It's interesting to think about how completely arbitrary everything in this world is.
Numbers, for example. I can say that a train is moving at 50 meters per second or 5000 meters per second, and both statements could be true for the same train depending on whether I'm traveling in the opposite direction at 4950 meters per second or just standing still and watching it pass me by. And the only reason that it's 50 in the first place is because we've been using that value as one more than 49 and one fewer than 51 for so long that everyone recognizes the quantity that it represents. In reality, numbers are just names given to how much of something there is. 50 meters per second is just 50 of a meter (some arbitrary distance that we decided was significant) traveled for every one of a second (how long it takes to say "Mississippi"). I could even say the train is going 600 hoopdies per hippity, if I convinced enough people that hoopdies and hippities were better measures of space and time than meters and seconds.
Or languages, both written and spoken-- some guy decided that if the lines curve here, cross here, end there, and have spaces here, here, and here, then they'll stand for these sounds, which make this word, that describes this idea, yet some other guy can't make head nor tail of the runes in front of him. For a while, we were content to have a bamillion different languages all over the world, but now, as the world is shrinking (it's not actually shrinking, guys, don't worry), we're starting to realize the inconvenience of not having a standard, so everyone's learning to read, write, and speak "English." And why English? Just because so many people speak it already-- it's no secret that it's not the easiest or most sensible language out there, but that doesn't matter because it's easier to convince twenty people to learn something complex than it is to convince fifty to learn something simple. And I could even add my own words to the English language, if I'm popular enough; people call me a "nerd" all the time, but that wasn't even a thing until Dr. Seuss dreamt it up.
Think about all of the random signals you encounter on your average drive to work, school, or church. You yield at the yellow triangles. You stop at the red octagons. You flash little lights on the side of your car to let people know you're turning, even though, technically, you're turning all the time-- this turn is just a little sharper than the ones you've been making up until now. When you come up to the hanging metal contraptions, you stop if it's glowing red but keep going if it's green. All the while, you're careful not to stray from the road, which is really just a slab of ground that's harder than the grass beside it, and keeping to "your side" of the line, which is just a brighter, straighter, and more permanent version of the line my six year old brother drew on the street with chalk a few months ago at his birthday party, yet everybody knows that if you cross the ones the people with their magic line-painting trucks created, you're going to get honked at, which we all somehow understand is a bad thing.
The funny thing is, and I mentioned this to my cousin in the car today, we don't follow all of these societal cues because we want to maintain order; we follow them because we want to avoid chaos. We don't teach everyone in school about integrals and cross products because, in order to pay taxes and tip the waiter, all we need to know how to do is add, subtract, multiply, and divide. We don't focus on writing as a form of art because you don't need to know how to write in iambic pentameter to fill our your resume. We don't care whether the sidewalks have lines on them because no one dies if you accidentally walk into them. But if you can't pay your taxes, then you'll go to jail, and if you can't fill out a resume, then you'll starve, and if no one knows what side of the road they should be driving on, then everyone dies.
But imagine if we did care. Almost everyone knows that 80 miles per hour is too fast to be driving, but few know that your speed is the absolute value of your velocity, which is the derivative of your position in relation to the very frame of reference which determined how fast you were going in the first place. Almost anyone could read what I'm writing, but few people pay attention to the parallel structure that I use so often or the conversational tone that I try so hard to maintain. It's probably best if we stick to the basics with driving-- we don't need people practicing their drifting in the middle of busy intersections, but you get the idea. I'm not saying anyone has to care-- preventing chaos is just as well, but it's interesting to me that so few people do.
So next time you're flying down the road at 80 miles per hour, maybe you should stop and think about the fact that 429 hoopdies per hippity is a little fast (feel free to email me, if you have any questions about that conversion).