Once upon a time, there was a man named William who was born in the English town of Ockham. His complete name was William of Ockham.
Back then, in the 14th century, they hadn’t invented real last names yet, so your surname was the town where you were born. Hence, “of” was everyone’s middle name. Thus, if I was born in a city named Course, my full name would be “Michael of Course.”
Anyway, William of Ockham was a kind of combo philosopher/theologian/scholastic deep thinker who came up with a theory regarding how to solve problems. Today it is called “Ockham’s Razor.” Basically, this principle states that when you have various ideas about how to resolve a difficult situation, the simpler one is the best. Or, as William said, “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.” My bona fide sentiments verbatim.
How about we take a little quiz to see how well we can apply Ockham’s Razor to various conundrums we experience in our daily lives? Just read the description of the problem and select the solution that you think William would choose. Ready? Here goes …
Problem No. 1
When your teenage daughter gets upset, she bolts to her room and slams the door. How can you stop her door slamming?
(A) Enroll in a doctoral child psychology program at the nearest university.
(B) Devise your own behavior modification program that entails reactions to stimuli through positive and negative reinforcement of adaptive behavior.
(C) Remove the door to your daughter’s bedroom.
William thinks that if you just confiscate the door, your teenage daughter’s desire for privacy will outweigh her need to slam.
Problem No. 2
You keep losing the remote control for your television set. How can you keep track of it?
(A) Buy a blacksmith’s anvil and weld the remote to it.
(B) Make a rule that everyone must put the remote on top of the TV. Then all you have to do is go to the TV, pick up the remote, return to your easy chair, and turn it on.
(C) Make your teenage daughter keep track of it.
William feels that now you can threaten your daughter with door removal if she fails to supervise the remote.
Problem No. 3
The grass needs cutting, but the Bears are on the air. How can you do both at the same time?
(A) Install a 32-inch flat screen wireless television to the handles of the lawn mower.
(B) Contact the National Football League and ask them to make a last-minute schedule change.
(C) Have a heart-to-heart talk with your teenage daughter.
It is William’s opinion that a teenage daughter who can keep track of a remote can also cut the grass.
Starting to get the idea? All we have to do is think simple. I actually tried this out when my wife asked me to find the lost keys to the car. I first asked myself, “What would William do?”
A short time later, my wife was impressed by my ingenious solution. I simply called my married daughter and she came over and searched and found the car keys for me. Then I gave her bedroom door back and we called it even.
So there you go. The more you use the razor, the sharper you get. Now if I can only figure out a way to stop my wife from catching me raiding the fridge. I just hope she doesn’t read this column and remove the door.
• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He is currently formulating a nontraditional thought process he calls “Penkava’s Toothbrush,” which helps ones write with preposterous peculiarity while wearing a bright smile. He can be reached at email@example.com.