While conceits have
inherent limitations and pitfalls, many have practical uses and
we couldn't function without them. The following are just a few
* While having a law that requires automobiles to drive on
the right instead of the left side of the road involves arbitrariness,
the usefulness of the law should be clear. This is a case where
the powers that be had to pick one side or the other, perhaps
flipping a coin. In Britain the coin must have fallen differently.
* Before I go to bed, I make sure my keys are placed in the
middle of the kitchen table. I came up with this rule after several
hectic mornings looking for the damn things.
* Standard games and sports require conceits to work. Whether
an American football field is supposed to be 95, 100 or 105 yards
long, you have to pick a length so it is known when someone has
scored a touchdown
Whether a basketball field goal layup
counts as 1, 2, 4, 5 or other points, you have to pick an amount
before the game starts
For a tennis match and soccer game,
it has to be agreed upon whether on-the-line is in bounds or
out of bounds.
* One of the most important uses of conceits is they can save
us time. Your pre-set rules for clothes you put on in the morning
involve personal biases and arbitrary choices. However, without
these and other trite rules you might be unable to leave your
house before 4 p.m. This would be a problem if your job starts
and 9 a.m. and you're supposed to pick of your kids from kindergarten
at 3 p.m.
* * * *
Many conceits don't have practical uses, but are harmless
feel goods. Sometimes feeling good is practical, such as when
your doctor has suggested you lower your blood pressure.
* If you grew up dreaming your house would have a white picket
fence and a big oak tree, there's nothing wrong with putting
up a white picket fence and planting an oak tree on the land
* If you just bought a sports car and think that it should
have bold racing stripes, there's nothing wrong with asking the
dealer to add bold racing stripes.
* If you need the theatre effect to enjoy a movie and set
up your entertainment room in the basement to look like a movie
theatre with theatre seats and a popcorn machine, that sounds
cool to me.
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