She’s been my lifelong companion. Never left my side for a nanosecond. I’m using the feminine just by default. Like the supreme being, error and gender are as unrelated as ham and gefilte fish. She doesn’t just afflict humans or other animate objects – she suffuses the universe and her basic nature is more mysterious than quantum entanglement.

Everything one does evokes her interest. Even the complete cessation of activity, to the point of immobility in a vacuum, will not divert her attention. As she is everywhere and connected to everything an error elsewhere or a battalion of them from all directions will find you.

Error is more creative than Michelangelo. She can decorate items, activities, and surfaces that have been guarded against her insinuation like virtue at the gates of commerce. To fully explain her slithery ubiquity would take more time than the interval from the Big Bang to the heat death of the universe.

Some examples will merely nudge the super-beast that is my subject. Though as terrified and bitten as any by this voracious titan I will hide or excuse my own numerous losses to the master of the universe.

A logical starting place is the university. As the modern university resembles Animal Farm more than an institution devoted to the acquisition and transmission of knowledge, they should all tear down the slogans that purport to accentuate their mission, such as Truth or Light and Truth, and replace them with All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others which has for some time described their real first principle. A Catalogue of Error is the only book in the university library read by all the faculty, staff, and students at our centers of lesser learning devoted to the inculcation of formulaic recitation in place of analysis.

That our universities have failed at their reason for being was obvious to those not totally enveloped by error’s embrace and has been so for decades. The nature of a university exposes it to error at a level higher than almost any other human endeavor. When your task is to doubt, question, test, and examine all the key issues that perplex you and your fellows you are sure to get a lot wrong even with pure intentions and honest effort. But if you’ve glued yourself to error’s already sticky figure, if reason is purposely abandoned, and your allegiance is to force and control – error will be your guide and lodestone. She’ll never let you go until even those not paying attention to anything connected with the university save the athletics department will smell error’s subtle fragrance and suspect, or even recognize, the perfumed ship of learning is headed to a fatal harbor. Universities by their intrinsic nature are compendiums of error. The easy life of tenure does not hone the intellect to sharp thinking. It lulls all but the most determined minds to easy error. A collection of scholars can be the breeding site of prejudice and perjury. If you seek confirmation – look around.

Government is another human activity that sees error either as an ally assuming it is capable of acknowledging its existence. Either way, it is unfazed by error. Governments from the worst autocracy to the most liberal representative version share several features. They confiscate their citizens’ money under penalty of violence or imprisonment, they spend more than they have, they’re corrupt, and they usually don’t know what they’re doing and are ignorant of the consequences of their actions especially when acting under the guidance of experts. They are adrift, more likely submerged, in an ocean of error. Their citizens are no freer of error than those whom they pick to govern them. They want more benefices than can ever be paid for by someone else. A government agency is an almost infallible guide to the right course of action. Whatever it wants to do is 1800 from the proposed course is the true direction. Churchill’s quip that democracy was the worst form of government known to man except for all the others is hardly a ringing endorsement.

Next, consider the military. Their specialty is wasting money, preparing for the last war, and in many countries overthrowing the government. When forced to fight the winning side prevails usually not because of better planning or generalship, but typically because luck or exhaustion intervenes to declare a winner. One side makes more errors than the other. The rule that you can’t lose ’em all has particular pertinence to the military.

When error is a choice, as in the university, a large part of it should be avoidable but isn’t because of sloth and ignorance. It’s the error of daily existence that’s the real knife to the chest. It’s no more separable from life than is breathing. Whole industries are built on the assumption of error. People buy insurance, to a large extent, because they realize that they will make mistakes that can be ameliorated by the purchase of an insurance policy. But only a few types of error can be assuaged by money.

A research laboratory runs a race with error, poignat as the goal is the collection of new information that accurately describes a facet of nature. A fragment of truth, which is all you can hope for when running or working in a lab, is buried in an ever expanding pile of misinformation. Lab books get lost. Numbers are incorrectly recorded or not recorded at all. There’s more than one uncontrolled variable hiding in a corner of the lab or a locked drawer. A worker’s hand slips without notice, a reagent is mislabelled, someone looks in the wrong direction at a critical moment. The list is interminable.

Computers. Do I have to say more? They and error are siblings.

At home a drain overflows when the house is empty for an unusually prolonged period. Keys go walkabout, the dog swallows a bottle of prescription medicine that you have forgotten to tightly close. You put your underpants on backward with an uncomfortable result.

Right before your eyes is copy that doubtless has at least several errors in spelling, grammar, or usage that have persisted despite repeated readings in search of their presence and the use of software that purports to spot all three.

No matter how low my fortune sinks, or how badly my condition deteriorates, the collapse of my reputation, or any of life’s travails she will never leave my side. She sleeps around a lot so constancy and faithfulness are not combined and of course, she’s nonbinary. No matter, she is always there and will probably intervene in my funeral. She’s the only thing I can count on everywhere and forever.