Saturday, June 9, 2007

I didn't write this.

But I wish I had. is the source from whom the person I cribbed this from originally cribbed it. Credit where credit is due.

Now read their wonderful parable:
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar...and the beer.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous "yes." The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things--your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions--things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else--the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal. "Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled. "I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers."


Robert Link said...

Two other teaching stories with mayo jars and beer:

The Flies and the Bees:

Take two empty mayo jars, point them each open end away from, closed end toward, a point light source. Put a dozen bees in one jar, a dozen house flies in the other. Come back after a day or so. The jar of almost randomly moving flies will be empty. The jar of bees, more driven to steadfastly pursue the linear goal of reaching the light, will be full of dead bees. (I have not actually performed this experiment.)

Snow storm in a bottle:

Robert Pirsig, in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" uses an extended metaphor of supersaturated solutions to describe the process of unconscious learning. But most folks just don't have the background to truly grok this metaphor. You can make it real for such folks by arranging for a snow storm in their beer bottle. Place a bottle of beer in the freezer, preferably of a brand using clear glass for the bottle (Corona works well). Give enough time for the bottle to get below the freezing temperature of the water suspended in alcohol. You now have a supersaturated solution, to wit, their is more ice dissolved into the alcohol than can normally be dissolved at the current temperature. At this point introduction of a seed crystal or addition of sufficient kinetic energy (say, for instance, by removing the cap of the bottle) will cause the dissolved ice to precipitate out. Snow storm in a bottle. Like that flash of creativity that bursts seemingly from no where. Or Satori. (I've used this demo a fair few times.)

See what happens when you let just anybody post to your blog...

Ducks said...

Robert, we are demonstrating one of those weird confluences of minds again... I first heard of the snowstorm effect about a week ago, and first encountered the word Satori (or at least I had forgotten it before, because it has only just registered on the conscious part of my brain and I have been chewing at it) day before yesterday.

Those are wonderful! I'm so glad to have you posting... I have been reading yours and thinking deeply, but haven't been taking the time to sit and write back as you deserve. Nonetheless you should know that I go eagerly to your writing every day and leave it with narrowed eye and nibbled lip, thinking hard about what it is to commit oneself to participation in just such a sphere of discourse.

Would you mind if I linked your blog to this one?

Robert Link said...

I'd be delighted to be on your bloglist, and glad you're having fun reading it. I added you and Pat to my blogroll without thinking to ask...

King Dave the Surly said...

Thank you for your interest in Works of a Creative Literary Nature.

"The Internet" regrets to inform you that it has chosen to fill the position with another candidate for the next calendar year. We have decided that it is in the best interests of the community-at-large that "Works of a Creative Literary Nature" be replaced with "lolcats."

We wish you the best in all your future endeavors.

Signed, Mgmt.

PS: No, you cannot have a goddamn cheeseburger.