My Tennessee grandfather spent decades of his life — and invested thousands of dollars — trying to invent a perpetual motion machine....
My Tennessee grandfather spent decades of his life — and invested thousands of dollars — trying to invent a perpetual motion machine.
He was always convinced he was 99 percent there. If he could work out the details of that last one percent, he could provide the world with inexhaustible, cheap, non-polluting energy... forever!
The fact your house isn’t powered by a Dixon Perpetual Motion Forever-Generator® in your basement shows how successful he was at cracking that last one percent.
Grandpa had other hobbies. He spent years developing a new language based on how atoms and molecules were structured.
The idea was you’d instantly be able to know the molecular structure of a substance based on how the name for that substance was pronounced.
For example, if you heard someone say, “"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn", you’d know he was describing a substance made of six carbon atoms, 12 hydrogen atoms, and six oxygen atoms.
Why it wouldn’t be simpler to continue using the more common, easily understood word “fructose” is something Grandpa didn’t stop to consider.
Why everybody should drop the language they are already using and start using a entirely new one based on the structure of atoms and molecules was something he didn’t think was worth wasting time on.
My grandfather’s pet obsessions all fell under the umbrella of a bigger concern: the south would rise again. To some southerners of a certain age, the Civil War never ended, and the south was still occupied territory.
Grandpa was convinced that if he could inspire a secret underground society of southerners using his secret language and powered by his perpetual motion machine, the Civil War could be refought with better results.
In short, Grandpa was crazy.
I don’t mean to pick on southerners by pointing any of this out. I think the south is the most unfairly picked-upon section of the country. Most Yankees’ ideas about the south are severely outdated. It’s not the 1920s anymore.
There’s a reason many black families are moving back to the south these days after spending a few generations in the north.
There’s a reason major aerospace and electronics manufacturers are building new high-tech plants south of the Mason-Dixon line. They know where they can find a hard-working, educated work force these days.
The south is rising again, and not needing any help from secret societies using perpetual motion machines.
No, what fascinates me is pointless obsessions, the ones people devote years of their lives to for no worthwhile purpose.
It wasn’t that my grandfather was stupid, or that he was a bad person. He wasn’t either of those things. He just got hung up on an idea, and let that idea rule his life.
Pointless obsessions — you’ve got them, I’ve got them. I think they all come down to the fact we’re given a certain amount of time on this Earth, and we have to fill the hours somehow.
If my grandfather had lived 800 years ago, he probably would have filled his hours working out how to turn lead into gold, just to have something to do.
What are your pointless obsessions?
And what could you be doing instead?