Monday, July 28, 2014

Problem Solving

Have you heard about a philosophy professor who used a glass as a prop in a classroom discussion about resolving problems ? I'm not sure if the professor was, Teri Lyn, our locally grown prof, but I can picture her doing this.

Let's say it was Teri Lyn and as she reached the podium her class quieted except for some class clown who is rarely quiet. He blurted out to his buddies, "Get a load of this : she's carrying a glass of water which is either half full or half empty. Not again! She's worn out the philosophy behind half full / half empty too many times."

Teri lyn, being wise to lecture shenanigans, was ready for the surprise she had in store for the class. Turning to her loud mouthed student, handing him the glass of water, she readied herself to lecture on the theme of problems. Looking at her student with the glass, she said : "I'm not speaking about half full / half empty today, but rather, I want to establish the weight of the water in the glass. That is the problem. Have you the answer ?"

The joaker holding the glass told her it is six or eight ounces but she smiled stating, oh! that's just a guess. Keep your arm holding the glass up and out stretched as best you can, she chided him. After another ten minutes or so lecturing, she turned again to the fellow holding the glass and ask him if the water has gotten any heavier. Straining more and more to hold the glass straight out, he said, something is happening, it sure feels heavier.

Up to her gameplan, Teri Lyn, used his reply as the rest of her lecture's focus. Just like any problem : the longer it goes on, the heavier it becomes. There is little to gain and too much to lose by not resolving a problem quickly. The loud mouthed guy could have asked for a scale to weigh the glass with and without the water to ascertain the water's weight, but he didn't. The problem went on by doing nothing and got weightier and weightier as time passed. 

Most of us realize problems occur and generally we solve them quickly ; but some others never resolve their  problems. They just linger and linger and fester and fester until they become a weight around the neck of the  person with the problem. The weight becomes ever heavier and heavier.

Look at the Middle East : Whose God is Holier ? Mine or yours ? For thousands of years this problem has captured the fertile minds of youth who get early indoctrinated by their elders. Urged to fight and kill, if necessary, those who don't think as they do. In a World soon to be of eight billion inhabitants should any life be simply squandered ? The next Einstein or Salk or Shakespeare could be found in the casualties of death. What a waste ! Just solve the damn problems, now !

Ronald C. Downie

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