Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Taking the stairs

There's a phrase that I tend to use that I can't seem to find any reference to anyone else using. I wonder if there's a commonly-used phrase or even just a single word for the phenomenon: "running from elevators".

I use the phrase symbolically when I catch myself or other people behaving in an illogical manner due to the fact that they are impatient. The idea is to imagine a person on the fifth floor of a building who wants to make a hasty exit. He goes to the elevator and presses the button. When the elevator doesn't show up within five seconds, he turns and runs off, looking for the stairwell, thinking, "I don't have time to stand around all day waiting for the elevator!" The fact is, unless the elevator is exceptionally slow, if you're higher than the second or possibly third floor, choosing not to wait for the elevator is very likely going to take longer. So "running from elevators" is engaging in behavior that feels faster and better, but is probably in reality going to take longer and is generally a stupid idea.

(Actually, on December 11th, 1990, I actually decided to take the stairs rather than the elevator, and in rushing down the stairs at a much more rapid pace than is at all advisable, I tripped and sprained my ankle, never making it to my destination at all that day.)

So, I'm sure I had a point here... A couple months ago, I was reading a philosophy book on the problem of evil, i.e., "How could a loving, omnipotent God allow suffering and evil in the world?" It's a good question, and one that most consider to be well-worth pondering. However, one of the philosophers in the collection of essays apparently wanted to make the point that pondering this question is a waste of time for Christians, because while the question does indeed exist, God had intended us to be vessels for change, spending our time combating evil directly through works of charity rather than spending our time trying to solve philosophical conundrums. While I don't completely agree, there's a good point there, too. It led me to think about philosophy and theology in the life of a Christian. I expend an awful large portion of my mental energies pondering philosophical issues, when I suppose I could be using them to solve practical problems of the world.

Yet these philosophical issues are important. People really do want to know why God would allow suffering! I know I do. People really do want to understand how the Trinity works. People really do want to know why the Bible should be given more respect than the Quran or the Bhagavad Gita (or not)! Can a person really ignore those issues? Can one sort out with a clear demarcation which issues are practical issues and which are academic?

One thing that occurred to me in particular is that as a Christian, I believe that all of these questions will be answered in time, if only we wait for God to answer them for us. If not in this life, at least we will know them in Heaven. Is all of this mucking about with trying to figure through intellectual issues really a waste of time when the simplest and fastest way to get anything done as a Christian is just to "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5)?

Right or wrong, wise or foolish, I just don't think I can help but take the stairs.


Newbirth said...

Hey Brucker! Nice blog you have here. :) Good questions on God and elevators.

Liadan said...

With elevators, it does depend. My dorm building only puts "out of service" signs on the bottom floor, so if I'm on the top floor waiting for the elevator to go downstairs to get to class, and if it doesn't show up within ten seconds, usually that means it's broken.