Thursday, March 23, 2006

Randomness : Cut and Paste

"Cancel, Cancel" and Reminiscence

On days when I need to do research work and I don't have much time, I, too resort to the quick solution of "cut and paste". You take your resource and cut what you need from it, then paste it on your report or whatever project you need the material for. If need be, you'd paraphrase a bit--erase this sentence, change this word, reconstruct this clause--and make the text your own. It's a quick solution. It doesn't take much effort, and you're almost sure it'll work.

Cut and paste.

How many songs, short stories, novels, movies, TV shows... how many of these things seem to have the perfect solution to our everyday problems?

Cut and paste.

Don't you sometimes wish that you could do that to your life? Cut from the books and the songs and paste the messages and stories they have into the story of your life? Yes, it's easy to write a short story, isn't it? Just cut and paste stories from your own life. But doing the converse, cutting and pasting resolved stories into your own life, isn't something that can be done. Sure, you can learn from them, but the story of your life isn't something you can direct. You can't erase sentences, change words or reconstruct clauses. Because while you're the author of your dialogues and the master of your decisions, you can't direct the motions of everyone else. You can't control circumstance. Like Ralph said, "[Why read a short story] when you can watch it unravel in front of you?" Yes, and like the short stories you're reading for the first time, you don't know how it ends. You just have to wait for the story to pick up momentum, watch the plot thicken and pull you in, climax to a powerful confrontation, and slowly die out to an ending which holds some hidden Aesop fable moral that you can't find.

Cut and paste is just a technique bordering on cheating that makes research work easier.

When we were in high school, my friends and I had an expression in place of the then popular "Erase, erase": "Cancel, cancel". This was something we said whenever someone said something we didn't like. These were the words that were supposed to do exactly what they meant: cancel. Cancel out. Just like its definition during the math discussions that gave birth to it, "Cancel, cancel" simply meant to "remove from the equation". But, like math equations, you can only cancel out the extra terms. You can't cancel the terms that are part of the solution. No matter how hard you try to rearrange a complex equation, if all terms are important, the problem remains complex and thus the solution, elusive. Sometimes, if you force it, you come up with the wrong solution. All the hard work you did becomes meaningless.

Life isn't like Physics or Math. The solution isn't always short and simple when it's correct. The system can't be simplified into a frictionless surface or some perfect figure. And you can't always "cancel, cancel".

I've always preached. From the kindergarten days I spent gently patting the backs of crying classmates to these days I spend searching for the words to calm confused hearts of friends, I have always said the things I thought should be done. I'm selfish in that manner. It's always about what I think. My most common advice is "Think about it. Do what you will, but think about your actions first."


I've always preached, but I rarely practice. I can be impulsive. I don't give enough thought to things. "Easier said than done" rings true. I recently promised myself that I would think before I did anything. To do this, I started reviewing the past. I am starting to learn from the mistakes I committed. I am searching for the right solutions.

Solutions. If there's one thing I learned from Chem 153, it's that you have to learn the definitions before beginning to solve. You have to understand properties, know the equations of state, and memorize the differentials before solving the problem.

Fortunately, my current problems are a lot like the problems I had when I was in high school. Today, things are just a tad bit more complicated. I already know the properties, I know the equations of state, and I have long taken to heart the differentials. So, why can't I solve the problem? Maybe it's because I didn't pay enough attention to how the problem was solved before. Maybe it's because I never even tried to solve the problem before. Maybe I cancelled out necessary variables.

It looks like I have to study a lot more.

Too bad I can't go back to the time I first encountered this problem, look at the solution, then, Cut and Paste.

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