One of the lessons I’ve learned while working for Hell Inc. is that problems, like many things in the world, are fractal. Small ones can look very similar to big ones when viewed close up.

Think about a bad thing that happened to you today: maybe you couldn’t find a clean bra; maybe you stepped in something nasty on the sidewalk; or maybe you misplaced the keys to the fur-lined handcuffs. Was it the worst thing to occur this week? This year? Was it worse than poor Jim in Accounting who lost his testicles in the infamous “paper jam incident”? The weird part is that no matter how bad (or good) the situation is, we somehow adjust our viewpoint to suit the circumstances. We are relentlessly relativist about life.

This is why we can say, “Oh, there’s nothing worse than a papercut” with a straight face and no sense of irony whatsoever. There are plenty of things worse than a papercut: taxes; infamous paper jam incidents; and ex-spouses coming to visit (in order of increasing horribleness) immediately spring to mind. Of course, there are plenty more things worse than those and other things that are worse than the worse things and so on ad fundum.

It raises an interesting question, though: do you ever reach the bottom? What is the worst thing ever? I can accept the concept of such a thing as a sort of Platonic Ideal, but I suspect that it would be difficult to achieve any kind of consensus on an actual, real, hold-in-your-hand thing.

Besides, things could always get worse, couldn’t they?


25 thoughts on “Problematic

  1. I’ve got two real tough stories that would make everyone’s toes curl. Terrible things that were born from my own stupidity. I should post them as a public service to give everyone a sense of perspective but I don’t dare air this stuff in a public forum.

    Suffering, like art, is subjective. Actually…suffering IS art!


  2. I’ve been feeling very sorry for myself today. My crutches gave me a bruise. I don’t even know what you call a knee cankle but I’ve got a cankle from my knee to my toes. The Chinese shop has run out of the red sweets and I just ate my last one. BUT none of these things would I consider the worst. I do, however, think that losing one’s testicles (if one had testicles which one doesn’t) in a paper jam incident definitely must be in the top 5 of the worst possible things. I am studying our printer/scanner/fax (which has the occasional paper jam ) and trying to work out how to ask my employer (who has testicles -I assume – as he’s male) to demonstrate the proximity of his testicles to the paper jamming areas of our photocopier/fax/printer so I can get some idea of how this could even happen. I don’t suppose their is any chance you would enlighten me……? You could email me ………….. or call…………


  3. the worst thing i can think of is also the only thing i am absolutely terrified of…. outliving my children. whenever i think i’ve run into something horrid – such as having to change the dressing every morning on the lovely bit of hamburger that used to be my left shin – i can often pull myself back to center by reminding myself that there are worse things.

    it is a reasonable coping technique…. one that works for those of us without testicles, and ex-wives anyway.


      • weeks later and i’m still dealing with an oozing, open, gaping wound on my left shin. i am now considering it my ex-wife. taking it to court next week – i’ve spent FAR too much money on the wound care, and am angling for repairations…


  4. Having traveled a similar path as Stella ^^, I would have to agree with her about relatively and a significant change in perspective. I’ve given up comparisons too, so I don’t really have a response to “What is the worst thing ever”. Although I once might have said “dying”, Eric Bogle’s lyrics “And the band played Waltzing Matilda” suggests otherwise.


  5. hey the worst thing ever previously was not being able to post a comment on this ‘ere blog but i’ve sorted out my momentary hiccup with wordpress, they like me again.


  6. What’s the fur for? So prisoners can be more comfortable? Pause. Gotcha!
    I’m with Daisyfae on this one. I’d add your kid having a fatal disease and suffering. That’s my nightmare. Your kid, not my kid. I like your kid a lot. Or my kid not being able to find a clean bra. That’s my nightmare. He doesn’t have breasts. If he had a sex change along with hormonal therapy and then couldn’t find a clean bra, that would be okay.


  7. Doesn’t get much worse than being forced to watch Captain and Tennille’s “Muskrat Love” video over and over again.
    I think I’d rather be waterboarded for two days.
    Been away for a long time, dude.
    Nice to see you still rocking the place.
    Hoping you’re well.


  8. I’d go with reaching a point in your life where you think “Hey, Phil Collins is pretty cool.” and then you buy his entire discography. Okay. So it’s not the worst thing ever, but worryingly, it was the first thing that came to mind.


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