Friday, February 14, 2014

On Randomness: A Critique

If you ever join a forum, you will likely encounter a strange and revered altar. It is crowned in chocolate and stained in many virtual deaths; it is the dwelling place of cats and role-plays and a slew of arbitrary objects.

This is the home of one of the Internet's great religions, the mighty altar of Randomness. For whatever reason, the online ability to be random is one of the most treasured and revered; those who are the most random have a corresponding reputation.

Satire aside, randomness has enjoyed a surprising popularity on the internet, and to a much lesser extent, in real life. For whatever reason, we enjoy blowing up multiple times and fighting over chocolate and kittens. And yes, I am included in that number; several years ago, the most random thing in existence was the turkey, and it was my mascot, my proud standard and symbol of all that was Jake.

But as I've grown older, I've been more and more disillusioned with randomness. Although I still hold “the good old days” in fond regard, I look at them now with a more critical eye. (More on “the good old days” in my next post.)

Randomness now bothers me. By definition, randomness means that it is random; it has no inherent reason for coming into being and no particular meaning. And for a writer, this is the polar opposite of what I want to write and why I want to write it. Every word ought to have meaning; every word ought to be in place for a reason.

Even for those of us who are not writers, what we say and do ought to have a lasting value. Obviously, we won't hit the mark every time; sometime we may make a careless remark or something that's empty of value (and often, of civility). But as a general tendency, we should be weighted towards value and meaning.

The opposite has happened, however. The tendency is less towards meaning and more towards “randomness”. What we have failed to realize is that, just as bad money drives good money out of circulation, empty words can drive meaningful words out of circulation. Randomness can become something other than a diversion, and meaning will become the diversion. Instead of a comment about cats in a conversation on good stories, we will have a comment on good stories in a conversation about cats.

Having said my piece, let me temper it. Like most things, randomness is not inherently bad or good in itself. Yes, holding randomness up on a pedestal is a mistake; but so is looking down on randomness as something that corrupts and corrodes meaningful conversations. It is what you do with it that makes it either desirable and undesirable.

And there are parts of randomness that are undesirable. Randomness for the sake of randomness is a nearly always problem. It creates a philosophy of chaos and unmeaning. To be completely random is to throw away all rules and all meaning.

There are, however, two sides to everything. There is a sort of randomness that I stand by and defend from all comers, and I will address it in my next post.

Until then, what do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? What's your opinion on “randomness”?

1 comment:

  1. I love randomness. I love the change of it. Yet I hate when others randomness does not make sense and is neither true nor pure. Good post.