According to Sam and Jim Commenting on things that irk us off, make us laugh out loud or just seem too weird too believe According to Sam and Jim: What's the Right Answer? What If There Is None?

Monday, May 6, 2013

What's the Right Answer? What If There Is None?

Sam and I liked the Family Circus cartoon in this Saturday’s newspaper. When little Billy’s mother asked him if he knew the answer to a question in his homework, he replied, “Does it have to be right?”

Sam and I can totally relate to Billy’s response. So many times someone will ask a question and if you don’t answer correctly, the person will say, “No, that’s not right.” To which I usually like to reply, “You didn’t specify that you wanted a right answer.”

I’ve often marveled how long a group of people can sit on their tongues in a classroom or office setting afraid to speak up when a lecturer or discussion leader asks a question. Everybody clams up hoping some other hapless fool will provide the correct response and let the rest of them off the hook. After all, somebody must know the correct answer; why doesn’t he or she say so?

About the time the pregnant silence threatens to render us all comatose, I like to speak up with a wrong response. This provides the person who posed the question with a teaching moment - kind of like a Kodak moment - a chance to tell me the right answer, and everyone else can breathe a sigh of relief. After such a session people will often say to me, “Atta boy Perk!” I like attaboys.

One of the questions I hate most though is the one you have to ask your wife. “What’s wrong honey?” And she says, (come on guys, you know this one) “If you don’t know I’m certainly not going to tell you.” I defy you to come up with a right response to that question. Can’t be done.

I often have to play 20 Questions with Sam when he barks at me. “You want a treat? You want to go outside and pee? What do you want? It usually takes me a few minutes to figure out what he wants - sometimes it’s just a drink of water because I forgot to fill his water dish. Then I feel really dumb and like a terrible dog owner. The guilt is killer.

I like to have the right answer, but so often I just don’t know the right answer. Why does God let bad things happen to good people? I don’t know. What is the area of an isosceles triangle? Who cares? Why do we Americans think we have to save the world? I don’t know. Why do politicians lie? I don’t know. Why do gay people want to marry each other? I don’t know.

I liked attending The Evergreen State College a few years ago to finish up by bachelor’s degree. They engaged in a lot of what they called “seminars” where students sat around a table and discussed their impressions of the assigned homework. There were no right or wrong answers. You were only evaluated on how you expressed yourself and you received a pass or fail accordingly. I liked that system because I’m quite good at expressing my feelings about a subject. One time an instructor said to me, “Isn’t it wonderful to be able to discuss issues with others and hear all the different opinions?” To which I said. “No. “I’ve been forming my opinions for a lot of years and I’m not likely to change them now by listening to kids half my age.”

That must have been the wrong answer because my instructor whacked me on the arm in exasperation. But heck, she didn’t tell me she wanted a correct answer.

Two bags of poop on having to come up with right answers. Wrong ones are way easier.

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