Occam’s Zebra: Dreaming the improbable

Dreaming our lives into being Zebras.

Beginning. Doily and photo by Glenda Clemens, 2017

Occam’s Razor simply state is that common things occur commonly. A Zebra is not a common sight in most parts of our World.

“Kids think with their brains cracked wide open;
becoming an adult, I’ve decided,
is only a slow sewing shut.”
Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

Remember when your mother told you: “You can grow up to be anything you want to be”?  I do know that not all mother’s say this but many I know, including myself, have said this to their children . We say this out of love rather than out of the expectation that indeed you will dream to be something and then grow up to be that.

“You gave too much rein to your imagination.
Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master.
The simplest explanation is always the most likely.”
Agatha Christie, The Mysterious Affair at Styles

As a child, we all imagined many great things that were going to happen to our lives and our becoming. When we grew and began to interact with the World, even the Universe, outside the protection and loving embrace of our mother’s arms we discovered reality and our dreams became simple fantasy not something that could become.

“No more things should be presumed
to exist than are absolutely necessary. ”
Mark Haddon,
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

And as we grew and grew, the possibilities became less and less. We began to embody Occam’s Razor even though many of us had never heard of it nor if we had thought it applied to our lives. In the medical world where I’ve worked since the age of 14–that’s 52 years–we have had Occam’s Razor so pounded into our brains that it has become a part of how medicine is in the 21st Century. In clinic settings we often say, “When you hear the sound of hooves, think horses, not zebras”. Often this is the right thing to do as one of the corollaries of Occam’s Razor is that common things occur commonly. Horses are common in the United States but Zebras are uncommon.

“God has a sense of humor.
Don’t believe me?
Just look at a zebra and tell me
what was going on in His mind that day.”
Kim Gruenenfelder

Well, Kim Gruenenfelder, I’ve no idea what was or is going on in the mind of any god on any day. I do know, however, that if you are a young boy or girl in parts of Africa, Zebras may indeed be much more common than horses. I’ve been watching Sense 8 (and trying to make sense of it) on Netflix while I crochet.  A mother and her son are walking across Africa and pass a herd of Zebras. The boy says to his mother, “I wish I was a zebra.” The mother’s answers, “You would make a very beautiful zebra.” Then she says, “Don’t worry. As long as we are together something good is going to happen.”

“Some day you will be old enough
to start reading fairy tales again.”
C.S. Lewis

The mother’s voice in this brief scene reminded me that all of us have dreams and most of them never come true, even if all we have in mind is that we live a happy and safe life. I’m beginning to understand how much of my life I’m limited myself listening to the strident voices around me saying I could not do or become my dreams. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, maybe I’m getting old enough to read fairy tales again. Maybe I’m getting old enough to capture a few of my dreams and live them. Maybe, just maybe, there is a Zebra in my front yard.

“Most people don’t grow up.
Most people age.
They find parking spaces,
honor their credit cards,
get married, have children,
and call that maturity.
What that is, is aging.”
Maya Angelou

If you are not ready to meet your Zebra’s or have never heard of Occam’s Razor, here is a link for you: Occam’s Razor.  Otherwise I recommend looking for Zebra’s and stop aging.

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