- COMPLEX ISSUES SIMPLE EXPLANATIONS
Courtesy: K.R. Ravi, Trainers Forum
A man was sitting at his dining table applying butter to a slice of bread when the slice slipped out of his hands. Nothing unusual you might say especially if you were as clumsy as I am. But on this occasion something happened that would excite interest all over the scientific world ..
The issue was this. Human experience—so well captured in Muyphy’s law—tells us that when you drop a slice of bread to the floor it is the buttered side that hits the dusty floor but on this occasion IT WAS THE NON- BUTTERED SIDE THAT HIT THE GRIMY FLOOR.
Clearly this called for an explanation. Scientists of every specialisation—aeronautics, ballistic science. Atomic physics,Bernaulli’s theorem. space science—were summoned but they all conceded defeat in explaining this aberration.The matter was referred to my THINKERS’S CLUB for a definitive opinion. I did not even have to summon a meeting of experts. The answer was obvious. I replied to the commitee of scientists that was losing sleep over the mystery that I had an explanation, a simple one at that.
THE SLICE OF BREAD HAD BEEN BUTTERED ON THE WRONG SIDE! Most issues appear complex and most crises seem intractable This has more to do with our lack of mental training rather than the nature of the problems. We need to train our minds to look for simple explanations.
Let me cite a few instances.
A friend of mine works for a big public sector bank in Mumbai. One afternoon he rang me up frantically to tell me that he feared he would be transferred to a God forsaken town. I asked him why he felt that way. ’Simple. This morning I went to m Chairman with a file for a discussion. The Chairman did not even ask me what the file was about. His face went into a contortion and he looked like he would eject me out of his window down 18 floors. I knew my fate was sealed .I excused myself hastily. I am now asking you to pray for me. I am finished’ he sobbed.
I told him that so- called crisis situations often had a simple explanation.
‘I have some knowledge of medicine.. I suspect your boss has an ailment. I can guess what that ailment is but I suggest you talk discreetly to the bank’s doctor ‘ I advised my friend.
An hour later my fiend called me sounding very effusive .’You were right, He was ill’ he exulted ‘Was he suffering from constipation? I enquired.
‘You are damned right’said my friend who is still in Mumbai three years after that incident.
Guru Dutt is one of India ’s most gifted film directors with exceptional skills in filming song sequences. In one such sequence he received rave reviews for the uneven lighting over the audience in a group song sequence .The first and last sections were well lit but the middle section was dark, This was widely commented upon and V.K. Moorthy has been hailed as a legendary cinematographer for not just this scene.
Years later Moorthy was asked how he had conceived this memorable scene. True to my exhortation to seek simple explanations the famed cinematographer explained that he found the middle section girls rather ordinary to look at and therefore asked that the lights directed at them be dimmed!
When I was in my fifth standard my drawing teacher was going into raptures over the MONA LISA painting.. I recall he used the word ‘ enigmatic’ about a hundred times over half an hour Being an irrepressible kid I raised my hand and told the class that maybe Mona Lisa had—you guessed it right—a stomach upset.
The kids laughed heartily but the drawing teacher was not amused He asked me to stand up on my chair till the end of the class.
But I believe I have the last laugh. Scientists now say—almost a half century after I was punished by my teacher—that Mona Lisa’s ‘enigmatic’ smile has a simple explanation—she had high cholesterol!
One fine winter morning Sherlock Holmes exclaims to his friend’
I see Watson you are wearing your winter underwear’
‘I know you are a genius But this takes the cake. How did you know what underwear I was wearing You’ve got to explain this?’
’Elementary my dear Watson .You have not yet worn your trousers!”
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