A few weeks ago at the dinner table, my daughter asked, “What’s something you really like but don’t respect?” My answer was immediate. “Nutella.”
That question has stayed with me and morphed into another: what’s something that is annoying but really necessary? For aspiring musicians, I would say scales. That same daughter has brought home a recorder, and let me assure you that the only way she will master this is by practice. And if you’ve ever listened to recorder practice (or violin or any number of other instruments) you know that it can be a little… annoying.
For some, waiting is annoying. I’m in the process of healing after surgery, and my mind is raring to go and my body is wanting to rest. The last weeks of pregnancy can be annoying too. Waiting for an answer to prayer can cause a mountain of crabbiness. Good heavens, if God is omnipotent and hears all, why can’t my prayer be answered in neon lights, clear as day, within 24 hours of the request? Poor customer service on the Almighty’s part, if you ask me.
Of late I’ve thought that democracy can be annoying too. The process is long and sometimes excruciating, exposing our deep flaws (and maybe the deep flaws of the candidates.) It’s a wasteful process, in terms of dollars and time and attention. But in order for everyone to have a voice, and to have a vote, the impracticalities are necessary. A benevolent dictator could streamline things, but I don’t think we want that.
Meetings in general may be one of the most necessary of annoyances. In his delightful book Sum, David Eagleman explores what might happen after we die. In one essay, he suggests that all the time we spend doing a thing will be lumped together; if we slept eight hours a night every day, and lived to be 80, then a portion of our eternity would be spending 233,600 hours sleeping – all at once. If Eagleman is right (and I don’t think he is but it’s fun to imagine) I would spend a good 10,000 hours of eternity in meetings. Were they worth it?
Picking up after the dog’s morning constitutional is a necessary annoyance; so is doing the dishes. These things are annoying because I think there is something else I’d rather be doing, or it’s hard, or it’s dull. But they’re necessary in order to have the other things I want: a clean house and neighborhood; consensus on decisions; healing; freedom.
But if you figure out the necessity of the annoying fruit fly, please let me know.