A friend once related to me the story of a hiker and his dog in Yellowstone Park. The dog had jumped into a geyser and was scalded to death. The hiker had jumped in to save the dog, and was scalded to death as well.

My friend said that he was aware that I knew enough about geysers to know that the dog was dead the minute it hit the water. He also said that he felt I would have jumped in anyway. And he was probably right. Frogs always reserve the right to do ostensibly stupid things, and occasionally to do truly stupid things.

A dog can be a warm and loving companion, and for that type of dog I just might leap into the pit without thinking. Given time to consider it, I probably wouldn’t. But there are some things worth saving in that type of situation, even if you are aware of the consequences. People, at least some people, fall quickly into the “worth saving” category.

A good idea is like that, because it can assume some of those qualities that I hold dear in the people that I care about. A worthwhile concept is a vital, living, breathing thing in a very real way. Moreover, a concept can bring more joy to more people than a single person ever could. People have a disturbing tendency to be born, live lives of varying quality, and then die. This is disturbing when applied to society as a whole, and more disturbing when applied to our loved ones and friends. If the truth were known, it is most disturbing when applied to ourselves.

But a concept is a different matter. It is usually born as a kernel of an idea, and then grows through a series of people into a concept of quality. The difference is that a truly good concept rarely dies. And by virtue of a form of immortality, a good concept can touch and affect many more people than can any single one of the transient, carbon-based creatures called humans.

We hear quite a lot about the importance of procreation if we are to pass ourselves into the future. A lot of this implies an inherent need to bounce ourselves on our knee, and to try to provide a smaller version of ourselves with the things we did not have. This frog does not intend to miss much in his own lifetime, and thus can take or leave procreation approached from that point of view. But the passing along of my intellectual self, and the intellectual selves of those who have taught me something of value, is an entirely different matter.

Anytime, anyplace, I will gladly jump into a scalding hot stupid pit to save a good concept.


Kermit []