By Tony Hooker
“Should two courses be judged equal, then the will cannot break the deadlock, all it can do is to suspend judgement until the circumstances change, and the right course of action is clear.” -Jean Buridan c.1340.
This Determinist Idea was later satirized by the concept of Buridan’s ass, which posited that a donkey, positioned equidistant between two bales of hay, might starve to death from indecision about which bale to eat from.
“A version of Buridan’s principle occurs in electrical engineering. Specifically, the input to a digital logic gate must convert a continuous voltage value into either a 0 or a 1, which is typically sampled and then processed. If the input is changing and at an intermediate value when sampled, the input stage acts like a comparator. The voltage value can then be likened to the position of the ass, and the values 0 and 1 represent the bales of hay. As in the situation of the starving donkey, there exists an input on which the converter cannot make a proper decision, and the output remains balanced in a metastable state between the two stable states for an undetermined length of time, until random noise in the circuit makes it converge to one of the stable states.” Per Wikipedia!
I share these little bits of philosophical and electrical engineering history because, to throw in another overused cliché, I’ve been on the horns of a strange dilemma for the past few weeks. As my family and friends know, when the calendar flips to October, my brain goes into full on being in the woods mode, chasing those crafty white tails from before sunrise to last light. If I’m not hunting them, I’m watching them being pursued on tv or reading articles about how to get the big boy hung on the wall. This year, however, there’s a new presence forcing its way into my thoughts.
In May, I joined the men’s league at Tri City country club, and ever since, I’ve been obsessed with pasture pool. The fact that I was verified by sixteen weeks of play as the worst player in the league probably drives the obsession even more. It’s even more ludicrisp, as that noted philosopher Iron Mike Tyson once said, that I rode on the shoulders of my playing partner Rory to a third-place finish in the end of the year event. Worst player in the league. Third place. Inconceivable. But here we are. Whatever latent competitive streak, that I thought I had outgrown, has awakened, and I’m determined not to be number 76 out of 76 next year, so I’ve been hitting the links rather than the tree stand, and now I’m feeling like Olivia Newton John, torn between two lovers. The problem with that weak analogy being, of course, that neither my golf clubs nor my bow love me back. In fact, they both treat me rather coldly…refusing to come anywhere near my chosen target with their respective projectiles.
At any rate, I’ll be out there this weekend, chasing Odocoileus Virginianus through the wilds of greater Hugo. Or I might not. I might be chasing Titleist lostus around the wilds of south VG. At any rate, regardless of success or failure, I’ll be the one with the stupid grin on my face, regardless of which bail of hay this Buridan’s donkey chooses.