When I was young I was sure of everything; in a few years, having been mistaken a
thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before; at present, I am
hardly sure of anything but what God has revealed to me.
Another technique to find more answers is to change the wording in your questions.
Here's an example of how such a strategy can work. Several centuries ago, a curious but
deadly plague appeared in a small village in Lithuania. What was curious about this
disease was its grip on its victim; as soon as a person contracted it, he would go into a
very deep almost deathlike coma. Most individuals would die within twenty-four hours, but
occasionally a hardy soul would make it back to the full bloom of health. The problem was
that since early eighteenth century medical technology was not very advanced, the
unafflicted had quite a difficult time telling whether a victim was dead or alive. This
didn't matter too much, though, because most of the people were, in fact, dead.
Then one day it was discovered that someone had been buried alive. This alarmed the
townspeople, so they called a town meeting to decide what should be done to prevent such a
situation from happening again. After much discussion, most people agreed on the following
solution. They decided to put food and water in every casket next to the body. They would
even put an air hole up from the casket to the earth's surface. These procedures would be
expensive, but they would be more than worthwhile if they would save some people's lives.
Another group came up with a second, less expensive, right answer. They proposed
implanting a twelve inch long steak in every coffin lid directly over where the victim's
heart would be. Then whatever doubts there were about whether the person was dead or alive
would be eliminated as soon as the coffin lid was closed.
What differentiated the two solutions were the questions used to find them. Whereas the
first group asked, "What should we do in the event we bury somebody alive?", the
second group wondered, "How can we make sure everyone we bury is dead?"
Roger von Oech, Ph.D., A
Whack on the Side of the Head, Warner Books, 1983, pp. 25-26.
A man with one watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.
Little Johnny's grandfather was something of a philosopher and never missed an
opportunity to give out bits of sage advice to his grandson. "Yessirree,
Johnny," he said one day, "remember, fools are certain, but wise men
hesitate." "Are you sure, Grandpa?" asked Johnny. "Yes, my boy,"
said the old man, laying his gnarled hand on the youth's head, "I'm absolutely
Bits & Pieces, January, 1990, p. 9.