Do You Think Inside Or Outside Of The Box?
Whose Box Is It? Yours? Or Another’s?
“You’ll never have to think outside of a box that isn’t there in the first place.”
by Eric Purcell
(Ann Arbor, MI)
Once upon a time, faith was measured is a very particular way. Basically, God spoke. You listened. And if you obeyed what He asked, you knew and understood what He intended. You KNEW what faith really was. Then along comes other people….people such as prophets and priests. And while some spoke of having received their messages first hand from the Almighty, others sometimes added their own twist to what they were saying. For example, think about the Pharisees, whose agenda was so very different from Christ’s. Somehow this all reminds me of that party game where someone starts at the end of a line by whispering a few words into the ear of the person next to them, and then that person whispers to the next guy, and so on. Finally, the last one in line reveals what they believed was said by the very first person. And, of course, what you get is a very convoluted and altered version of the original intent! You see, everyone’s take on the matter is just a tad different. Sometimes it is altered by preconceived notions. Other times, by differences in environment or expectations. And other times by even the intelligence. I offer a story to think about as you wonder if you are doing your own thinking or parroting what another expects of you!
One day Scot Ernest (Lord) Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics, received a phone call. It was from a colleague who was about to fail a student in an exam but for the fact that the student himself claimed a perfect paper. The colleague and the student agreed to ask if Rutherford would be the deciding examiner.
The exam question was: “Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer.” The student had answered: “Attach a long rope to it, lower it to the street, and then pull it up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building.” And the answer works. However it wasn’t the expected answer, the conventional answer: namely, that you use the barometer to measure the atmospheric pressure at the bottom and the top of the building; the pressure is less at the top, and factoring in the weight of the air, you calculate the height of the building.
So the student was offered another try. He was given six minutes to provide an answer that demonstrated some knowledge of physics. After five minutes, the student’s paper was still blank. Asked if he wished to give up, he said, “No, I’ve got several answers, I’m just thinking of the best one.”
In the next minute he dashed off the answer: “Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then, using the formula for the rate of the fall of a body, calculate the height of the building.” The student was given almost full credit.
As he was leaving the room, the examiners called him back. They were curious: what were the other answers he had to the problem? “Well,” the student said, “there are many ways to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer. For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the length of the building’s shadow, and the height of the barometer itself and the length of its shadow, and then by using simple proportion, you calculate the height of the building.
“Or,” he said, “there is a more direct method. Take the barometer and walk up the stairs of the building. As you climb the stairs, mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and this will give you the height of the building in barometer-units.
“Or,” he said, “you could take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to just above the street, then swing it like a pendulum. You then calculate the height of the building by the period of the swing.
“There are still other ways of solving the problem,” the student continued. “But probably the best way is to take the barometer to the basement of the building and knock on the superintendent’s door. When he answers, say, ‘My dear Mr. Superintendent, I have here an excellent barometer. If you tell me the height of your building, I will give you the barometer as a gift.’”
Well, the examiners were gobsmacked. When they recovered their composure, they asked the student if he knew the standard answer to the question. “Of course,” he replied. “But I am fed up with high school and university teachers trying to tell me how to think.”
And the name of the student of this perhaps apocryphal story? Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist who won the Nobel Prize for his contributions to quantum theory.
People often claim to be “thinking outside the box” to support views they hold that are different from the views of others….ESPECIALLY when it concerns faith! Sometimes those who do not believe in God, for instance, see themselves as “thinking outside the box” of those who do, and in so doing conclude that they are right and others are wrong. Then again, those whose faith is cemented into mind, heart and body, would disagree! And they can say with all of the conviction they hold, why they believe as they do. Yes, faith is subjective save for one HUGE difference. Christ existed! The miracles of His hand existed! We may not have borne witness to the facts, but that they happened is not in doubt given the proof we can see again and again through testimony of the facts as witnessed by men and recorded for posterity’s sake. However, with faith, thinking outside of the box does ask of you that you see with a different vision. It asks you to see with the eyes toward the future that is promised through what we know has happened. We know Christ died, We know that He rose from the dead. We know that He ascended into heaven. And we ask that you trust your own mind to wrap itself around the promises that this affords. That is the definition of faith, but it does require thinking outside of the box sometimes to see the vision of the promise that is given. Can you do it? Is the box you are thinking outside of your’s or another’s?
25: The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not belive.”
26: And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst , and said, “Peace to you!”
27: Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
28: And Thomas answered and said to Him, ” My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
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