Review: HYPERtheticals: 50 Questions for Insane Conversations

HYPERtheticals: 50 Questions for Insane Conversations
HYPERtheticals: 50 Questions for Insane Conversations by Chuck Klosterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the best board/card game on the planet, hands-down.

These are tough hypothetical questions, and as the author puts it, the point really isn’t the answer, but the thought process. Seeing how someone thinks about this is really what the game is about, not their one-word answer.

And in the interest of the thought process, I’m going to answer my favorite, not because the question is my favorite, but because I’m the ONLY person I’ve polled who answered the question the way I did:

You have won a prize. The prize has two options, and you can choose either (but not both). The first option is a year in Europe with a monthly stipend of $2,000. The second option is ten minutes on the moon. Which option do you select?

Please consider the question and come up with your own reasoning. I’ll wait.

If you’re like most people I’ve asked, you said Europe. If you’re unlike most people I’ve asked (and unlike me) you said “The Moon.”

First, let me dismantle the most common arguments I hear in favor of Europe when this question is asked.

1. A year is a lot longer than 10 minutes
This is true. It’s mathematical fact. However, it doesn’t seem, to me, that the truth of the difference between a year and ten minutes really speaks to the quality of those experiences. Also, you’d presumably have to reassemble your life after being away for a year. 10 minutes is a mildly long amount of time to be in the bathroom.

2. There’s nothing on the moon to see/do
I couldn’t disagree with that more, but at the very least, you could see the entire planet Earth. Also, being on the Moon is definitely something that happens to you more than somewhere you go to do stuff. You are there as opposed to seeing what else is there. It’s a very different human experience, perhaps only having modern equivalents in Antarctica or at something like the Grand Canyon if you’re the sentimental type. Plus, there are bags of shit left by the Apollo 11 astronauts. Nothing to see? That stuff, as Indiana Jones would put it, belongs in a museum.

3. A year off would be so nice and relaxing
I’m not much of a relaxer. That’s not my thing, really. Sitting around doing very little just isn’t that interesting to me. Now anxiety, THAT’S my thing. I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t really relax, ever. I would be like a kid during summer vacation, counting down the remaining days until I was swept back into a normal, hellish life that I hate. And I would also be constantly fretting about the way to squeeze as much as possible out of this trip. I’m confident that I can fully enjoy 10 minutes on the Moon to its full potential without checking my space watch even once. In Europe, I’d be constantly oscillating between trying to relax and feeling like I was squandering the time.

4. People have been to the Moon before.
If people being there or not before was a primary argument, then Europe would lose that argument, hands-down. Also, lots of people have summited Everest. That doesn’t seem to stop lots of other people from doing it.

Here are my reasons for answering that I would hit The Moon

1. At the end of 10 minutes, I would know whether the moon was life-altering.
Internally, I’m different. Externally, I’m the same. I could start and finish this trip during a coffee break at work. It would take me less time to visit the moon than it would to rewatch the episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes an astronaut. While it’s impossible to say whether the moon might be more life-altering than a year of Europe, ten minutes on the moon would make it very easy to know whether the moon is a life-changing experience or not. I would have spent a very small amount of time there. I wouldn’t have aged much (and in fact would have aged slower than I would have had I spent that 10 minutes on Earth, I believe). Whereas the European experience would be mixed. Was I changed because I’ve aged? Because I didn’t work for an entire year? Because of the individuals I met or because of the larger cultural experiences? It’s a bad experiment in personal change as it would seem almost impossible not to change over the course of a year where my life was that different. It’s the classic problem when someone goes backpacking in Europe. Did the trip change them, or do those folks simply have a more easily contained context in which they could make their personal changes, changes most of us go through at around the same age people would tend to backpack in Europe?

2. I could go to Europe
A $2,000/month stipend is a little less than $25,000. In theory, if I really made it my life’s ambition, I’m confident that I could save that money and make the trip. I paid off a $20,000 student loan in less than ten years, so it would stand to reason that I could save $25K over that same period and make the trip. It’s never occurred to me to do this, which says to me that it’s not a big personal goal. I have zero confidence in my ability to save the amount of money it might take to visit the Moon, if that were even an available option, which it currently is not. Ultimately, the Moon is a closed door regardless of my physical ability, age, and savings potential. Europe is wide open. Selecting the Moon does allow for the potential for both.

3. The physical, lasting sensation of low gravity is not something I would ever experience otherwise. Mary Roach talked about this in her book, Packing For Mars, that zero gravity makes you realize how heavy your organs are, and even the way your hair pulls down from your head. It’s not until you experience the change that you realize the physical sensation of gravity. It’s such a fundamental change in something very visceral and difficult to explain that I think it would offer the more interesting physical experience.

4. Parties and meetings are so much easier after that.
It doesn’t matter if you’re at a bar, a party, wherever, being on the Moon trumps everything. I’ll be 100% honest with you, I’d rather spend 10 minutes talking to someone who has been on the Moon than I would any former President. No matter where you are, no matter what the situation, you have the best story. Unless that dude with the two penises who did the Reddit AMA is around. In that case I’d be willing to concede a tie.

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