6/01/2012

When I am King: Space Exploration

When I am King...

Everything will have its place.

I used to believe the common misconception that death-by-old-age happened because various medical problems simply add up over time and overwhelm the body.

I know now that this is wrong. Death, instead, comes not from the body, but from the mind - it’s confused and overpowered by this constant, nagging question: where do we put all of this stuff we have? Eventually, it simply gives up and checks out, because there is no good answer.

The longer we live, the more we accumulate: hand-me-downs, purchases, gifts, 2-for-1 deals, important mail that we should hang onto for some unspecified time. With each new thing comes the associated items that we have to find a place for: the old thing that it replaces, the manual and associated paperwork that came with the new thing, and the cords and extra parts which the new thing will need only after we throw them out (so we keep them forever, stashed in places that we will never find again).

And then there are the boxes, tons and tons of boxes. These things always come with boxes that are perfectly tuned to the size and odd shape of the new thing. And we know that we may need to pack the thing up and return it, so we’d better keep the boxes. Forget the fact that we’ve never returned anything we bought by mail before; there’s always a first time, and it will come only after we’ve chucked the box and have no way to pack the item up.

So we hang onto this stuff and have to figure out where to put it. We put the extra, obsolete version of the thing in the bedroom. Or the bathroom. Or the kids’ rooms. But soon we run out of those options. Some people have more kids just for this reason, but are then faced with the problem of where to put all of the children.

We put the cords and extra parts in indistinct piles of other cords and parts in places that we can never find again. When we do stumble upon these random objects, we cannot remember what objects the parts go with, which explains why we always have hundreds of power adapters spread throughout the house, but can never locate the one we need for the gadget that needs it.

We put the boxes in the attic. Or the basement. Or, lacking these spaces as we do in California, we put them in the garage, or the corners of rooms, or pretend that they're extra bedrooms for the smaller kids, or anywhere we can find space.

We always attempt to play the Russian doll game with the boxes, placing smaller ones inside other, but find that somehow the boxes are never proportionally sized. There is a Theorem of Box Collections that states that for any two boxes A and B, exactly two of the dimensions of A must be greater than those of B. So any box that fits inside another must, therefore, stick out the top. There is a related Theorem of Expanding Packing Pieces that states that the form-fitting styrofoam modules that come with a box take up more volume when the packed item is removed than they did originally, guaranteeing that the Theorem of Box Collections is moot, since there’s no room inside the box for air, much less another box.

Soon the storage spaces of our living areas are filled with these smaller, cardboard storage spaces. So we have nothing but space in these rooms, but they are filled to capacity and we cannot fit any more.

Meanwhile, our families are having storage problems of their own - parents downsize houses or go on regular purges of your childhood memories. But rather than actually get rid of things they cannot part with, they ship it to you. And since it was a gift, a family heirloom even, you get to figure out where to put it. And the box it came in.

The problem only gets worse as we get older because we just keep getting more stuff. And the stuff keeps getting more complicated. I bought a stereo component 20 years ago that came with a box. That’s it - just a box. I bought another to replace it recently that came with a manual, a DVD with the manual, wires for all possible combinations of audio and video input and output I might possibly need (assuming I was building a professional broadcasting station), a remote, stickers, labels, boxes inside boxes, and carefully contoured styrofoam packing modules. Where do I put all of this stuff?

This is the largest problem weighing upon the mind of the aging, increasingly the older and more laden-down they get. Eventually, the mind simply gives up and the body takes it from there.

When I am King, we will explore space. That is, we will explore the galaxy, looking for more space. This will not be for the traditional, ridiculous purpose of expanding human knowledge, or achieving scientific goals, or boldly going where no one has gone before - it will just be to find more space to put stuff. It will be a mission to find a really large closet.

Obviously, the stuff that we put there will not be very accessible. But the reality is that we never actually need these things - these boxes, components, and hand-me-downs never get used, or even looked-at again. Instead, we just keep them for our own peace of mind, so that we know that if we do need them, they still exist somewhere.

Once we have solved this problem, people will be happier and more relaxed and everyone will live much, much longer.

Then we just have to figure out where to put all of the people.
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