Monday, May 14, 2012

Errorem, or My Beautiful Boo-Boo

It was decided that since Man is not perfect, a word ought to be added to the lexicon that described his shortcomings, of which there were many. A maid, unsure of the heat of her fire, would burn the milk. A man would become so distracted by the shape of a passing cloud that his furrows bent and twisted behind his plow. Etc. And so the word "error" was invented. 

At first, errorem were seen as faultless, a condition of Man’s inherent imperfection. A cosmic oopsie, if you will. A “my bad.”

But as the mistakes piled up, the word error came to refer to defects and flaws — the results of human or celestial imperfection. “To err is to be human,” people said, thus letting themselves off the hook. Seeing no way to account for all the error, they decided that the very existence of flaws were proof that God existed, for if all were perfection, how could one appreciate the perfect?

Thus it came to pass that people embraced errors as evidence of God’s work, including the best example of all — people themselves. Only a perfect God could have the genius to create imperfection, after all, they reasoned, with their faulty brains. Because this was a very clever idea, people worshipped God all the more fervently than before.

Some people, wanting to imitate God, deliberately made things with flaws built in to demonstrate that they appreciated the Free Will He had given them. After all, they could easily have made it perfectly if they chose to. Amish women to this day include a noticeable mistake in an otherwise immaculate quilt for this very reason.

The minions employed by whichever entity to scan in page after page of old books so that Google may provide digital copies of them are also subject to error, and partake of it often, with the dedication of supplicants on a mission. Whether the person responsible for the many blurry pages in William Carew Hazlitt’s book were merely distracted by the giddy joy of their task or were deliberately attempting to imitate God, who knows. All we are left with is the trail of whimsy they leave behind, holes in the text as impenetrable as the mystery of life itself.

Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine, William Carew Hazlitt, 1902

Also from this book: Selling Coal To Newcastle
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