The Irony of Solving Puzzles About Which Hardly Anyone Cares

“Eureka!  I’ve got it!”

“Ah, so that’s the answer!”

“Holy Cow!  We’ve been wrong all along!”

“OK, I think I’ve finally got it figured out.”

These kinds of moments are fairly common in my house.  Between Kay’s studies and my own, it seems we are regularly discovering or making sense of things that had previously been mysteries to us—quite like putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle in their proper places.  We work on the “puzzles” of education, politics, history, religion, and so forth, and we quite enjoy realizing the various discrepancies that arise when what we think we know doesn’t seem to add up with the facts in evidence.  Indeed, it has become such a common occurrence over this past decade or so that it prompted me to write Pelham’s Law of Cognitive Error.

There’s a certain not-so-funny irony, however, in the fact that hardly anyone else seems to care about what we might figure out.  For example, we figured out a way to restore the US to the rule of law, but hardly anyone was interested.  We figured out several commonly-misunderstood things about the Bible, and yet few ever read the results.  We figured out a plan to get a million Americans to invest a mere 45 minutes in reading their own Constitution, but hardly anyone showed any interest in promoting the simple initiative.  We figured out why there are now thousands of church brands where Jesus initiated but one ekklesia, and why none of them do a good job of emulating the original, but again, hardly anyone seems to be looking for such an answer.

And the ideas and answers just keep on coming!  But alas, we seem to be working mostly for our own edification.  Too bad we do not have a Franklin Stove or a new mouse trap to offer the world—something more practical and more obviously-useful to people.  No, we are heavily invested in matters common to billions, and yet deeply cared about by very, very few—no matter how important they truly are in the regular business of living life.

Interestingly, one of the most popular posts on this blog is “Why Exaggeration is Lying“.  This post gets hits from all over the world from people whose chosen search terms seem to suggest that they are searching for an answer to whether exaggeration is the same as lying or not.  Not once, however, has anyone written me to discuss the post.  Neither to argue, nor to query, nor even to voice friendly agreement.  It is as if philosophical questions are no longer for human interaction, but only for segregated reading from the protection of the anonymous Internet.

So here we sit, Kay and I, continuing to learn something new and interesting practically every day.  And on the days when we’re not “learning”, per se, we are still getting a handle on things we’ve already learned, realizing more and more how they all fit together.

I would have expected that such an exciting way of life would have yielded more friends for us, but to date, we have very few who have even a passing interest in a fraction of the work we are doing.  But alas, we did not start down this path in order to make more friends.  Rather, we started it because the truth of a matter seems more valuable to us than error or falsehood.

We often muse that had we, ten years ago, stumbled upon someone who had dealt with so many of the questions we had at that time as we have now dealt with, we’d have been thrilled to discover them and to read the results of their work.  And indeed, perhaps this is happening even now, yet so few venture to write to us, one way or the other.

And so we sit, puzzling over why the solving of puzzles is so uninteresting to so many.  I imagine that if I study enough psychology, I’ll either discover that someone has named this phenomenon, or that I’ll name it myself.  Curiosity is a common human trait throughout all societies, I am informed.  In our society, however, it is severely squelched in so many people.

We have forgotten how to “play” with discovery.  We have forgotten how to care.

But not all of us!


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