I had a very upsetting moment on a recent flight from Costa Rica to the states. We were flying over the Caribbean when I looked up at the tv monitor above my seat and noticed that a rerun of the sitcom "Friends" was showing. At that moment, David Schwimmer, one of the main actors in that series, was on the screen. I had no earpiece so I had no idea what he was saying or what the scene was about. At that exact instant, the plane hit some turbulence, the fuselage shook from side to side, and I had one of those fleeting thoughts in the air when you wonder if this is the time. You know, "the" time when the plane goes into the ocean and you have to remember where the flotation device is actually located, even though you have been told its location by airline crews about 500 times. But worse, what if the image of that goofy, forlorn face of David Schwimmer's was the last thing I was ever going to see?
This scenario occupied me for the next few days. Maybe we should be more careful about what we observe, just in case it is the last image your brain ever registers. I have labeled this the "Schwimmer effect"----the fear that the last image you see in life is something unsettling, ugly, unpleasant, or goofy. Image if you had a fatal heart attack immediately after watching Anderson Cooper crying over a dead cat on CNN, or you were hit by a Mack truck shuffling across the street while looking at a pic of your ex-girlfriend still lingering there on your cell phone, or you drowned at the beach after startling Pee Wee Herman while he was urinating behind a sand dune wearing a Speedo suit and flip-flops. These examples just prove there is a hell on earth. You don't have to die to go there.
On the other hand, what if the last image David Schwimmer ever saw was that of DrTom? You know, he heard about this blog, he came to this site, he was disturbed about what I had to say, he had a heart attack as he scrolled to the top of the page where there is a picture of me sitting on a horse, and he died. Would the "DrTom Effect" be any less damaging to him than the "Schwimmer Effect" would be to DrTom? These are questions worth pondering in Philosophy 101 this fall at institutions of higher learning around the world. In fact, it would be informative to see a list of images created by respondents that they consider defining their "Schwimmer Effect". Feel free to offer some suggestions in the Comments Section below.
So what should we do to avoid the "Schwimmer effect"? Watch only National Geographic specials on tv---rivers, mountains, and polar bears. A brief look at the Miss America contest is probably ok, as long as Rosie O'Donnell is not the host. If you go to the movies, a flick like "Happy Feet" is good--mostly animated penguins. Only use real trees at Christmas, not aluminum. And if you must read blogs, read Huffington Post or DrTom. And think only pure thoughts.