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Among Other Things

Sara Moriarty, Opinion Editor

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Human nature is a funny thing.  There are clearly defined Type A and Type B personalities, with countless combinations of the two. Some people are lazy, and others are driven to succeed. It can also be argued that some people strive to enjoy life with as little stress as possible, while others work so hard that they forget to appreciate what’s around them.

Some people might change their light bulbs right away, probably the ones leaning more toward Type A. These people will make sure their lives are efficient, successful, maybe even adventurous, with every small detail accounted for. The opposite might also be true people who strive to achieve amidst stress, like forgetting about the small but important things like light bulbs.  At any rate, many people will not replace a dead light bulb immediately.

What is it about changing light bulbs? It isn’t difficult. It isn’t very expensive. But it brings out, arguably, some of the worst qualities in people. Sloth. Laziness. Forgetfulness. Perhaps even selfishness- neglecting to change a light bulb because it will require effort, even if this small effort will benefit others who occasionally visit or who live with you.  Eventually, of course, the darkened bulb, some how or other, is replaced with one that actually lights up.

Every time a fresh, new light bulb is screwed into a lamp, one thinks it will last forever. The person replacing the light bulb knows in the back of his mind that the light bulb will go out at some point, but still believes that this will be far in the future- so far, in fact, that he never has to worry about changing the bulb again. This is an exaggeration, of course.  But the exaggeration is an enticing one, so there are no spare light bulbs to be found in the house. The replacer of the light bulb does not prepare for the next time the light bulb succumbs to darkness and must be replaced.

The light bulb will eventually go out. The light that has been flicked on every day will, all of a sudden, flicker and die. Sitting alone in darkness for a moment or two, the victim of the darkened light bulb will walk across the room and turn on a dim lamp. For the next week, the victim turns on the switch of the dead bulb, out of habit. The week after that, the habit dies, and the victim relies solely on the little lamp at the end of the room, forgetting about the old light source, but not completely. In the back of his mind, the victim always knows that the old light could be replaced; it is just the light bulb that went out. It could be replaced with a fancy energy efficient bulb and shine even brighter. It would be so easy. Just pick up a light bulb at the grocery store. Such minimal effort for such a bright, long lasting light- but the victim only focuses on the short term, the minimal effort that he does not want to make.

Alas, the effort is not made for another several weeks. The process of the light bulb again begins, a glorious, bright beginning, and an ending consisting of a month of darkness due to ill preparedness (i.e. lack of spare light bulbs) and procrastination.

The light bulb can thus be a metaphor for the human tendency to procrastinate. The light bulb dilemma can represent the human avoidance of confronting problems to fix them. Humanity, or at least some of it, will instead avoid confrontation and rely on other sources to avoid the specific problem- like the dim lamp at the end of the room.  The lamp doesn’t serve much function, and before the main light died, the lamp was just used as decoration.

Some people may be inclined to fix their problems immediately while others find it easier to live without a light bulb, thinking only of the short term, thinking only of the immediate effort and not how it will pay off in the long run. The light bulb metaphor has been and can be applied to many aspects of human life, from career difficulties to relationship issues. Take it as you will.

However, I wrote this mainly because one light bulb in my bathroom went out. I want to replace it, but I consistently neglect to do so. Instead of replacing the light bulb I went through all of this effort to write an essay about light bulbs. What does this say about me?

Damn light bulb.

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