frivolous
Copyright 1996 by Paul Niquette All rights reserved.
Updated in January 2016
 
frivolous adj. Unworthy of serious attention; insignificant; trivial.
Curiosity is almost, almost, the definition of frivolity.
       -- Ortega y Gasset
Checkstand tabloids do not qualify.  Nor do commentators who dismiss environmental concerns.  Neither are frivolous in my book.  On the contrary, both are hazardous to democratic health.  In a democracy, one must not get mentally flabby.
 
The public mind is a terrible thing to deceive. If you have one of those (a public mind), watch out.  Education may not be enough and can be quite powerless in the face of daily doses of intentional ignorance fostered by the media.

Our best defense against reckless disregard for veracity is reasoning.  Which takes practice -- mental aerobics, I think. Follow along in a few self-imposed, low-impact exercises -- what some benighted souls will consider to be frivolous.

One day, a disciple of Carl Jung told me how to recognize the four personality types set forth in the titles below.  To help in remembering, I decided one morning to write in limerick form how each would say "Have a nice day."

     Sensory Judger

   Says the kind who prefers to take charge
   Of events as if poling a barge,
      "Please don't think me too brusque,
      Kindly grin dawn to dusk,
   Never minding conditions at large."

     Sensory Perceiver

   "May this life for now record
   All you sense as sweet reward,
      For each daylight moment fills
      Unpremeditated thrills,
   And not jots of strife's discord."

     Intuitive Thinker

   "Let your thoughts both second and prime
   Slip the bonds of circadic time,
      Giving goals to achieve
      So that all you perceive
   Match a limerick's perfection in rhyme."

     Intuitive Feeler

   "In the fullness of this day's emotion,
   May you show how one friendship's devotion
       Changes gloomy to joyous --
       Drenching gladness victorious!
   Like the waves on the beach by the ocean."


Bad stuff, I know, but -- hey, in physical fitness: No pain, no gain.   You want supple thighs?  Do your leg-lifts.  A flat tummy?  Sit-ups.  Vital capacity?  Jumping jacks.  You want mental fitness?  Write a limerick every day.


You are on your own for the next exercise, which I thought up one day as a lark.  Insert the missing entries in each series.

            A, H, I, M, V, W
             B, C, D, I, O, X
             H, I, N, O, S, Z
             A, D, O, P, Q, R
             B, C, D, E, T, V

Need some hints?  Here you are...

       Mirrors help with maybe two.
       For one a convex lens makes true.
             Expect some topologic sweat,
             Yet what you hear is what you get.
       Find face of type no stencils do.


Here is a familiar sentence which once held the world record for the number of prepositions it is ended with.

"Mother, what did you bring the book that I did not want to be read to out of up for?"
A different challenge:  Write a sentence that begins with the same exact word in triplicate: operating as an adjective, an adverb, and a noun.
"That that that that appears as the third word in this sentence follows the previous two should not surprise anyone who knows the challenge -- so much as the appearance of that fourth that."
All warmed up and ready to jog along a path of discovery?  Try this explanation, starting with a parallel -- self referent -- sentence:
"That some noun which appears as the third word in this sentence follows the previous two words should not surprise anyone."
Hardly an extraordinary case.  And here is a sequel.
"That this dog which those who live next door allow to roam the neighborhood defecates on my lawn should not surprise anyone."
Which invites another parallel -- self referent -- sentence:
 "That that that that that that follows three words later is the third word in this sentence should not surprise anyone."
Somehow, the 6-that sentence seems more understandable than the 4-that sentence, perhaps because it is easier to express aloud:

Comparing the 4-that version on an intensity scale...
 

 ______that___________________________
 __________that that follows...____________
__That_______________________________
...with the 6-that version.
  ______that________that_________________
  __________that________that follows..._____
  __That________that____________________

Lacking rigorous design rules, the English Language intermixes syntax and semantics, which will doubtless keep computerized "parsers" and "understanders" the stuff of dreams for decades to come.


All right, I've caught my breath.  Time for today's palindrome.  Write a passage which reads the same backward or forward, as "A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!"

It's open ore!  Push a pot amid fire-vote.  Get over, if dim atop.  "Ah, super one," post I.
Maybe tomorrow's palindrome will make sense, although, as art, there is no official requirement for that.  Meanwhile...
  • What was the most recent palindromic year?  Aha: 1991. [As of the copyright date.] And the next one?  2002.
  • What percentage of all 4-digit numbers are palindromes?  Only 1%. [For more on palindromes, click here.]
  • What age would a person have to reach to have lived in three palindromic years?
    •  
      Must be born on December 31, 1881, live throughout 1991, and die no sooner than
      January 1, 2002:  120 years and 1 day.


In terms of productivity and usefulness, most people will say that such activities are frivolous indeed.  I don't think so (see Puzzles with a Purpose).  There can be no doubt that solving word-challenges and mathematical puzzles are exercises which build one's resistance to the irrelevant thesis fallacy and other lunacies.


 
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