Businesses strive for predictability. Standardization helps them achieve that. Still, many employees like their jobs for their variability, “It’s something different every day.” Herein is a paradox.
On one hand, we have predictability containing expenses by minimizing surprises. On the other hand, work’s variability gives us pleasure. Could predictability make us wealthy but miserable too? Walter Kirn touches on this paradox in his article “Knowledge of the Future Is Messing With the Present” (The Atlantic, July/August edition) by asking:
Has making life more explicable actually made it any more pleasurable?
The main character, Rocky, is a petty thief who dies. A divine guide finds him to deliver the news and show him to his new “home.” At first, Rocky can’t believe his luck for in this place he gets whatever he wants. In poker, all the cards go his way. With women, none deny him. Despite his long list of sins, Rocky figures God granted him heaven.
However, after a while, he becomes bored with the predictability of succeeding at whatever he attempts, poker, slots, women, robberies, billiards etc. Finally, he approaches his divine host and says, “If I gotta stay here another day, I’m gonna go nuts! Look, look, I don’t belong in Heaven, see? I want to go to the other place.”
The divinity rebuts, “Heaven? Whatever gave you the idea that you were in heaven, Mr. Valentine? This IS the other place!”
By imagining extremes, we alter our perspectives, permitting a more realistic assessment of our conditions. Not only do these perspectives influence our emotions (i.e. reducing fear of change) but also they improve our problem-solving skills.
- Entire episode (approx 25 min.): The Twilight Zone “A Nice Place to Visit” (Original Broadcast Date: April 15, 1960)
- Climatic scene (approx 1 min): Ending “A Nice Place to Visit”