Why do we thrive on drama? Why does the element of uncertainty and excitement, whether it is real or imagined, capture our interest? I believe our humanity keeps us from living truly logical lives, whether we want it or not. I think we want to believe that all we do is totally rational and derived from scientific rigor, that we do nothing out of the human passions that make us who we are and shape the world the way it is. But that is not so. And that is not bad. Many things we do is done not from logic reasoning, by weighing the pros and cons, but because we want to, because we love to. Something done not out of logic, but of the love of something, is more telling, more meaningful, to us as the human race. That’s why I’m going to use the words logic and drama, because I think those words capture what I want to describe. They’re both human, and they’re not mutually exclusive. We tend to divide life between them, attributing certain events to one or the other. Logic is what brought about great engineering marvels such as bridges and dams. But it was human drama that precipitated the purpose behind the structures themselves. Why was the Firth of Forth bridged? Somebody wanted to get to the other side. So the bridge envisages not only the enormous logical achievement, but the human drama that brought about such an achievement. In any event, the maths that enabled the construction of the bridge are themselves imbued with the same drama.
What would life be without drama? Why would men and women marry? Why would they have children? Why would they bury their dead with fanfare? Why would they celebrate occasions of birth, of marriage? If they were completely logical, they would realize that we’re all dead in the long run, so either there’s no point in going over the top, or we might as well party on. But I’m not talking about selfish, shortsighted, drunken abasement. But these are not purely logical notions, but deeply dramatic. The word, like romantic, carries associations of foolishness, quaint notions built not out of reality but wishful dreaming. The implication is that it is the logical, the reality, that one must look to for purpose and lasting meaning. That ultimately may be true, but where would the fun be in that? You may call me dramatic, but these wishful dreams are what make life worth living.
For example, I attended the wedding of a friend less than a day ago. It was, like most weddings, traditional. There was a cake, the bride wore a dress, the groom a tuxedo. Both were surrounded by ceremonial attendants. Each thing in itself meant nothing. The flower girls were really extraneous to the affair. Theories on the original intent of the bride’s bouquet—which make it a purely logical item—mean nothing to us today. An historian, maybe, but who cares? Modern weddings may be a collection of ancient and religious ritual, but to those present it makes no difference. The couple could have become legally married by a state and religious functionary, witnessed by a few close friends, and been done with it. The method has no impact to the meaning in the long or short run, so there’s no quasi-religious or superstitious element involved. But it was deliberately made a dramatic occasion with music, food and drink and costly decorations. The couple was married in the presence of friends and family, who spanned several generations. And they came to wish them the best in life, to see them off to success in a world which can be, in so many ways, a cruel world. But it is a world that can be filled with so many unmerited gifts. The whole affair was almost completely unnecessary, but that was not the point. The point wasn’t logic, it was drama. Those flower girls may have been extraneous, but they were positively adorable.