Roger Marolt: Skiing circles around each other
People wonder why Lo Semple and I waste our time arguing about who is the better skier.
The short answer is because we are fools. The slightly longer answer is because we can scream and yell and berate each other forever on this topic and never come to a resolution. We are swirling the rim of a circular argument; you go faster, but I have better form, but if you slow down you will have better form, but I will go faster.
There is entertainment value in this — for us more than you — but really it gives us something to do from here to eternity if we both could live that long. Maybe our kids will pick it up and carry it forward. Hopefully not.
The truth is that we are arguing something that can never be proved. We could go out onto the Ridge of Bell Mountain and stare each other down and rope someone into yelling “go” for the start of a “contest” in an attempt to prove which of us is the better skier, but that will never happen. Why? Because we both know there is no way to prove who is the more skilled athlete in this silly, subjective “sport.”
Not to spoil the fun, but Lo and I can both ski all the terrain that the other one can without much trouble. Neither of us crashes often. We can go as fast as the other guy, if we choose to do so. Basically, if you put us on the top of any run, be it moguls, cruisers, powder, crud, steep, flat, undulating, anything in between or a combination of all the above and cut us loose, we will get to the bottom of it at about the same time. You could include 1,00 other locals in this contest and you would end up with a spontaneous combustion of goggles, skis and poles at the bottom. So, who would be the winner?
Nobody, that’s who, or whoever you thought looked the best if you really want to press the issue, but beauty is only in the eye of the beholder. If our athletic skills result in the same outcome and we are left to judge the winner on the basis of how they look coming down the slopes, then we have a beauty pageant on our hands instead of an athletic competition. Nobody wants to admit skiing is basically the same as that other thing we laugh at.
This is much like modern politics. Let’s argue about tax cuts and trickle down economics instead of skiing. Or, let’s talk about the solution for affordable health care. How about fixing the problem of homelessness. Immigration, anyone? Maybe chat about the accumulation of trillions of dollars of student debt and its looming effect on the real estate market and health of the general economy? Education? Global warming?
There are no precise answers within our individual grasps to solve any of these complex issues. In each case, we are left to judge the proposed solutions on the way they pirouette across the stage of public opinion. People adjust to changing circumstances better than rigid rules and regulations do, so in all likelihood no matter which option we start out with, we will end up in the right place.
Yes, that is optimistic, but look where we are right now. We have survived almost two and a half centuries of disagreement. There’s your proof! And, yes, that is meant to be a slightly ironic statement. Maybe in 1,000 years historians will have drilled down on what we did here and proved what worked and what didn’t and use this information to inform the perfect society in the future, but I’m betting against that. Historians will have to get much better at predicting the past for this to happen.
And yet, just as Lo and I do with our skiing, we have turned our country’s politics into an insipid contest nobody can possibly produce the correct answer for. We make a public spectacle out of our opinions and argue and fight and make each other mad over so many intricately difficult issues that, because there is no possibility of any individual or political party figuring them out and, thus, no way to prove us wrong, we go to the mat with them at the cost of friendships, the conviviality of the family dinner, and a decent night’s sleep. It’s each of our egos wearing an Einstein wig to the costume party.
So, I guess the biggest reason Lo and I fight about who is the best skier is to parody whatever it is that has driven this country to get so nasty about all things political. I hope a lot of people think we are stupid for it. And then I hope they write a long letter to the editor to proclaim proof of why the Republicans are so much smarter than the Democrats, or vise-verse, and then catch a reflection of themselves on a blank computer screen the moment after they’ve hit the send button. If they get into a huge shouting match at the post office over it, all the better. Hopefully, the more we argue about how we are making this baloney, the sooner we will recognize there are healthier things to consume. See you on the Ridge of Bell at high noon.
Roger Marolt enjoys participating in contests he can’t possibly lose, and conveniently ignores the truth that he can’t win them, either. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.