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Remember…

Most things that require more than 2 minutes or ten sentences to explain are bullshit.

This is a rule you can live by and do well. It’s not definitely bullshit, but it’s VERY likely. Almost certainly. Ask a car salesman what undercoating is and why it’s important and why it costs 900 dollars. See how long the explanation takes. Then ask a physicist what String Theory is. Just a basic understanding, please. You’ll get less than 10 sentences and two minutes. Trust me, undercoating is not more complex than String Theory.

Regardless of what you believe, you can live by this one as a rule with exceptions few and far between.

Try it yourself right now. Stop reading this, and explain, out loud, or in writing, how Santa works. Explain it as if you’re attempting to convince someone. How long did it take? Try describing a pyramid scheme in a convincing way. As if you’re trying to convince someone to get in on it with you. Try to be concise, but don’t stop until you think you’ve made at least a half compelling argument.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about something for longer than that, or if someone talks longer than that, they’re full of it. It doesn’t mean every college class is B.S. (I should probably mention that because I’m over ten now.) I’m now describing and proving this. Lot’s of things take a very long time to describe and expand upon. That’s not explanation. I did consider just making this post the initial one-sentence rule and nothing more. It can easily be done and you get what I’m saying.

Ask a physicist to teach you to understand String Theory and what we know about it in detail, and you’d be there for awhile. It’s complex. But a simple, concise explanation is possible. It’s not possible with Santa… not in a way that’s at all convincing. Explain String Theory in less than ten sentences and in response you’ll get “Whoa!” Explain Santa in less than ten and the response will be more like “Huh?”

In closing, I’m going to prove this one last time. I’m going to respond to the most complex question I can think of, with an answer that’s not bullshit, that anyone should be content with, and it only takes one sentence. When I finish that sentence, I will be content with my answer, feel confident that it’s right, and feel confident in the knowledge that anyone going through life, could use this answer as a means for having peace about this incredibly complex and relevant question. Are you ready?

John, (I ask myself.) How were we created, was it intentional, and why are we here? In fact, why is anything here?

(See? I’m not pulling any punches!)

(Here comes my answer!)

(Are you feeling the suspense?)

John, (I respond to myself…)

I don’t know. 

That just took one sentence. I’ve got nine left. What the hell? I’ll use two more, just to REALLY address the question in depth.

Just do your best. That’s all anyone can ask of you.

Done.

Now remember,

Most things that require more than 2 minutes or ten sentences to explain are bullshit.

Have a great day…

JWAH.

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About John Hammon

I'm 28, I like pop-culture, sports, and history.

9 responses »

  1. i actually like that occam’s razor idea, of explaining things in the most simplistic terms, if it takes longer than that, it’s probably crap

    Reply
    • Yeah, I should note that this is definitely just a practical application of Occam’s Razor. I’m amazed sometimes at how little attention that concept gets when people are looking at bigger picture concepts. So I like this as a useful application. I often joke that when you hear a preacher say “Now hang with me here, this gets complicated…” or “This is a really difficult concept…” You’re about to hear some serious bullshit. It’s like they’re apologizing for it before even saying it, or challenging you to be gullible enough to buy it.

      Now when I start getting an explanation like this, I just start counting the sentences.

      -JWAH.

      Reply
  2. Wow, these are getting bad.

    Explain baseball to someone who’s never heard of it…

    Or storms…

    Or your blog…

    Or how my dad can set up a home wireless network (or work a computer)…

    Or string theory so that someone even has the faintest idea what 11 dimensions even slightly means (it’s contingent upon that so you can’t leave it out)…

    Music…

    A good movie plot…

    Reversal: nothing worth talking about can be fully grasped in under two minutes or 10 sentences – it’s either pretty unimportant, incredibly simple or unknowable.

    This is the tenth break so I’ll stop here as I wouldn’t want to seem like I’m just making up a load (but I’ll add that I’ve ACTUALLY gotten a 2 sentence explanation of undercoating and an hour-long one for string theory)…

    Reply
    • It feels a bit like you didn’t read this with an open mind. The point you repeatedly make is explained in the article, as I make a distinction between a full, detailed explanation and a concise explanation that sums up the concept and allows the listener to say “Ok. I could see that.” With that in mind, here you go:

      Baseball’s a game where you hit a ball with a wooden stick and run around a set path to score. Teams take turns hitting and playing defense, in which you try to retrieve the hit ball and tag the runner. There are a lot (a LOT) more rules, but that’s the gist of it.

      When water evaporates it becomes a gas version of itself. When that oversaturates in a cluster called a cloud it falls to earth in tiny droplets. That’s called rain. A lot of rain at once is called a storm.

      A blog is a means to get information online where a lot of people can (but don’t generally, in my experience,) see it. People have a natural tendency to want to express themselves, and a blog is a great way to do that. I’m a person, and my buddy and I are therefore inclined to do that. So we do.

      Connect the router between the computer and the modem. Read and follow the instructions step by step and you should be fine. All else fails, ask a teenager.

      Re: String Theory. I CAN leave it out if I’m giving you a basic explanation, which is the concept of the post and the idea. I can still explain it in less than 2 minutes in a way that doesn’t make it sound crazy. Actually I maybe can’t. But someone smarter than I can.

      When sound is produced in a certain way it is pleasing to the ears in much the way that certain smells and tastes are pleasing to the nose and mouth. Similar, but not identical. Music is various attempts to create pleasing rhythmic sounds. Also there’s Creed.

      Shawshank Redemption (SPOILER ALERT, lulz.) is about a guy who gets convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, goes to jail, goes through hell in prison, but keeps hope, which is inspiring. He escapes, and inspires those around him in the process. It’s awesome.

      I could certainly go further with just about any of the above and help you understand certain aspects, which was your point. I didn’t go into thunder and lightning, or the infield fly rule, or google analytics, or the part where Andy gets everyone beer for doing the head guard’s taxes, and that stuff is all important, but not necessary for a cursory understanding. As you said, there IS more to it. As I said, you don’t NEED that extra stuff to “get the picture,” so to speak. Now, let’s try explaining something else in under ten sentences…

      Santa (DON’T READ KIDS!) is an old, fat, bearded man who wears a red suit, lives at the north pole, and gives presents to literally every kid in the world who he judges to have been good during the year, all in one night. He does this with a magic flying sleigh, and magic flying reindeer. (Stop me when this all makes perfect sense, and you believe the basic concept like in any of the paragraphs above.) He has a legion of elves that build all the toys, even Playstations and Wiis and Castle Greyskull playsets, in my experience. He watches the behavior of the kids all year with the elves as spies, that’s how he knows they’re good or bad. (Is there ANY way you think this could be true? If not, I need to keep going…)

      See, I could go all day on that. The more I explain the WORSE it gets, not better. At the end of the above explanations, you may think, “Well, what about this…” or “I still don’t understand that…” But that just means you want to get more in-depth, which is fine. The final paragraph, you don’t at any point get the feeling that this is starting to seem logical, and I could get to 10 or even 20 sentences, and you still wouldn’t get that feel. BUT, if I got to, oh, say… 5,000 sentences, I could maybe twist and contort until you started to see it, if you were so motivated. Thus, the theory. (Other, somewhat more controversial things, also fit this theory…)

      “Nothing worth talking about can be fully grasped in under 2 minutes…” I generally agree with you. Which is why I made the distinction between a basic explanation and full grasp. I don’t doubt you’ve gotten a 2-minute explanation of undercoating. I would doubt it was even remotely convincing, which was my point. And I CERTAINLY don’t doubt that one could talk for hours on string theory, that too, was not my point.

      Thanks for reading.

      -JWAH.

      Reply
      • I had a conversation with a college student who is a brilliant mathematician just in June for about 2 hours on the topic of string theory (and that’s not even the conversation I mentioned above). The point is that you’re just deciding what a good explanation is and what isn’t. The actual point of what I was saying is that it’s just a poor topic for conversation when it comes to the area of religion.

        Santa: There was an old man who loved making toys who used to sneak presents to needy children during Christmas time. His name was St. Nicholas. Now, he spends the entire year in the North Pole with his elves making presents which he delivers in a flying sleigh pulled by flying reindeer on Christmas Eve. He comes down your chimney (he uses magic, of coures) and leaves presents in your stocking and under the tree. He keeps a list of which kids have been naughty and nice, so be sure to be nice this year. (Also the name we use – “Santa Claus” – comes from a re-pronunciation of his Dutch name “Sinterklaas” which basically means St. Nicholas – bonus etymology kids!!!!)

        That’s 5 (6 with an etymology). All of your explanations were poor.

        SERIOUSLY – besides the word “TAG” you just described cricket. I’m not arguing religion anymore. I just want to argue this point. Other than the word TAG you described cricket. So are those games the same? Sure, basically they are. But you haven’t given a person even the tiniest understanding of how those games are fully played. That’s like saying football is “trying to get the ball to the other side of the field without getting stopped.” Rugby.

        I’m not poking fun, I’m just amazed that you think those were good explanations.

        Your explanation for storm was incorrect. A lot of rain is not a storm. A lot of rain is a lot of rain. You didn’t explain anything about the home network or a CPU. You didn’t explain YOUR blog (why write so much if you should be able to say it in under 2 minutes).

        Teaching someone something is never, ever a quick thing. This is just the worst kind of semantical argument I’ve ever heard. You either explain and teach something to someone or you don’t. I don’t think you wrote the article with an open mind. You wrote it with an agenda that you finally got around to in your first comment. At least be honest.

        Why were we created: I don’t “know” for certain either, but as best I can see we are somehow different from all other animals in that we have a sense of “being” – a consciousness. We all share this feeling through our use of symbol-making and it seems to me that this comes not from a long and mindless process but from an Intelligence. I believe (for a LOT of reasons – can’t get into the details) that this Intelligence is the first cause of all material things (being immaterial in nature) and is also all-loving and all-powerful in a way we can’t fully understand. This being (who is like a Father) also showed up on earth to show us what a human being should look like. This Being (we’ll call it “God”) is also all-good and when we live like we were made to live it’s good for us and when we don’t it’s bad for us and it separates us from “Him” like oil and water. So God wanted to fix that problem and did so by living like us and dying for us and being resurrected so that death (yeah, everyone else still thinks death is bad) could be defeated for us and we could live forever WITH Him rather than apart. The person that God showed up as is named Jesus, a Jew, and he was nailed to some wood by the Romans and put in a tomb but was resurrected (not just “raised”) 2 days later thus signifying and accomplishing this victory over death and it’s a really neat story. But there are LOTS more things to say ’bout that.

        8? Minute-thirty? Better than your explanation of baseball? Yes to all 3…

        That was fun. Keep this coming. I’d rather argue something like this right now anyway. You’ll never believe in God so we might as well have an interesting conversation about language and meaning.

        Your turn…

    • And regarding your first sentence, “Wow, these are getting bad…”

      We OFTEN have said that about our comments. We do get a lot of good ones of course, and for all of them, good and bad, we’re grateful.

      -JWAH.

      Reply
      • Hardy-har-har…

      • Also, I hope I wasn’t too insulting with that. With how sarcastic you guys seem on here I figured you could take it, but I wanted to let you know that I enjoy our discourse here. Hopefully you can convert me or something…

      • Don’t know why it won’t let me reply to your comments. Of course we need to be thick-skinned. We are dishing it out here and need to be able to take it. At the same time, thanks for clarifying. It’s nice to know that behind this contentious, on-again/off-again discourse there’s mutual respect and sentiment. Happy Holidays. :)

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