Destiny and Lateral Thinking

Posted by on Jul 19, 2012 in Philosophy | No Comments

There is a joke that goes like this:
Once there was a successful, middle-age business man who had been suffering from migraine headaches for many years. He went to see many doctors, who carried out a variety of health checks. Eventually one doctor gave him a diagnosis, “Your headaches are caused by a problem with the nerves of your testicles. If you want a cure, they must be cut off!” The man reflected about that for a long time. He thought about his business and wealth, and whether surgery would give him a better life. Finally, he reluctantly decided to undergo the surgery.

He left the hospital feeling an unprecedented amount of ease, his head clear of pain. He felt very glad to be going home. He saw a men’s clothing store, and thinking about beginning a new phase in life, he decided to walk in.

The counter lady said, “Mister, if you want to buy a hat, you should wear medium size!” She brought him a beautiful hat to try on.
The man took a long look in the mirror, felt very satisfied, and praised the clerk. “Your guess was very accurate! I usually buy medium size!”

The lady modestly replied, “This is my profession.”
Then she recommended, “You should try a shirt with a size 15 collar.”

The man exclaimed, “You are really knowledgeable! I always buy a size 15 shirt!”

Seeing how pliable he was, the clerk added, “So, if you are thinking of adding a pair of trousers, you should try size 42.”

The business man once again praised her practiced eye. “Miss you are too good! With a single glance you can even tell the size of my pants!”

The miss once again stated, “This is my profession. But perhaps you would like to complete the outfit with a new pair of underwear! It seems that you should wear a size large.”

The man laughed, “Ha ha Miss! You are finally wrong. Ever since high school I have always worn size small!”

Feeling valiant, the young clerk said, “I disagree. If you wear underwear that are too small you will squash your testicles. Long-term compression will certainly cause migraine headaches. So I really recommend you try the size Large.”

This story reminds me of a Chinese idiom I know, “The gods send nuts to those who have no teeth“.
Sometimes a situation seems to be out of control because you are only seeing it from one point of view. You are thinking vertically. When you can look at your position from another direction, or thinking laterally, then the correct action plan may become obvious. Your focus is shifted, your problem is redefined and so is your solution.

However, “Destiny makes a fool out of men” is also relevant to this situation. Lateral thinking may have solved the business man’s problem, but destiny ruled that he would only find another solution to his problem after already having made an irreversible decision.

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