What’s Really Hard

Grantland has the story of the life and times of [Anthony Gotta][], who is, according to the author, the greatest juggler alive. But he’s not juggling anymore. Why? Because, in juggling, a lot of the hard tricks don’t look particularly hard, and a lot of the tricks that look hard are, in reality, easy. And so, unlike in some arenas, like some sports, the difference between a successful performer and an unsuccessful one isn’t necessarily ability to do the work, but the ability to convince an audience, usually an unknowing audience, that you are doing work. (I feel for Gotta here. I work at a place where making it look like you’re working is rewarded over doing real work. Heck, my university is practically dedicated to building the facade of looking like it’s a working university.)

The story is worth the read, but this observation by one of the sources the author draws upon really stood out:

> “It’s hard to imagine how much precision is required for something like seven clubs,” says Lewbel, the economics professor and juggling author. “Literally the difference in angle of your hand of a fraction of a degree is enough to completely destroy it. If you sat down with a computer and plotted out how accurate the trajectories have to be, you wouldn’t believe anybody could ever do it.”

That seems like a pretty good description of a lot of topics on which humanists work.

[Anthony Gotta]: http://grantland.com/features/anthony-gatto-juggling-cirque-du-soleil-jason-fagone/

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