Dr Paradox And The Theory Of Rhubarb

Dr Paradox had the enviable job of being a scientist. He found it both annoying and useful in equal measure. It was problematic because he had to conform to certain social stereotypes in order to be taken seriously: growing his eyebrows wild and unkempt, messing up his desk and house, sporting a wearisome and offensive halitosis and generally projecting an air of befuddlement: none of which were his personal preference or resembled who he really was. After visitors left his house he’d scrupulously rearrange the mayhem in to good order, tame his outlandish eyebrows with a comb and allow his patent mouthwash time to return his mouth to normality. He sometimes thought that his mouthwash was his single greatest achievement, for with but a minute of gargling it transformed his breath from inoffensive normality to a vile monster (which oddly tasted of delightful peppermint), only to return it to the sweet scent of herbs after exactly one hour. One swig just before guests arrived thus allowed him the odious authority of his position and projected the right and professional air expected of a man of his status: all that without the annoyance of permanent periodontal disease. It was a triumph, but one he could not yet see a wider practical application for. However, these social annoyances were outweighed by the positive aspects of his role.

Being a scientist gave him an unequivocal right to talk with absolute authority on any subject of his choosing. But more importantly, it allowed him to fabricate the truth, making new truth if the old truth were in anyway lacking. It meant he could say almost anything at all with total confidence, knowing that people would lap it up, even if it was a complete load of bollocks.  If anyone did think to question what he said, out would come his little notebook and the words: “hold on, I’ll just check the statistics”. The fact that there was nothing written in his notebook seemed not to matter in the slightest. He found that merely bringing out the the book caused 76% of people to switch off. The remaining dissenters could be put off with a twitch of his enormous eyebrow.  Even if someone did persist they almost never checked his statistics for fear of intense and painful boredom.  And if all else failed he could give the tricky bugger a blast of his scurrilous breath. If not stopped in their tracks by that point, there really was nothing to be done. As a scientist it was imperative to be able to talk bullshit in order that the theories added up to something approaching half sensible; the scientific community expected as much. And the public were no less hungry for anything ridiculous that could be passed off as a truth and were likely to become violent if they didn’t get it. He had a job to do and he’d do it to the best of his creative ability.

Dr Paradox was, of course, a man of theories. There were literally hundreds lining up in his mind ready to be explored and expanded upon. Unfortunately, he had the terrible affliction of being easily sidetracked. This was difficult in his personal and professional life alike. If he set off to brush his teeth he’d find himself inadvertently doing the hoovering. If he thought he might clean the windows he’d find himself watching TV. If he set off to buy a loaf of bread from the local shop he might find himself on a transatlantic flight, half way to New York, sipping G&T’s and flirting with the cabin crew. It was no better in his workplace.  He’d begin working on a project in the lab, only to find, three weeks later, that he was lying on a beach in Bali. It meant that his research was somewhat stunted, but on the bright side, he had a really great tan.

It was somewhat tricky to get to the bottom of the problem. He’d tried at least ten of the very fashionable techniques of self reflection and mindfulness. But being a man of theories and easily sidetracked, he never managed to get to the end of a single chain of thought without first taking a route to somewhere else equally interesting on the way. And while he’d booked all ten mind calming treatments, he’d not made a single appointment. All in all, it made his thoughts and his conversation infuriating, unexpected, enthralling, tedious and totally unfulfilling. But somehow everyone loved it that way and so there was no outside pressure to change.

Though he had not found a cure for his affliction he had given it the name of Rhubarb. It had become clear that his theorising was part of the problem. In order to explain any theory he was working on he found he needed to use another theory to get his point across. Unfortunately, half way through the second theory another theory would be needed, and so on and so on. This would continue until no one could remember where he had started or what the point was. He was liable to continue ad infinitum or at least until dinner time (which ever came first). When he did eventually arrive at the conclusion, he’d stand up and proclaim in a loud voice: “the state of Rhubarb has been reached”. (It’s like a theory impasse and can only be cured with three stiff G&T’s in quick succession or possibly a strong cup of tea laced with gin. And Tonic). This state of Rhubarb was applauded quite vigorously by anyone who knew him because the revelation of G&T’s was what everyone was waiting for. That was the point.

With G&T’s onboard bullshit is just easier for the brain to handle. And when pissed, everyone is a scientist and a statistician. In fact, that was where the fun usually began and consequently Dr Paradox had become a hit at parties and invites were delivered daily to his door. In someways Dr Paradox was quite satisfied. He’d attained some standing in the world. He could say what he needed to say and make up the rest with impunity. However, he couldn’t quite work out what the practical applications of Rhubarb were and how it would make his fortune.  But thinking about it didn’t get him anywhere. It just seemed to lead to drunkenness and an endless cycle of parties and drunken calls for more Rhubarb. And of course, the inevitable next day headache.

© Ben Truesdale and distilledvoice, 2015

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