Sunday, December 6, 2015

a statistical anomaly ... not

As I understand it, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, the man who would come to be known as the Russian dictator Josef Stalin, at one time denied he had said it but later was willing to shoulder the responsibility for the observation that "a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."

With a widely-accepted figure of Russian military and civilian deaths at roughly 20 million during World War II, you can sort of see why Stalin, the man who oversaw Russia's efforts during the war,  might adopt the observation as his own. Not-so-widely cited are an estimated 40 million Russian dead during Stalin's wartime tenure.

What is beyond processing or comprehending and yet cannot be eradicated -- as for example, 20 million anything, let alone people -- seems to need a handle that will allow the mind to free itself and move on and convince itself that it cares and has been attentive to the world. It is easy to question and critique the hard-assed Stalin, but, but, but....

What about the personal willingness to wrap up the circumstances life presents and create a portable, supportable format ... a statistic, in short? A quick survey of the number of times anyone says "they" or "them" or "one" or "we" in a day offers ... oops ... a statistical overlay for the topic. It's too prevalent to be called naughty or nice, but it is worth noticing.

And against that backdrop, to the extent that it's true, isn't it also true that individuals are willing to sweat their buns off in pursuit of a single goal -- not to become a statistic; to be something or someone worthy of individual attention and, perhaps, accolade. Statistically, others may die or screw up or be blithely parceled out in a statistical analysis, but my passing or the passing of the ones I love is different and, perhaps, a tragedy. The whispered sense that the universe doesn't give much of a shit is fine for others, but moi? The tragedy lifts its insistent head: No, this life more than an easy-peasy statistic, isn't it? I take myself seriously and the universe damned well ought to as well.

I don't want to be forgotten or minimized. I wonder why. I don't want to be "just another" anything and yet the evidence hardly supports any other appreciation. I seem bound to become someone else's statistic and, after all the effort that has gone into this life, I don't like it at all. I am, or work pretty hard at being, a statistical anomaly.

Statistics are toneless, tasteless and flat whereas one life is as full of music and juice and horror and meaning as a green grape exploding between the back molars.

Strange how it is impossible to compass the truth that every statistic is a person; people are important; and yet statistics become an inescapable resting place.

OK, I'll be your statistic if you'll be mine. Someone, even if it's just some number-crunching statistician, needs grist for the mill.

Let's enjoy our grapes and try to remember that just because anyone is indispensable to the universe does not mean the universe needs his or her help.


  1. After my folks died and i'd boxed up their 51 years of marriage, child rearing, living, i went to bed, and before the light was off i scanned a room full of things that someone will have to box up one day. All my stuff, in the places that were sensible to me, the proof of my having existed, is just stuff that wasn't going with me, stuff in the way of whoever followed in my habitat's stuff.

    It will probably be Alicia, i hope she'll outlive me anyway. She's my first step daughter in whom i am well pleased. She wants me to live a long time. And in the face of the pains of living i will hang on, just for her. Her kids may remember me vaguely when i'm gone. After that i'll be a statistic, otherwise forgotten. Oh well.

    1. Lin Rongxiang, LionelDecember 7, 2015 at 12:22 AM

      Yes, and about olcharlie's daughter, my romantic interest over the recent years happen to be Alicia as well, her surname was supposedly Ngiaw, she i.e. Alicia told me before that her father owed some money and needed her to pay off some debts.

      When she also told me she was single in 2013, I learned in 2014 that she meant she was getting separated. The tax department felt that 'singlehood' is an understatement because it was another label i.e. separated or divorced, because of how their systems were hardcoded. However, assuming the law works the way it did in Singapore, if Alicia formalised her separation papers, she can still get decently married by 2016.

      There is a certain precept in the vinaya that says refrain from sexual misconduct, yet, it also suggests that sexual misconduct depends on the law of the time, probably space as well.

      About living a long time, my dad himself told my paternal grandmother that he wants her living a thousand years, he somehow took on that as his training vow of sorts. Anyways, whether directly or indirectly because of my dad's vow, today I am still reading Genkaku's blog without getting Alicia her new wedding proposal ring. One day we all will just be a statistic too, like how the Singapore Government adamantly planned a population increase of 1 million by 2030. This is already the third most densely populated country worldwide, if we put Monaco and co before Singapore. :)

      I do not really have a grape, although I am not exactly disinterested in the green apple beside me.

      How soon do you think we can conclude the Syria war, because I won't want to be fighting Adam's sons on the opposite warfront with a Chinese rifle when my military uses German tanks and American missles instead.