The Top Keeps Spinning (Or: How Do I Get There, You Liar?!?: a brief digression about philosophy and logic and the importance of morning routines)

Most days, when I wake up, I know what I’m going to do.

I’m usually wrong, of course, because—well, you know, life intervenes. But, during the pandemic, each day became pretty much like the one which preceded it.

Here’s my usual routine.

I wake up when the sunlight pouring through my west-facing bedroom windows becomes persistent enough to pull me out of whatever last-minute dream I’m having. This morning, the dream involved computers and bridges that circled the entire world and numbers were somehow involved. If that sounds confusing to you, welcome to my dreamscape. Since I’m not working a job at the moment, I wake up whenever I wake up, but rarely later than 8 a.m. I would say it’s uncanny how I wake up at almost the same time every day, but, when I think about it, it seems rather canny, after all. I mean, the sunlight hits the window at approximately the same time every day, and I almost always sleep on my right side, facing west (I mean, facing west in our house. I suppose in a hotel or a yurt, I could be facing any direction), and I go to bed at night at around the same time. Yeah, canny.

I get out of bed, groaning and whinging because my body hurts in places I would never think about if they didn’t hurt. There is considerable popping and crackling of joints as well, like knots exploding on fireplace logs. I shuffle to the bathroom and complete my necessaries, get dressed and attempt to brush what hair my wife left on my head. When I had a job to go to, I would also shower and shave at this time. These days, I don’t necessarily do that in the mornings. Don’t judge me.

My wife is usually still asleep in bed. But, she sometimes surprises me by getting up before I do, which throws my whole sense of rhythm off, like clapping on the one and three instead of the two and four (see Duke Ellington for clarification, if needed). The dogs will usually leave the bedroom when I leave, because they know my routine better than I do. I’m going to open the back door so that they can go out when they are ready, start the gas fireplace on cool days, then return to the kitchen to start my morning coffee. The dogs know that, while I’m at the refrigerator getting cream for my coffee, I’m going to give them each a tiny cube of cheese which resides in a plastic baggie in a refrigerator compartment for just that purpose (we call it “dog cheese”). I usually have to break a cube in half for Moxie, our chihuahua mix, because she’s dainty and thinks a whole cube is just too much. Meanwhile, her much-larger brother Cooper is upset that he gets only one cube.

While the Keurig is making my first cup of coffee, I generally pull my pillminder from the kitchen cabinet dedicated to the world of pharmaceuticals, and then I swallow a fistful of my morning pills with a swig of room temperature bottled water left on the counter for just that specific purpose. I will also take that time to change out the dogs’ kitchen water bowl (there’s a larger, gravity-fed watering bowl in the guest bathroom on the other side of the house). If my body is still aching an unusual amount, I may also pop one or two of my “as needed” pills, but this is not an everyday thing.

After my coffee is finished, I’ll check on my wife to see if she’s awake. Sometimes she wakes up and stays in bed for a while with the television and her iPhone screen both lit up. That’s her routine. If she’s awake, I’ll bring her one of her iron pills with a small bottle of orange juice (we’re out: I must remember to order more), and make her a cup of coffee, if she’s in the mood (she drinks a single cup a day, which is an idea I just can’t wrap my brain around). Sharon has an entire morning pill regimen like I do, but she usually takes only the iron pill while in bed. The rest, after she’s up and about.

If the routine has held thus far, my potential storyline usually heads in one of two directions, like arriving at a fork in the road (this is pertinent to the story you’re about to hear; remember that “fork in the road” bit). I schedule two blocks of entertainment a day (a “block” being specific television episode or a 15-20 minute segment of a movie or documentary), and I like to watch the first block in the early morning. This morning I had planned for the third episode in the first season of Netflix’s Sex Education, and, indeed, that’s what I watched (I’m liking this series, so far, but more on that at a later date). By the time the episode was over, I was on my third cup of coffee for the day (I would make it to four today before switching over to other beverages) and Sharon was up and about.

I rarely eat breakfast because I’m never hungry in the morning. I know, it’s the most important meal of the day, and all that. I’m just not a breakfast guy. More of a brunch guy (bring on the mimosas). Sharon, however, was not raised by wolves and usually makes breakfast for herself. We’re talking real breakfast here, involving the cooperation of several animal products. Not oatmeal or cold cereal.

While Sharon is cooking, I’m usually putting in a little writing time. Sometimes I write first then watch an entertainment block. That’s that fork I was talking about earlier.

I always know what writing project I’m going to be working on, too. I have multiple writing projects going on at any given time. This allows me to switch from one to another when I feel like I’m getting nowhere. This morning I had planned to open up the file in my word processing program dedicated to a Twin Peaks project I’ve been working on for a while, and then begin writing my review of the second season of The Mandalorian, a piece that I have been thinking about since Luke Skywalker waltzed back into my life. I dashed off fifteen or twenty minutes worth of work on the Twin Peaks and then found my mind wandering.

This happens sometimes. I’m as easily distracted as a squirrel-loving dog, attracted to shiny objects, and prone to following tangents to a point well past their logical conclusions. For some reason my thoughts wandered into the realm of philosophy, Descartes and Cogito, ergo sum, a wicked detour that made me doubt your existence and wonder if I was the one who was thinking these thoughts that I think are my own. This reminded me of a Philosophy course I had to take freshman year, in order to keep my scholarship. The course was all about the Alfred Hitchcock movie Lifeboat, based on a Steinbeck story, I believe. Only I didn’t know that at the time because it was several more years later before I saw Lifeboat. Anyway, these thoughts led to ones about Justice (maybe I heard Judge Judy from the living room. I can’t say) and then Larry Niven’s Ringworld (had I been dreaming of bridges that circled the Earth?) and the acronym TANJ, which stood for “There Ain’t No Justice.”

All of which reminded me of the Logic course I took junior year, and inspired me to write the following:

(This is like a post within a post. It’s all very Inception.)

I took a course in logic in college. It wasn’t a required class. On paper, at least. However, it was a prerequisite for my COBOL class, which was a required class for my major. By the transitive property, it was a required unrequired class. That’s not completely logical, but it is factual.

In this class, the professor posed a logic problem in story form. I like stories, and I appreciate good worldbuilding, which is why I remember this many decades later.

The prof said imagine a land exists where there are only two types of people. Half the population tells the truth ALL of the time. The other half tells lies ALL of the time.

You are travelling without a map, when you arrive at a fork in the road. One way leads to your desired destination—let’s call it the Emerald City—and the other will lead to your eventual torture and death—let’s call it Detroit.

A friendly looking citizen stands at the point between the two forks. By the rules of this weird land, you are allowed to ask only one question to find out which way you should travel, assuming you didn’t want to die horribly.

One question.

Which means, assuming that the sky in this weird little land is blue, you couldn’t ask the citizen if the sky is blue and then ask which way to go after that. That would be two questions.

I thought I had come up with the definitive answer to this conundrum.

My question?

If I asked you which way I should go to reach the Emerald City, which way would to tell me to go?”

So, if you were a LIAR, you would have told me to go in the direction of Detroit. Therefore, you would point in the way that leads to the Emerald City, because that would now be a lie in the way the question is structured. Right?

If you were a TRUTHSPEAKER, you would also point in the direction of the Emerald City, because that’s the truth.

I still think this is at least one of the correct questions, if not THE correct question.

But, my professor said that I was mistaken.

It didn’t bother me enough to argue about it then, but I can’t remember the question he offered as a solution. And, it still bothers me, all these years later.

“If I asked you which way I should go to reach the Emerald City, which way would you tell me to go?”

Someone explain why this doesn’t get the desired response every time. I really want to know. Thinking about crap like this really did help in computer programming, though.

I have to admit that, required class or not.

When I join my wife in the living room, I notice a top spinning on the glass surface of the endtable. Spinning . . .

Never did write that review of The Mandalorian.

3 thoughts on “The Top Keeps Spinning (Or: How Do I Get There, You Liar?!?: a brief digression about philosophy and logic and the importance of morning routines)

  1. Very cool. You’re describing the double negative problem, right? The way I heard it was: There’s one guy who always lies, ones always tells the truth. The solution is to ask either which way the other would answer, then do the opposite. Double negative, cancels each other out. One of my favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

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