Delphius and Basicus Find a Wall

Delphius and Basicus were walking down a path.  Delphius was a wise software developer with many years of experience.  Basicus, Delphius’ student, had some experience as well, but lacked wisdom and often made foolish errors.

As the two were walking, they came upon a wall blocking the path.  The wall was made of stone and was not high – it could be easily climbed over — and not wide, the brush on either side could be easily walked through.

“What a stupid place for a wall!” exclaimed Basicus.

Delphius considered the wall. 

“Clearly someone put this wall here on purpose,” he said.

Basicus scowled.  “Why would anyone be so dumb as to put a wall in the middle of a path?”

“At the moment I do not know,” replied Delphius.

“I say tear it down!” Basicus cried out.

“One must be very sure about tearing down a wall so carefully constructed,” replied Delphius.  He walked around the wall, through the brush, and on to the path on the other side.

Basicus reluctantly followed.

  • Steve Faleiro

    What happened next, Nick?

  • Rudy Velthuis

    Sorry, but I don’t get it. Is this about the class helper loophole?

  • jgmitzen

    2,000 years ago Nick and I had an exchange in which I brought up a boss who used to always say in response to a coworker or I pointing out something wrong with our existing systems, “There may be a perfectly logical reason for that but you just don’t know what it is.” Basically, this was his syncophantic way of never criticizing the company (and the only way we were allowed to improve things was if we could avoid declaring that there was anything wrong with the old way).

    It reached a head when I was working on a project and discovered that our database system was printing out forms and substituting the billing address for the shipping address. It wasn’t really important, but it was still wrong. I got the same “There may be a perfectly logical reason….” line. I protested that there could be no logical reason for mislabeling something. Either the label was wrong or the address was. He then asked me how I knew it was wrong. I exclaimed in exasperation as I held up a form, “Because company X can’t be shipping steel garbage cans out of a sixth floor office suite in New York City!”

    Later I went into our kitchen and there was coffee spilled on the counter. I went to clean it up, but my colleague exclaimed, “Wait! There may be a perfectly logical reason that coffee is there and you just don’t know what it is!”

    I put down my paper towel. “What if I see [our boss] Schwartzman on the ground turning blue? Should I call 911?”

    “No, there may be a perfectly logical reason he’s turning blue but you just don’t know what it is!”

    Two weeks later Schwartzman initiated a speaker phone call while I was in his office with one of our database people. He then pronounced, in surprise, “You were right about that form!” I wanted to shake him and scream “OF COURSE!”

    I left his office and told my co-worker that I’d dubbed “There may be a perfectly logical reason for something and you just don’t know what it is” as “Schwartzman’s Law”. However, I was now introducing Mitzen’s Corollary to Schwartzman’s Law:

    “There may indeed be a perfectly logical reason something is the way it is and no one knows what it is, but if no one citing Schwartzman’s Law can suggest what that reason may be, it probably doesn’t exist.”

    Nick’s story sounds like a fable expounding the virtues of Schwartzman’s Law. However, Basicus doesn’t seem familiar with Mitzen’s Corollary To Schwartzman’s Law. Delphius’ ignorance of what possible reason there could be for this wall, and the complete obviousness that the wall is only a hindrance, suggests that the wall should indeed be torn down.

    • Joey —

      Great to have you back.

      Perhaps the story would have continued this way:

      Delphius and Basicus returned from their journey and once again came upon the wall.

      Basicus observered that there were a large number of boulders resting against the wall. It was clear that those boulders would have wiped out the village where the two men lived were it not for the presence of the wall.

      Basicus said, “You were wise to leave the wall intact, Delphius”.

      Like I said, it could have ended that way. Or maybe not.

      • jgmitzen

        I think it’s more likely that Dr. Rudy and Bruce McGee were hiding behind the wall, waiting to pelt me with those boulders. 🙂 🙂