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The burnt pig and the cat's behind The burnt pig and the cat's behind
by Jan Sand
2006-11-03 09:42:19
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Charles Lamb, in his Dissertation on Roast Pig, tells of the discovery of cooking when somebody's house burns down with his pig inside. After the flames have subsided, the bereaved owner discovers the poor pig inside, dead and thoroughly grilled. He pokes his finger at the deceased animal and feeling the pain from the hot flesh reflexively returns the finger to his mouth to cool it, thus discovering the taste of cooked meat.

Others in the village go through the same procedure and also make the same discovery. In no time, most of the houses in the village burn down much to the misfortune of the village pigs and the delight of the villagers and, in all probability, the prosperity of the local housing contractors.

There is the possibly true story of a behavioral psychologist who locked a cat in a cage with a latch simple enough for a cat to manipulate. When the cat attempted to free itself it did all sorts of things with the door but couldn't open the latch by directly attempting various maneuvers. Finally, the cat turned away to attempt some other way to exit and in turning brushed its behind against the latch and opened the door. After that accidental success, every time the cat was placed in the cage it turned in precisely the same way and opened the door first time, thereby successfully manipulating the latch with its behind.

The common element in both these stories is that a significant event is usually difficult to attribute to any individual participant in that event, so it is useful to blindly repeat the entire sequence to obtain the desired result. And unfortunately, extraneous elements are caught in the web that have nothing to do with the final result.

Although scientific and logical analysis is a system of sifting out extraneous elements in any process, history is witness to the lack of this sensible parsing of cause and effect in most cultures. And, of course, neurotics and psychotics are notorious in inappropriate attributions for causes and effects. If this were an occasional aberration in human society it could be written off as merely unfortunate and rare, but it is a powerful force in most societies interacting with everyday activities and handily utilized by people in power for nefarious gain.

If it were not enough that complex events themselves are difficult to analyze and confront it has become standard practice in modern and all previous societies to prune particulars to slant implications of events to buttress one point of view or another. But this is something of an aside from the original thrust of the initial analysis if this piece.

Much superstition arises out of odd attribution. The unease of Friday 13th, stepping on a crack in the sidewalk, the power of a severed rabbit's foot (which obviously donated no luck to the rabbit), all the "magical" religious symbols and talismans carried by many people and so forth. Then there's the whole astrological complex which posits that the positions of stars and other cosmic bodies, many of which haven't been there for millions of years, provide some logical basis for your constipation problems. And millions of people believe it implicitly.

People, of course, do all sorts of crazy things. They are horrified of exposing one or more of their body orifices even though, since we each are equipped with them there can be no surprise in what they look like. Western society seems a bit more open about this although the national furor in the USA over exposing Janet Jackson's nipple was of the magnitude of the revelation of the structure of a hydrogen bomb and much more intense than the emotion over the recent murder of five little Amish schoolgirls, which has yet to have any legal reverberation as to the availability of firearms to homicidal psychotics.

Orthodox Muslims, it seems to me, are totally strange about this insofar as women are concerned as there is no mystery at all about what a face, male or female looks like. Perhaps, if you were an elephant man, you might feel more comfortable in a burqa, but the average human face usually evokes very little special notice. I wonder if terrorists in black ski masks have the uneasy feeling of diminished masculinity.

Nevertheless, when I buy my weekly Lotto ticket I always place it securely in my inside left hand jacket pocket and never inspect the numbers until the Tuesday after the weekly draw. I've been doing this steadily for a couple of years and I haven't won yet. Perhaps I should put the ticket in my inside right hand jacket pocket.


  
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winsum2006-11-03 16:39:50
giggling. . . you are so funny


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