‘Common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense, dancing.’
I think William James had something there. He was a major contributor to the Pragmatism Movement a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected.
I’ve been giving this some thought lately, having nothing better to do and wanting a distraction from the everyday stuff that normally occupies my mind. And I am wondering whether Murphy – you know Murphy? The Optimist? As in Murphy was an optimist? – was also a pragmatist. I got this in my inbox last week (ta much JF) and just had to wonder:
Murphy drops some buttered toast on the kitchen floor and it lands butter-side-up. He looks down in astonishment, for he knows it’s a law of the universe that buttered toast always falls butter-down. So he rushes round to the presbytery to fetch Father Flanagan.
He tells the priest that a miracle has occurred in his kitchen. He won’t say what it is, but asks Fr. Flanagan to come and see it with his own eyes.
He leads Fr. Flanagan into the kitchen and asks him what he sees on the floor.
“Well,” says the priest, “it’s pretty obvious. Someone has dropped some buttered toast on the floor and then, for some reason, they flipped it over so that the butter was on top.”
“No, Father, I dropped it and it landed like that!” exclaimed Murphy.
“Oh my Lord,” says Fr. Flanagan, “Dropped toast never falls with the butter side up. It’s a mir…. Wait… it’s not for me to say it’s a miracle. I’ll have to report this matter to the Bishop and he’ll have to deal with it. He’ll send some people round; to interview you, take photos, etc.”
A thorough investigation is conducted, not only by the archdiocese but by scientists sent over from the Curia in Rome. No expense is spared. There is great excitement in the town as everyone knows that a miracle will bring in much-needed tourism revenue.
Then, after 8 long weeks and with great fanfare, the Bishop announces the final ruling.
“It is certain that some kind of an extraordinary event took place in Murphy’s kitchen, quite outside the natural laws of the universe. Yet the Holy See must be very cautious before ruling a miracle. All other explanations must be ruled out. “
“Unfortunately, in this case, it has been declared ‘No Miracle’ because they think Murphy may have buttered the toast on the wrong side!”
I am grateful this week that I still wonder why, that I still ask questions, that I still want to know. Because life without wonder, without question, without curiosity would be very boring indeed. I don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t need all the answers. I don’t want all the answers. Sometimes, it’s just enough to wonder why.