Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Weed Patches

Every day I like to go up on top of the GA Tech/Technology Square parking deck in order to gaze at the city skyline and survey the traffic on the interstate below. This gives my eyes a break from long periods spent staring at a computer screen.

Today I found myself gazing down at a GA Tech facilities guy cutting back weeds. These weeds have grown almost as tall as a person, and they have swallowed up the trunks of the ornamental trees planted in a row between the building and the sidewalk.

The guy used a hedge trimmer to carve the weeds back from the sidewalk they had been partially blocking, much as one might carve topiary. His actions resulted in a smooth, five foot high wall of weed by the sidewalk.

This was ridiculous, because the weeds obviously should have been pulled outright long ago. But somehow the opportunity for doing that had slipped by, and one day it was decided to simply trim them back. It struck me as being akin to using a laser to carve a malignant tumor into a beautiful, miniature Venus de Milo while leaving the tumor in place.

Since my mind runs away with itself very easily, the actions of the Facilities guy struck me a metaphor for the way society deals with many problems. Rather than pulling the weeds at the start, it seems to be human nature to let them grow until the problem cannot be ignored--when the sidewalk becomes impassable. By then the effort required to completely solve the problem is too much to contemplate, so we simply cut the weeds back.

Since this is (purportedly) a European-themed blog, in order to justify this musing I'll add a metaphor offered to me by my Slovakian former roommate LuboŇ° to describe how America deals with its problems:

"America began its history like a quilt. But then the quilt got torn. So you sewed patches on the tears. And then the patches get tears. So you sewed patches on patches. And soon the entire quilt became patches on patches on patches..."

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