Frequently Asked Questions
Re: The Big Bang
Question: If the universe is expanding are we, my boyfriend and I, doomed to grow apart?
Answer: Cooling is inevitable on a scale both cosmic and personal. But so is death. My advice? Try not to think about it. My advice? Go get your hair done.
Question: Why do I always feel sad after having my hair cut no matter how well it comes out?
Answer: Human hair grows from the root, making that last inch of hair at the very end the oldest. So if you have long, shoulder-length hair say, you will be losing a ten or fifteen-year-old piece of yourself. Naturally this will feel traumatic. In today’s busy modern world, however, a haircut is a loss for which we occasion no ceremony. If it’s really getting you down though, on your next visit to the salon, why not bring a decorative urn in which to gather the clippings? Then, you can either place the urn on your mantle at home, or else say your goodbyes while spreading its contents over your favorite body of water.
Re: Historical Errors
Question: What is the difference between a mistake and an error?
Answer: A mistake you make once. It’s an accident, like a typo. An error you make repeatedly. It’s a misjudgment, like youth. Hence the popular expression, “Oh my god! You’re [getting married/moving/enrolling in graduate school/dying your hair back to its natural color]. It’s ‘the end of an error’!”
Question: Why am I lonely at parties?
Answer: Because everyone in the room is eventually going to die and what the party is really celebrating is the accidental fact that none of you is dead yet. Because the universe is expanding and you and your boyfriend have grown apart. Because your hair is short. Because from the distance of a few feet all conversations sound the same. Because the din of oblivion is the sound of silverware on crystal, of toasts made to dinner party hosts, of pleas for coat-check girls to distinguish among identical umbrellas, of inquiries with cater-waiters regarding a mix up with your specially requested vegetarian plate. And because nobody really talks about anything interesting. Because there is usually no one very handsome to talk to anyway. Because the food is frequently not very good. And even if it were, did you attend the party for the food?
Question: Why can’t you make the word “red” into an adverb? Like, “He stared redly?”
Answer: But of coursely you can. You can make anything into an adverb by just adding “ly.” Start nowly!
Re: Spontaneous Human Combustion
Question: Is it possible?
Answer: Spontaneous Human Combustion was once believed to be an outcome of excessive drink. Today “SHC,” as it is called in the scientific community, is a source of much contention, though I can’t see why. People blush, don’t they? Some more than others turn redly when embarrassed. Could SHC not then result from a deeply humiliating experience?
The next time you spill a glass of red wine at a dinner party where you’ve already grown morose, and feel your skin begin to tingle with shame as everyone stares, give yourself a break. Stop beating yourself up. Put things in perspective by imagining the greater mess you might still make were you to burst suddenly into flames.
Question: The other day I was in the subway when out of nowhere, I felt as if I were looking back in time, as if the present were already a faraway memory. And I felt an overwhelming desire to return to it, to get it all back, even though I was still standing there, even though I’d not yet left. I got off at 14th street, but why did this happen?
Answer: What you felt was an earthquake in your brain (brainquake), and so you briefly experienced time in a nonlinear fashion with past, present, and future all occurring at once. This happens more often as one gets older. Like a trick hip, your mind is now something you’ll just have to be careful with. Crossword puzzles may help, or try this: Imagine you are in a dark room with a single spotlight shining a path through it. Now imagine the same room, but with many spotlights turned on all at once, shining in every possible direction, illuminating the whole space so that instead of a single path, you see a vast room without any paths at all. You see space where you previously saw only direction. You see emptiness, which makes you sad, but also, you see possibility. This is most likely what happened to you on the subway. But don’t worry. Many people are subject to such flashes of brilliance. Quit your job and become an artist or don’t.
Excerpted from Iris Has Free Time.