The other day, I experienced something that’s probably pretty familiar to all of us: the dreaded paper jam. For anyone who has printed a lot of documents for their work, it makes the cryptic PC LOAD LETTER message feel like a caress of warm sunlight on a cool spring day. Is it just me, or do both always seem to happen when you’re in a hurry, and are already running behind for that critical 8:30am meeting? I imagine that’s just our mind playing tricks on us; it’s likely we only remember those instances the most clearly. In any case, instead of hurling my usual string of profanities so foul it’s a wonder my dear departed mum doesn’t come back from the afterlife to dopeslap me, this time, as I pried open the back of the printer and gently tugged the offending sheet from the rollers, I slowed down for a moment to look at the mechanism that actually pulls the sheet into the printer. Not only did I suddenly realize that I didn’t really grasp how those little wheels move up and snatch a single sheet from the tray, I paused and imagined doing it manually. Have you ever had to lick your finger to grab a single piece of paper from a stack instead of two or three? Can you imagine doing that fifteen or twenty times a minute? Me either. Suddenly, I found myself imagining the engineers and technicians that had to spend hundreds or thousands of hours conceptualizing, assembling, and testing to perfect these things. And to tell you the truth, suddenly I was in awe instead of angry.
I’m not pointing fingers here – I probably spend more time than most people bitching about the flaws and shortcomings of the technology we use every day. From buggy computers, to crappy mobile connections, to bungled print jobs, and to devices that should plug into each other but don’t – I’m often right there cussing with the best of them. But at least for this past week, I was remembering the old pronoia world view. Pronoia is the belief that the universe is conspiring to work on your behalf, instead being out to get you. This attitude can be powerful, and reminded me of the longer-term impact of complaining about stuff.
In a nutshell, complaining serves virtually no useful purpose. Martin Scorsese doesn’t need Roger Ebert to make a great film, Ebert just figured out a way to monetize his negative demeanor in a way that fills the time after Scorsese has done all the hard work, and Ebert has had the leisure time to soak it up. And that sort of sums up the impact of complaining; it not only doesn’t fix anything, it puts a negative vibe in the air, and probably even stifles creative solutions. Maybe you’re already keen to this, and I’m only talking to me when I say:
Quit yer bitchin’.