Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Monday, September 15, 2003

  On the invention of the Form

In the End, there was BUREAUCRACY.

In the Beginning, there was DARKNESS - but that's besides the point.

They say that God created the universe, fire, sex, fishing and a lot of other neat things but still the poor fool won't admit that paperwork was His fault. He gave Man papyrus, and quill, and said: "Go out unto the world and prosper and create unto it!".

Man, quivering, with inkpot in hand, walked out into the cold new world. Soon afterwards, two men stepped back into back into God's chambers...

"Oh, our Lord?" they cried in unison.
"Speak Unto me, what have you created?" - thundered God.

The first man, a little short, a little bald, a little fat, timidly cleared his throat. "I, uh... O' Great, uh, Sir," said he, gathering strength enough to draw something out importantly from his stained robe, allowing a note of pride to creep into his voice, "Have Invented.... THE FORM!". The other man stepped forward now and spoke unto the echoes - "And I, Lord, have invented TRIPLICATE!" They each then threw handfuls of papryus into the air, clasped hands and danced in a circle (a rite continued to this day, behind closed doors, of course).

God spoke presently, "That's nice. But what do they do?"

"Well you see, " said the first man, "you spend several hours with quill and ink making these little marks on the paper, you know, and then you throw it on the fire to keep warm."

"Ah," the Lord said, "But what do you do for heat in the meantime?"

"That, O most heavenly sir, is where my triplicate comes in, " man Two grinned.... "Now we can have thrice as much heat from one form!" Then the two proto-bureaucrats glanced at each other in pure joy and went into their merry dance again.

Faced with the impeccable logic, God pronouced the thing Good, and sent it out into the earth to prosper, and multiply.
Well, Man took 'forms" to heart, quite unlike his usual reaction to God's bounty. Man soon was scribbling and burning, scribbling and burning. It was great fun - and what else can one do to while away the cold hours between dusk and dawn? Sex before the invention of condoms had consequences that scribbling on forms did not. Forms became gifts in the cold season, you'd hand your host a card at a party, it would be ceremoniously lit and everyone present would dive towards the fire to keep warm.

Suddenly, different people in all corners of the world discovered that the 'form' could be a means of communication!! The concept of 'writing' developed. Letters and words, appeared! We wrote left to right, while peoples on the other sides of the globe wrote right to left or up and down. People would read a letter, and THEN ceremoniously dump it in the fire. Now everyone was gleefully passing letters back and forth. It so happened however that some people kept (and burned) more letters than they sent out. They were therefore warmer than those who sent out more letters than they received - who often died of cold. This division of survival rates between 'reader' and 'writer' persists to this day.

Then someone invented green forms and the public went wild! They thought that these forms were so valuable that they could trade them for other things like food, water, or women. This 'green stuff' was so valuable in fact, that it couldn't be burned, and quite a few people froze to death before the advent of Technology. God is thought to have died during this period as more people worshipped 'money' than Him; money was so much more fun than He had ever been, and His hopes that money was only a fad were demolished.

His last words: "Brother, can you spare a dime?"

Poof!

Soon afterwards Bureaucracy covered the earth, and like the darkness that preceded it, it was boundless, but it was not - without form.
The plight of the writer vs the reader remains - except: in the electronic age, both parties keep warmer by running faster computers, and use gas or electric heat in addition. Light is provided not by God, but by a carbon filament.

The original purpose of the form is retained in some parts of our language. Arguments held via email are called flame wars...

I think I've proven that: writing sheds more heat than light.
And that: I should really go back to writing code for a living.
 
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