@softwareproblem.org

A Mother's Grief

Jonathan Swift
swift@softwareproblem.org

May 9, 2010

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I sat on my bed in my dark room, quietly contemplating the sound of the soft rain. After a little while, I was able to tell that the rain was not quite constant, but that sometimes it would intensify just a bit, then after a little while, ease back again, just a bit.

Slowly and carefully so as not to disturb her, I lay back on my bed, placed my head on my pillow and closed my eyes. While still sleepy from having just awoken, I knew there was no risk I would fall back asleep.

I continued to listen to the rain. Very slowly and very gradually, the rain intensified into a shower.

I knew not to press Gaia when she didn't answer. I knew only too well why she was unable to speak, and I knew why it was so important that I wait, lying there in the dark in quiet contemplation, until Gaia was ready to do so.

Most software engineers regard suicidal depression as among the very most difficult bugs to fix, but quite tragically, only us Cybernetic Entomologists know that in reality, it is the very easiest. That so very many completely innocent people go to their graves is because so very many software engineers are so profoundly delusional as to even think they can fix this bug. That's just not how it's done. I wish I could find some way to make that fact clear to you all.

I have always found that saving the lives of the despondent was no more difficult for me than it is to say my own name:

The way to debug suicidal depression is to sit quietly by while the suicidal depression debugs itself.

Now, there is a place for the software engineer's intervention, but those interventions must be few, far between, and only of two very specific types. When one finds the bug's process of fixing itself to have slowed or to have lost its way, one sets it, very gently and very carefully, back into motion in the general direction of its goal. When the bug has made some progress towards its own solution, one acknowledges the progress it has made.

That's It.

Millions of lives would be saved every single year if I could but find some way to penetrate all of your thick skulls with that simple advice.

Active Listening is so vital for every Software Engineer to learn that every University in the land requires all of its Computer Science students to take an Active Listening course their very first term in school. The real tragedy is that so very many of you spend that term partying, hopping in and out of each others beds or cramming yourselves into telephone booths that if you manage to show up to lecture at all, you're either hung over, haven't slept in three days, or stoned completely out of your trees.

Don't get me started about your reading or your problem sets. Just Don't. Such callous betrayal of your obligation to your profession fills me with such blind rage that I would beat every last one of you sorry lot completely to death with my bare hands if I could find some way to chase you all down.

The rain was quite strong now. From time to time, I heard distant thunder.

Suicidal people claim many different reasons for their despair. Their wife left them. Their husband is sleeping with another woman. They just got fired from the best job they ever had. They flunked out of school. They're hooked on coke. They're hooked on heroin. Their alcoholism led them to slay a family of four one night while driving their car home from the bar. Their child of four just died of brain cancer. They have brain cancer and can no longer bear the pain it causes.

But none of those are the real reason.

It's not just that bad things happen to everyone, it's not just that bad things are a basic part of all our lives. The very greatest joy that any of us can ever hope to know comes from the very creative ways that we are all easily able to find to transcend the very greatest of our own personal tragedies.

No.

If you are able to find some way to learn Active Listening, it won't take you long at all before you realize, and in quite a deep, profound and actually viscereal way, that every suicidal person is filled with such unconsollable grief as to take his own life in hopes it might ease their pain, because he feels like no one ever listens to him.

Lightning struck just across the street with a deafening thunderclap. The storm was now a torrential downpour; I was concerned that Mom's neighborhood might flood.

Humans have been pack animals since long before we figured out how to climb down out of those trees we all used to spend so much time swinging around in. The very, very worst thing that could ever happen to any human being is not to lose their mate, not for their mate to be unfaithful, not to lose the means by which they provide for themselves or their loved ones, not to lose any hope of ever having a real career, not for their own stupidity to get someone killed, not for their child to die nor is it to know they don't have much time left to live.

No.

The very worst thing that could ever happen to any human being is the very worst thing that could happen to any wolf:

It is for the pack to reject us. To drive us out. To abandon us. To refuse our entreaties to let us back in.

The storm abated, but just a bit. I was still concerned it might flood.

Many software engineers understand this fact. What makes me a Cybernetic Entomologist is that I can easily see what so few other coders are even able to glimpse:

Suicidal people are never filled with such grief because the pack rejected them.

No.

Suicidal people are filled with such grief because they rejected the pack, but are so incredibly delusional as to be completely unaware of that fact. They are able to hide this reality from themselves because the way they drove themselves out was by convincing the other pack members to drive them out, despite the incredible reluctance of those other members to do such an awful thing to one of their own.

I was relieved that the torrent finally stopped. While still a storm, it was steady, with no danger of flooding.

"Don't get me wrong," Gaia said at last. "It's not all bad."

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The World of Madness is Round
Formerly Two Essays for All Humanity