Life is a series of strange coincidences, close calls, and mysteries. Last weekend, I traveled to Bend to participate in an organizing session for my 40th class reunion. High school was not a particular high or low point in my life; and I had no interest in attending a reunion, much less organizing one, after going to a less than memorable 10th version in 1981. Some contact with old high school friends through Facebook and a sudden, irrational urge to reconnect inspired me to join the small organizing committee.
I arrived in Bend and found I had some time to spare before my meeting at a local coffee shop. I found a bookstore nearby and, in the course of browsing, came across a New York Times “Bestseller” with the intriguing title Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar…. The book offers the hypothesis that philosophical principles can be explained and understood through jokes. The authors, Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, make the following argument:
“The construction and payoff of jokes and the construction and payoff of philosophical concepts are made out of the same stuff. They tease the mind in similar ways. That’s because philosophy and jokes proceed from the same impulse: to confound our sense of the way things are, to flip our worlds upside down, and to ferret out hidden, often uncomfortable truths about life.”
Cathcart and Klein offer the following story in their chapter on logic as an example of illogical reasoning:
“An Irishman walks into a Dublin bar, orders three pints of Guinness, and drinks them down, taking a sip from one, then a sip from the next, until they’re gone. He then orders three more. The bartender says, ‘You know, they’d be less likely to go flat if you bought them one at a time.’ The man says, ‘Yeah, I know, but I have two brothers, one in the States, one in Australia. When we all went our separate ways, we promised each other that we’d drink this way in memory of the days when we drank together. Each of these is for one of my brothers and the third is for me.’ The bartender is touched and says, ‘What a great custom.’ The Irishman becomes a regular in the bar and always orders the same way. One day he comes in and orders two pints. The other regulars notice, and a silence falls over the bar. When he comes to the bar for his second round, the bartender says, ‘Please accept my condolences, pal.’ The Irishman says, ‘Oh, no, everyone’s fine. I just joined the Mormon Church and I had to quit drinking.’”
Illogical reasoning must be the explanation for my three-hour trip to Bend to attend an organizing meeting for a class reunion. On the other hand, I did wander into a bookstore and found an enlightening and entertaining book. I now know more about philosophy than I did after some brief college coursework taken a lifetime ago; and I have some interesting, generally politically correct jokes, to enliven my usually dull, work-related conversations.
You never know where a sudden impulse to challenge yourself and interact with others might lead. It just seems to beat sitting in front of a screen waiting for something entertaining to happen.