Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Occam's Razor

With all other things being equal, the simplest solution is to be preferred.

Or something like that . . . I'm not sure exactly how the Razor is phrased. But it's along those lines. A simple solution is preferable to a complex solution that is otherwise equally valid.

It's a nice, straightforward, useful little philosophy. The problem is when I start applying it without moderation in my life, which I do kind of a lot. I have this nasty habit of picking the simplest solution and just going with it, whether or not it's actually a good idea.

One particular year, on my annual pilgrimage up to Minnesota, my straightforward journey involved three flights (all standby), a Greyhound bus, and a ride from a friend. It was a pretty complicated plan, and left out important details, like Where am I going to sleep during this three-day epic? Since the plan was already pretty complicated, I chose the simplest solution to this problem: I'd just sleep wherever I happened to be. This is how I ended up spending one night on the floor of the Chicago O'Hare bus depot and another on a row of benches over the Minneapolis Lindbergh ticket counters.

It was actually kind of neat. The security guards in Chicago promised to keep an eye on me overnight, so I slept on my little makeshift bed (blanket, bed sheet, backpack, folded quilt, and mystery novel) in relative tranquility. No one noticed or bothered me in Minneapolis. I slept quite well, and it was free, and I didn't have to figure out how to get back to the airport to catch my next bus/flight/whatever in the morning. Simple. No problem.

Looking back, I realize that this is not something a rational middle-class American woman is supposed to do. But I did it anyway. And it was fine. These things tend to turn out fine for me; I'm not sure why.

This year, I had three options presented to me: I could continue to work my full-time job, I could teach at BYU, and I could take the world's most awesome graduate course. A rational human being would declare that no one could do all three at once. But making choices is complicated. It needs pros and cons and tradeoffs. So . . . Occam's Razor! . . . I just decided to do them all.

It's like the old adage about college. "Welcome to college. Here, you can study, you can sleep, and you can party. Pick two." Except I've picked 'study' twice. And you know what? It's AWESOME.

I love having a full-time job. I love having money. I love being able to go to a doctor, dentist, or chiropractor without a second thought about what it's going to cost because health insurance has my back. (Literally, in the case of the chiropractor.) I love being able to hop on any bus in the state with my employer-subsidized bus-and-train pass. I love being able to park downtown. I love spending less than I earn.

I LOVE teaching. It's so gosh darn much fun. I get to make things interesting, and share them with kids who are invested in learning and understanding. I get to write on the white board and declare when it's treat day. I get to learn how to do the job I want to do for the rest of my life.

And OH MY GOSH I LOVE my world's most awesome graduate course. I was supposed to read half of St. Thomas More's Utopia this weekend, and I just read the whole darn thing. I've suddenly got academic conferences and research grants and the nature of beauty buzzing around in my head. The world is full of shiny, sparkly, magical possibilities, and I get to write papers about them.

Sleeping, I will admit, is problematic. But it's astonishing how much you can stay awake for when you're So Gosh Darn Excited about everything all the time. My long-honed skills as a desk-sleeper, floor-sleeper, and bus-sleeper are being put to good use. (As is my health insurance, and the chiropractor. "How did you manage to tie your spine in a double half-hitch?" "Y'know, I really couldn't say . . .") So far, I've managed to be awake for everything I needed to be awake for, kept up on homework, and been prepared for class. I feel like a million bucks.

I've read that a possible side effect of extended sleeplessness is death, but you know what? We'll burn that bridge when we come to it. And anyway, what a way to go.

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