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A Brief History of Mischief: Sufficient to Have Stood Though Free to Fall

Or: Don’t Eat the Big Red Apple, Don’t Push the Big Red Button, and Don’t Read This (Big, Red) Blog

Since you are already making mischief by breaking my command and reading this blog entry, let’s do a thought experiment. Please imagine that you are sitting in front of a big red button with a sign above it that reads “Push Here to Destroy the Universe.” A high stakes “don’t pull the fire alarm” temptation test. I ask not if you would push the button, but why you would do it? Curiosity? Power? Temptation? An exercise of free will?


The End

‘We know how the Universe ends,’ said the guide, ‘and Earth has nothing to do with it, except that it gets wiped out, too.’

‘How-how does the Universe end?’ said Billy.

‘We blow it up, experimenting with new fuels for our flying saucers. A Tralfamadorian test pilot presses a starter button, and the whole Universe disappears. So it goes.’

(Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five)

(Ok, so maybe I was wrong about the end of the planet last month.)


Reverse Psychology in the Garden

Meanwhile (a few thousand years earlier), God made the first rule for mankind:

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:15-17)

The first rule. The first restriction on man’s freedom. The first psychological reactance. The first mischief. And perhaps the first truly human act. Like most rules, God’s “sole command,” was broken. Surely, a master mischief maker assisted in the temptation, but was “the fall” a result of anything but the inevitable consequence of mankind being told not to do something? Was the temptation of Eve anything more than simple exploitation of the psychological reaction we all have when we are told we can’t do something? Leave it to a mischief maker (why do so many great mischief makers reside in trees?) to know how to incite mischief in others.

Why then was this forbid? Why but to awe,
Why but to keep ye low and ignorant,
His worshippers; he knows that in the day
Ye Eate thereof, your Eyes that seem so cleere,
Yet are but dim, shall perfetly be then
Op’nd and cleerd, and ye shall be as Gods,
Knowing both Good and Evil as they know. (John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book IX)

Then Eve reached her rash hand and freely tasted.


The End, Again

‘If you know this,’ said Billy, ‘isn’t there some way you can prevent it? Can’t you keep the pilot from pressing the button?’

‘He has always pressed it, and he always will. We always let him and we always will let him. The moment is structured that way.’

(Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five)

Mankind is structured that way. So it goes. Break the glass, even if there is no case of an emergency. And DON’T COMMENT, below.

10 responses to “A Brief History of Mischief: Sufficient to Have Stood Though Free to Fall”

  1. Avatar lee lee says:

    Why do I have this feeling that most of {middle} America (?) would just sit there and stare dumbly at the big red button?

  2. Avatar ecrussell says:

    I may start dividing (and judging) people along these lines. If I put you in a room with a button and a sign that says “do not press,” are you the type who would be odedient or are you the type that would make mischief? Are you a starer or a presser? The pressers obviously make things (good and ill) happen in this world.

  3. Avatar lee lee says:

    important to note: the impulse to do things, whether those things or good or bad, comes from the same place…that irresistible urge to PUSH BUTTONS

  4. Most people just follow directions…

  5. emmy em emmy em says:

    You’re not the boss of me, I can comment anywhere I want.

  6. kfrayz kfrayz says:

    Robert Dahl {a political scientist} calls power “the control of behavior”…A gets B to do something B would not otherwise do…there always has to be a dominant person with power…giving the command…so…who was A?
    God, Satan or…Eve?

    • Avatar ecrussell says:

      Certainly, God has the power (he makes the rules). The OT astonishes me because an all powerful God constantly fails to control his rowdy people. He should know better than to tell the kid in the toy store (or the humans in the garden), “you can have any toy except THAT one.” I think the consequences were inevitable.
      Satan, in my opinion, was merely just a catalyst pushing humans to do the inevitable. Mischievous, yes. And maybe that is what power (in the ‘Dahl-plus’ definition) is:
      “A gets B to do something B would not otherwise do” by understanding human psychology enough by knowing how and when to persuade and exploit.

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ecrussell About ecrussell

* E.C. has taken a sabbatical from serious work in order to dream and to better develop an inter-disciplinary method of destroying both psychology and writing. In ruina verum...

Read more by this author on 30POV .


December 2009
Season Finale
November 2009
{Seven Deadly} Sins
October 2009
Mischief Making
September 2009
Green Ethics
August 2009