The Total Perspective Vortex was created by Trintragula. His wife kept telling him to have some sense of proportion and he built it to show her.

The Vortex involves presenting the victim with a comparison between the entirety infinity of creation (as extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake) and the victim. The victim's mind is annihilated by the shock. It just goes to show that the one thing that people can't afford to have, if they are going to exist in the universe, is a sense of proportion.

Its custodian's name is Gargravarr and his body has a habit of going off to parties without him, just leaving his mind to attend to the Vortex. He hums so that the victims can follow him.

The Vortex is located on the Frogstar, one of the most unpopular places in the universe.

Only one man has ever survived exposure to the Vortex. Though there were special circumstances Zaphod Beeblebrox prefers to think this just goes to show how really great a guy he is. His survival was chronicled in Fit the Eighth of Douglas Adam's 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I think the real-life equivalent is probably education. After all, once you reach a certain level of knowledge about a topic, you realize two things:

  1. Most people don't know anything about that topic. Most or all discussion on it by the general public is based on erroneous assumptions and inadequate understanding; even the rare insight by a novice is only the 'discovery' of some other fact that's been long-known to the field in question. Everything you read or hear on the topic by the uninformed becomes to you at best boring ("That's really just a basic fact"), or - more likely - irritating ("that's so off-base, I don't even know where to start!")
  2. You yourself have a good basic understanding of the topic, but there's a vast body of knowledge out there that you haven't touched yet. There are real experts out there with such an amazing facility with that knowledge that they've long passed your areas of inquiry and are discovering and contributing things that you're not even equipped to understand.

Now, those aren't necessarily bad - basically, you know some, but not enough. The total perspective part comes when you realize the corrolaries:

  1. You don't know anything about most topics. Most of your knowledge is based on erroneous assumptions and inadequate understanding; your rare insights into issues are really only the 'discovery' of some other fact that's been long-known to the field in question. Everything you write or say on the topic is, to those with some understanding of it, at best boring (it's just a basic fact on the subject) or - more likely - irritating (you're so off-base it's barely even funny.)
  2. You don't have anything useful to contribute to your chosen field of study. The only way you ever will is if: a) you devote yourself to that field of study. Solely. For the rest of your life. - and b) you're lucky enough to have been born with the potential to understand and contribute at least as well, or better, than the aforementioned experts. Which you probably weren't.

So where does this leave you? There's no point in discussing things as a layman, because laymen are idiots and their squalling babble of ill-informed discourse is probably doing more harm than good. All you'd be doing is rehashing the same crap over and over again, 'enlightening' your fellow uninformed with the bare basics of the issue. But - guess what? In the fields you've studied most and learned the most about, you're not any better, because to the folks who really understand, you're a layman too!

Ignorance - or at least the inability to abstract your understanding of the nature of knowledge - actually is bliss, I guess. How prosaic.

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