On the coming up with of titles

I hate coming up with titles for things. I mean, occasionally, there are situations where a title just seems really right.  But in my experience, when that happens (like in the case of my second novel or every band I've ever been in) the primacy of the title led to really sucky content.

Most of the time, though, I'd rather just call the thing by a number, or a rough description of its contents.

So I find it troubling that there seems to be such a strong presumption in the contemporary educational/creative climate that a title is a mandatory part of a work.  Like, if you fail to come up with a creative title, you have failed to write an essay/story/poem.

Which seems sort of unfair to me, because it seems obvious to me (and apparently no on else) that writing a title is a completely different artform.

Titling things is closer akin to haiku or epigram than it is similar to writing an exploratory essay.  I don't need for my titles to speak deeply to the resonant depths of my work.*

I recently lost points on two essays (which I got back at the same time, and so didn't have time to adjust) for titling both of them, "On '[name of the poem that is the subject of this essay]' by [name of the person who wrote that poem]".   I'm not entirely happy about this, though I understand why I lost those points, because in my ideal college experience I would title all of my papers with the course number (e.g. ENG101) followed by a dash and a number code indicating which paper that is.  So, ENG101-5, or ENG101-12/8/2011.  Followed by a name, or even just my student ID because all those numbers jammed up next to each other

ENG101-12/8/2011 00208999

(not my real student ID) has an aesthetically pleasing impersonality to it, and would make me feel more comfortable with the idea that my expression is coming through in the prose itself, the work that is the flesh of the assignment, rather than an overt acknowledgement of the specific authorship** and a flashy or not-so-flashy opening in a brief, arguably witty and definitely irrelevant poetic form.

For the record, in my head, I'm totally writing this in the voice of author/vlogger John Green, of the Vlogbrothers.  It is appropriate to read it while imagining that I am talking way too fast really close to the camera.


*And, by the way, that's another thing that bothers me about it -- the title-obsessed crowd seem to always  be the same people who insist that the author can't comment on their work, which supports my contention that they don't really believe the writer can't comment, they just believe that it's mandatory that they do it in obscure, arcane ways like trying to make a symbolism keystone out of the title or writing other works that are meant to clarify the positions being misinterpreted in other works.  But that's another day's rant. ** I'm not supporting death of the author here but I do think that in an academic setting it's better to focus on the work itself than the authorship when evaluating it for credit.


I've had a few conversations about godlike powers with a friend of mine lately, because sometimes, weirdly, the same obscure topic comes up three or four times in unrelated conversations in a short period of time. As a result, I've been using the word "Obliviate" a lot lately.

Let's get a definition for that: (From Wiktionary)


obliviate (third-person singular simple presentobliviatespresent participleobliviatingsimple past and past participleobliviated)

  1. to forget, to wipe from existence

Related terms

The reason it came up was because there were two basic hypothetical scenarios: if I could have godlike powers, what would I do with them, and if I could choose any sort of afterlife, what would I choose.
The first one came up in a discussion about morality -- in which I argued (as I have here) that morality requires arbitrary presuppositions, but is fact-based from that point onward.  In analyzing the various hypotheticals surrounding that claim, my friend asked what moral acts I would take if I achieved omniscience.
The second one came up because my friend asked, if we could choose, what character in what painting we would choose to spend our afterlife in.  Someone chose God from the Sistine Chapel, which I found a surprising pick. I thought eternity as a god or godlike being would be incredibly boring.
In both scenarios, the course of action I chose was:  "I would obliviate."  That is, cease to exist.  Forget my being.  Wipe myself out of reality.

Distribution of happiness across time

I've come up with a pointless, time waster of a thought experiment.  I can't imagine why it would possibly have any relevance to any sort of discussion, but I find it amusing to contemplate.  So, here it is. Suppose you had a machine that would distribute the relative level of life-satisfaction and well being across the human race throughout time and space more-or-less evenly.  There would still be some mild variation, in accordance with personality and effort, but activating this machine would essentially make life fair, for all human beings, past, present and future.

I think we can reasonably assume that if we activated the machine and the human race was wiped out tomorrow, it would be an altogether unpleasant experience for us, the activators.  Human history includes many, many generations of nomadic people living in discomfort and pain, without language, dying of common maladies.

But if the human race does continue onwards, into the future, it might be a pretty good deal for us.  If we master social capabilities, colonize space, resolve anxiety-producing societal constructs and so on, the potential future happiness of our species might average out overwhelmingly in our favor.

So, suppose you activate the device.  I can see two likely outcomes.

1.) Life becomes noticeably worse or remains the same.  Feeling cheated from this inconvenient justice, humankind in general loses much of its motivation to push onward into the future, crippling the hypothetical better world that might have produced that higher average.

2.) Life becomes noticeably better.  Suddenly healthier, mentally and physically, humankind is equipped to achieve heights greater than theyd ever done before, making a much brighter future from which to borrow.

I don't know whether this implies anything, but I'm enjoying it and thought I'd share.