A Eulogy for 320,000 Barbers

I am not sad about the death of these barbers. I’m a mature, rational adult: I know that these barbers were never alive in the first place and their death means nothing, but I feel something.

What is death if you were never alive? I brought 320,000 virtual barbers into this world for a simulation to give 625,000 virtual haircuts and then deleted them, all to help me solve a little math puzzle because I wasn’t smart enough to find a real analytical solution.

I’m not here to grapple with the concept of life or death. I don’t want to discuss simulation theory or what it means to be alive. This isn’t some grand essay dealing with human nature – I just want to find out what I’m feeling.

I’ve been accused of lacking emotion depth and fearing emotional vulnerability. This cannot be true – I am a Pisces.

My horoscope today tells me that I’m opening myself up “to have empathy” (thanks to Mercury being one house away from where Neptune was when I was born) and that I will “find people who will encourage me to explore my emotional roots” (obviously because the sun is semi-sextile with where Uranus was when I was born).

Could these 320,000 virtual barbers be the people that will help me explore my emotional roots?

Disney’s Inside Out features (in order of billing) the core cast of human emotions: Joy, Sadness, Bing Bong, Anger, and Fear. Clearly, I’m not experiencing joy about these 320,000 deaths nor am I feeling Bing Bong, so we can rule those two out.

Sadness doesn’t feel like the right term to describe what I’m feeling right now. Sadness is characterized, in part, by loss and grief. I don’t think that I can call this feeling loss, since I never knew these barbers. The only thing I knew about them was that a quarter of them were named Tiffany and that they all took exactly fifteen minutes to give a haircut. That was all there was to know about them.

No. That’s not true. I only programmed them to have those two traits, but we are more than our programming. I do not wish to delve into the debate between nature and nurture, but we can all agree that DNA isn’t destiny. Who am I to say that these 320,000 barbers didn’t take on a life of their own? Either way, it doesn’t matter. I don’t think that I’m sad about the death of these barbers.

Am I, then, angry or fearful? I wouldn’t call it anger, per se, but I’m disappointed in myself. I’m disappointed that I needed to bring these barbers into existence in the first place. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t satisfied with just solving the problem. I wanted to show off; I wanted to confirm my solution with Monte-Carlo experiments and, god-willing, find an n-generalizable solution. I didn’t consider what it would mean to bring these 320,000 barbers into existence; I was blinded by the opportunity that these barbers would provide me – that maybe a plot of mine would be featured in next week’s solutions. I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. But disappointment isn’t an emotion in Inside Out, so it must be a fake emotion, like hunger or sleepiness.

I don’t feel fear either, though. These barbers can’t do anything to me. They exist only in my hard drive and all of my data is backed up both to an external drive and to the cloud. Nor do I fear that the same fate may befall me as befell these barbers. Sure, I know that I’ll die but I don’t fear it. I do fear snakes, but that’s neither here nor there. 

We have exhausted all of our options; perhaps an animated film for children isn’t the best framework for identifying and discussing emotions. Lost, I call my brother, who claims to have an A in AP Psychology. He sounds like he’s only half-awake but argues with me for a couple of minutes on the basis that my request of “list all the emotions” is meaningless and refuses to list even a single emotion. 

He’s also a Pisces, though; perhaps he, like myself, has too romantic of a view on emotions and believes that they cannot be simply classified with scientific terms. Or maybe he’s also too lazy to read the entire Wikipedia page on emotions.

I initially set out on a quest to identify a single emotion. Here, I would usually wax poetic about how this quest has ballooned in scope and exaggerate the impact of my writing, but I’m just confused now.

The journey isn’t about the destination. I set out to determine exactly what emotion I was feeling, but that seems unimportant now. Maybe it’s joy, perhaps it could be sadness after all. Why can’t it be Bing Bong, anger, or fear? It doesn’t matter. These death of these 320,000 barbers allowed me to explore my emotions and, for that, I’ll be forever grateful.

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