Thursday, August 19, 2010

Real Life Tao - Specious Connections

As we have seen time and time again, one of the key concepts in philosophical Taoism is learning to go with the flow. This metaphor can take on different meanings. This post will focus on one of those meanings and I will utilize something that happened yesterday to tease it out.

The baseboard heater in our front bedroom quit working over a year ago. One day it worked just fine and the next day it was deader than a doornail. We looked over the appliance -- as best as unqualified laypeople can do -- and nothing looked out of the ordinary. All we knew is that, when it was now switched on, nothing happened. Nada. Zilch. No heat.

Yesterday, we finally got around to having our friendly handyman (Mike) take a look at it. Mike quickly discovered that a wire in the switch mechanism had broken. So, he replaced the switch and the unit works as it is supposed to.

What has this got to do with going with the flow? Actually, nothing. We haven't gotten to that part of the story yet!

Initially, before Mike began to take the unit apart, we went down into the basement to turn off the applicable breakers. Neither of us wanted to see Mike electrocute himself! We thought we had selected the right ones. Turns out we were incorrect. I was in the other room when he discovered one of the wires was still live. (Note: He was NOT electrocuted.) So, I tromped back to the basement to shutdown our electrical power altogether.

Once he had fixed the problem and the power had been restored, I paid him what we owed, we shook hands and he was on his way.

Okay, after all that intro, now we will get to the illustration. :-D

Before Mike arrived, in anticipation of the need to turn off part or all of the building's electricity, I smartly shutdown my computer. Now that he was finished, I went upstairs to turn my computer back on. It booted up like normal (yea for Linux Mint!), but my external modem indicated there was a problem with the broadband connection.

"Geez," I said to myself. "I completely forgot to disconnect the modem!" I remember encountering this problem once before after lightening had abruptly shutdown electricity throughout town. What I needed to do was disconnect all the various wires from the modem and then let it sit for 30 minutes or so in order that it could reset itself.

After about an hour, I reconnected all the wires to the modem and fired up my computer. The broadband was still out! Since this is an old model, I was worried that maybe the modem was kaput. I headed downstairs to grab a different external modem -- it was connected to my wife's computer, but she doesn't need it as she connects wirelessly -- and I immediately noticed that the broadband indicator light was on.

Well, let me tell you, that convinced me. There was NO QUESTION WHATSOEVER that my old modem had bit the dust...until I returned to my computer room upstairs. As I prepared to switch out the modems, I noticed something very peculiar: the broadband indicator light on the supposedly dead modem was back on. I immediately fired up my browser and I was back in business.

So, what is the moral of this long-winded story? I made an assumption based on insufficient evidence and I drew a specious conclusion! Since my modem worked before the power was shut off and then it didn't work after it was turned back on, I immediately attached myself to the idea that there MUST be a correlation between the two.

It turns out that no such correlation existed. I now realize that it was nothing more than a brief problem with my ISP.

When we can learn to go with the flow, one of the first lessons is not to jump to conclusions, particularly when we don't possess knowledge of all the variables involved. I spent a good hour or two working and fretting over a problem that was completely out of my control!

That time would have been much better spent doing something productive...or not doing anything at all.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.


  1. What has this got to do with going with the flow? Actually, nothing.

    I think the heater story itself illustrates going with the flow as well. The heater didn't work because the wire was broken and the power couldn't flow--it was flowing, essentially, to nowhere. Once the connection was made, the electricity could flow to its intended path and the heater worked.

    The point? Sometimes going with the flow leads you nowhere, and that can be okay in and of itself, I suppose, but sometimes it's helpful to clear a log out of the river so you can continue to "go".

    Just a thought from a passer-by.

  2. Good point!! Actually, that's an excellent point!!!


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