Recently, this blog was visited by someone who posted on the introductory page the following comment:
“You are a complete loser.”
Unfortunately, they did not leave a name, pseudonym or any form of contact details. The only information I could glean from the blog statistics was that their IP address was based in the USA and that they linked to the blog from the Guardian website. Without any further information, I have no way of directly contacting them to inform them of this follow-up. If the person has returned to read this, welcome back!
I cannot form any firm conclusion as to their motives for posting the comments, but there may be a few possible reasons, and I shall allow myself to indulge in a little speculation here. It seems likely to me that they had taken exception to a comment I may have made on the website, and most probably a recent one at that. So what comments had I made? Well, if they were from the USA, then it may well have been in relation to an article suggesting witty slogans to put on signs for The Rally to Restore Sanity. There are other possibilities, such as comments I made on the frequency of boys’ names, a response to a disparaging remark made by a Marie Claire blogger or the best foods to eat when you are ill. Of course, it may also not be any of these. It may be someone with a general dislike for me and my values. This may be backed up by the fact that the assertion was made against the first post on this blog, where I outlined some of my values. However, without further information from the visitor, it is impossible to tell if this was due to one of them or a combination of them.
Whichever it was, the visitor did not give any reasons or evidence to back up what they said, which indicates that, rather than being a concise summary as a result of reasoned line of thinking, that this was more probably a remark made in a unthinking moment of spite. Nevertheless, I always try to think the best of people, and I shall carry on investigating the claim.
The crux of the proposition clearly lies in the last two words: “complete loser.” Note that this is distinct from just a “loser.”
According to my dictionary (Collins paperback, 1995) a loser is defined as:
1. Noun. A person or thing that loses.
2. Noun (informal) A person or thing that seems destined to fail.
In order to meet the criteria of being a complete loser, I must of course meet the definition of a loser first.
As the anonymous commenter did not put forward any evidence in support of their assertion, I cannot be certain as to which of these definitions they were thinking of. So in order to be thorough I have to consider both possibilities.
So let’s see about the existence assertion of definition 1. If this is true, then it must be established that I have, on at least one occasion, lost something. Well, even though the commenter lacked any evidence to back this up, reason tells us that it is quite likely that I have lost something. Indeed, it is true. To cite one example, I have lost a game of chess. In fact, I’ve lost a fair few, but let’s not dwell on that now! So without much further ado, we can safely say I have met the first criterion.
Now that that has been established, let’s examine the evidence for definition 2. Do I seem destined to fail? This is not quite so easy to work out. For this, the commenter would need to have an understanding of my aims. This is unlikely to come from any comments on the Guardian website, so it seems far more likely to have come from their reading of my own introduction. My aim was stated that I would explore the aspects that constitute my worldview. I acknowledged that I may be wrong and am perfectly willing, when presented with compelling evidence and having weighed up alternative possibilities, to change those views. It seems strange that I could fail to explore my own views, given that that is what I have done in some of these early posts. It is like saying that I am looking in a mirror and failing to see an image of my own reflection.
So in light of that, and with no evidence presented to the contrary, it seems that I do not meet the second definition of being a loser. Because of that, under the second criterion, I cannot be a “complete loser.” However, there is still room for me to meet it under the first definition. So let’s have a look at that.
Now we ought to consider the meaning of the word “complete.” My dictionary has 7 different definitions, although not all of them are applicable here. The most fitting meaning here is “absolute, thorough, not lacking anything.”
So in order to be a complete loser, all aspects of my being must meet definition 1 of being “a person that loses.” In other words, I must fail in every exercise I undertake, or else I am not a complete loser.
This is quite a strong statement if true, but being so strong it would be unquestionably refuted if a single counter-example could be found. As a fairly self-critical bloke, I think I know myself fairly well and am well-positioned to be able to find such counter-examples. For starters, there is the one achievement that I value above all others: my degree. I set out from the start with the intention of obtaining a first class masters in mathematics. I achieved this by a fairly comfortable margin four and a half years ago. I never wanted anything as much as I wanted that, I set out to get it and I was successful.
There are plenty of other examples I could post, though this is unnecessary for the purpose of the discussion and risks and element of narcissism. So I shall it there, with the conclusion that I am not, as the anonymous commenter stated, “a complete loser.”