The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Most Boring Day In History?

A Cambridge University computer scientist has developed a program, True Knowledge, that among other things has cleverly identified the most boring day in modern history (since 1900) as April 11, 1954. (Here's a link to the story: Computer Identifies the Most Boring Day.)

It seems this researcher, with the unlikely name of William Tunstall-Pedoe, fed a few hundred-million data points to his program which then digested them and spit out the day in question. The program determined that few events of any major or lasting significance occurred on this date. No famous people died. And the only birth of any note was that of a Turkish academic by the name of Abdullah Atalar (see photo at left). My apologies to Professor Atalar, but I assume I am not alone in never having heard of him before today. I do, however, congratulate him on his new-found fame as a person of only limited significance. Anyway, despite Professor Atalar's birth, the program has confirmed April 11, 1954 as deserving of the most boring label.

Of course, the trouble with this program is its equating of fame and the extraordinary with the interesting, and by extension, its presumption that the mundane and the ordinary are boring. Personally, I would think that those millions who were born on April 11, 1954 consider that particular day fairly important. So too those who lost a loved one or were married on that date. Because they were created in God's image, none of these people are inherently unimportant or boring and neither are their lives. There's more than a touch of elitism in such efforts as those pursued by Mr. Tunstall-Pedoe and his colleagues at Cambridge and other universities. Perhaps they simply have too much time on their hands. Perhaps they're simply bored.

Actually, although I can't recall any details about this presumably most boring day, I can place it in some personal context. On April 11, 1954 I was nine years old and a fourth-grader in Miss Helen Dolan's class at Chatsworth Avenue School in Larchmont, New York (photo at left). Now it's important to realize that Miss Dolan was both my third and my fourth grade teacher. The previous June, as third grade ended, she informed us that because she liked us all so much, she had asked the principal if she could remain with us as our fourth-grade teacher. He had agreed that this would be just swell. It's also important to realize that Miss Dolan was my immediate next door neighbor. That's right, her back door was about 20 feet from our back door. She saw and spoke with my mother daily. This was not a good thing for the average nine-year-old boy. It led to all sorts of interesting and unwanted events in my young life. I was not a particularly happy fourth grader, and I was certainly not bored.

Late in the school year -- probably fairly close to the date in question -- after two years with Miss Dolan, I asked my father to send me to St. Augustine School, the local parochial school. Since we didn't live anywhere near the Dominican convent, I figured the nuns wouldn't be as intrusive as the neighborly Miss Dolan. I was also concerned that she just might ask to follow us again and join us in fifth grade. It was then I discovered that my father had planned to send me to St. Augustine School anyway. Great minds...

Looking back on it, then, I don't consider the days of 1954 at all boring, and I'm confident that April 11th was no exception. And so I suggest Cambridge University and Mr. Tunstall-Pedoe reprogram True Knowledge with a few hundred-billion more data points that reflect the lives of those of us who represent the great unwashed. Although our lives might not seem so very interesting to the elites, they are certainly of real interest to those of us who live them. Should they follow my suggestion, I expect no day will turn out to be boring. After all, as the Psalmist has said, "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad" [Ps 118:24]. I expect he meant no particular day, but rather, every single day of our lives.

God's peace...

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