It may very well be that simple: that is, were just one monkey short. Even with all of our problems corralled, branded, and butchered, their hearts and livers slavered over in noble victory feasts; walls built, wills signed, chickens plucked. Nails, shoes, horses, knights, armies be damned. But for one monkey, the kingdom falls regardless.
Such irony is not lost on me. The truest measure of a man is his capacity for irony, and I seek it out like a heavy, golden, dried-wine-spotted grail. Youve heard the chestnut before. A million monkeys at a million typewriters, a full blown ice-age of time and ta-da. Shakespeare. Lets break it down, shall we?
First of all, how cool is to have been Shakespeare? How great is it to be the big dog, the shaggy, stinking breath, howling the vinyl siding off the house, Great Pyrenees/Newfoundland cross-breed of scribblers. The adjective himself the man against whom everything written or spoken or sung or played is measured. To be Shakespearean, or not to be. Thats no good question at all.
Is this why all the rest of us drink? Why we sleep desperately with many different women, seeking some kind of ineffable comfort? Holding the cool smooth breast of motherhood, yearning to return to some kind of perfection, the womb, the flawless warmth and peace and satisfaction therein? Hold the tantalizing coldness of the shotgun barrel to our stringy, scruffy necks while we try to make our non-prehensile toes successfully manipulate the trigger? And, finally and inevitably belly up to the trough where Will threw his spoils. It is certainly plausible. Because its just not damn good enough to be Hemingway. Wilde. Heller. Cervantes. Flaubert. Tolstoy. Dan freaking fourteen million copies in print Brown. No, not good enough by half. Like the wind in Chicago, we will always suck, even if were better, because Shakespeare stands the you cant study for it, you cant practice for it, you cant cheat on it test of time. Oh, and you cant live to see it, either.
Secondly, a million monkeys and a million typewriters. Not half a million, doing two shifts, passing each other as they come and go, like Ukrainians trying to scrub Chernobyl with used toothbrushes. Not pencils and scrap paper spread out on the endless prairie with a Free Lunch sign posted at the border. A giant Merrill Lynch cold-call bullpen filled with typewriters and perhaps a coffee-cart pushing around so the creative juices are lubricated and caffeined. And an employment contract to guarantee the full million years, mind. No offshoring, no outsourcing.
What does this all mean? I dont think that this is the way the theorem was intended, but I think it says, stealthily, that we are all chimps. On our best days, with healthy tail-winds, we can fling poo. Figuratively speaking, for the most part. But not much else. Why are we such a species of underachievers? Why can the lion roar and the gazelle excel? Who put the ape in apricot? What have they got that we aint got?
Well, they havent got ADHD, or a peanut allergy, or gout or type-two diabetes, though Im not absolutely sure that thats relevant. They dont care what kind of car they drive, they dont tivo shows to watch later, they dont seek comfort food when things go occasionally wrong, just regular food. They dont eat crow, or humble pie, dont suffer from acute depression, or chronic fatigue. They dont run in circles shouting, whatll I do? What will I do? They gazelle and lion and gorilla and mouse, respectively and effectively, and possibly reflectively. Why cant we human in the same way?
Because we have the unfortunate quality of understanding. We can see what is great and know the difficulty in achieving such greatness. Crikey-mikey, how can I compete with Aristotle and Alexander, Marco Polo and Magellan, Leonardo and Michelangelo, Lincoln and Martin Luther King? The bars too high! Too damned high! You dont understand, the peanut allergy really messes me up. It hurts when I do this. It doesnt taste the same way when Mom makes it, and anyway, Id rather eat out. Ill lose all the weight after the holidays. My smile is my best feature. Yes I know, but he was good to his constituents. Who wants to be seventy-six years old, anyway? It tastes just like chicken.
And maybe, just maybe, trying to be as good and fine is wrong. Maybe its no good at all. Maybe we should be just good enough. The effort should be directly proportioned to the expected achievable results. I mean, a piece of cake in a field of manure isnt edible, or even actually cake anymore, is it?
Lets have an argument. I say if you cant be first among all, youre last. Dont agree? So whyd you even get up this morning? Whyd you even turn on the laptop and open MS Word? Your type-two writers block is the solution, not a problem. The achievement is in recognizing your impossible dream is a waste of time. So go to work, make that call, clickety-clack that e-mail, send that IM, meet with your peers, swing your partner, spin the truth, spin your wheels. Good work, team! We all win when we all try!
Id rather be a whore than a pimp, any day. Id rather eat shit than starve. I believe that, I truly do. On the other hand, I have no idea what that has to do with the premise.
Give it up. We are always a monkey short. Well, heres my piece; Ive run out of time and its the best I can do, anyway, considering I have to run and do my other thing, like, you know, my other . . . whatever. You cant practice enough to be good at anything, because practice is hard and hard hurts. We should settle for sitting and having an idiot tell you what to do (only hes really not an idiot, because hes telling you what to do, isnt he? How emasculating is that, by the way?). Give it up! Better to shirk and fall on your dirk than try and work, right? Surrender, you havent got a chance.