Venn diagrams are not only useful, they are also fun. You can come up with any sort of combination of circles and see if they have common ground. It’s a great game for cocktail parties or those awkward movie premieres where you forget the lead actress’s name and are stuck in conversation with her and end up nodding along and saying ‘uh-huh’ in quasi-agreement, even though you don’t agree with her at all—at all—but she knows where the bathroom is and you need to ask her because no one else in the room speaks English and it’s inappropriate to pantomime bathroom to people unless you know them really well. In this case, for example, a Venn diagram could come in handy.
Venn, John Venn, didn’t actually invent the diagram. Leonhard Euler did. No, wait, it wasn’t Euler, he stole it in the 18th century from Leibnz who may or may not have seen the versions made by Ramon Lul (of 13th century fame). To go back further tests the limits of written history— perhaps there are even cave drawings which portray the concept—but one can argue that anywhere there is wine there are sloppy wine glasses, and not everyone puts their glass precisely in the same place, creating impromptu Venn diagrams every which where, and one cannot but begin the separating and pairing of characteristics which eventually lead to the greater belief that life, from the solar systems down to our atomic make up, is a series of interconnecting circles. One can argue. One. Cannot. But.
So when this actress tells you about her case of irritable bowel syndrome for the third time in half an hour—while your own bladder is about to burst—you dribble a little wine over the lip of your glass and make two interlocking circles on your napkin and, thinking you can stone multiple birds, interrupt her with a Hey, let’s play a game: this circle is the movies you have starred in and this other circle is bathrooms where I want to go. Okay? [Pause] Okaaaay, she says. And? And, you say—what would you put in the center? She slaps you—both cheeks in quick succession—and stomps north in a classic state of starlet distress. Your instincts tell you she walked away from the bathroom, so you head opposite, whispering Thank you to Venn, Euler, Leibnz and Lul (of 13th century fame), while anticipating that middle sliver of sweet, sweet relief.
About the author:
William Blomstedt is a migratory beekeeper and geographer. He currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.