How Can We Get the Simple Things SO Wrong?

road-going-nowhereHave you ever asked yourself the question: “How could something so simple go so wrong?” i know i have – on more than one occasion 😉

I was doing some thinking, and some writing, over the weekend and found – if not The Solution – a very good likelihood to explain just why it is those things can often go not quite the way we may have expected.

The Reason is not ‘God’, or ‘The Devil’, or because we are human and therefore fallible (although that at least is undeniably true) 🙂

The Reason is because even the extremely simple is actually capable of a surprising and unexpected number of ‘permutations’ (different outcomes) in the ‘everyday’ world we all understand and live in.

My writing over the weekend set a situation out that is the simplest possible that we humans can ever consider (of any significance to us) and shows the total possible number of different ‘outcomes’ of that situation.

So let me ask you: How many different outcomes do you think are possible if only two ‘things’ are involved in our real-time world?

It is not really necessary to define what those things are – they can be any two things (in fact there is really only one ‘thing’ as well as the absence or opposite of that one thing (thing + not thing) What is important is the number of ‘choices’ we have in our world of defining/arranging them.

So how many different ‘outcomes’ – from ‘two’ things?

Two? Three? Four?

The actual answer – quite astoundingly, i think – is Eighty-One!

I am happy to provide any doubters with the three page ‘proof’ of this (it’s long but only because i wrote it so that anyone can understand the situation and the maths involved – even people who are not ‘good’ with maths) or you can take my word for it, or prove it is so for yourself.

The point is – even the ‘simplest’ real-life situation i could think of has over 80 unique conformations and as time progresses second by second, the number of different permutations quickly becomes unimaginable.

That’s why, sometimes, what we may think of as very simple does not go the way we expected it too – we enormously under-estimate the possible outcomes.

I don’t believe God does this – just us imperfect humans.

Another ‘reason’ to Trust His ‘Judgement’ over our own.


  1. While I don’t have faith in God(s), I do trust your mathematical skills. 🙂 I would be interested in the formula you used to come up with the answer, 81. My best guess would have been 42. 🙂 I would suggest you e-mail it me, but you have tried that in the past and haven’t been able to get through.

    When trying to decide a course of action we do need to start with the best plan we can think, usually the simplest one. Then we need to be able to adjust that plan as circumstances change, as they always do.

    “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Dwight D. Eisnhower.

    I think we are stuck with our own best judgement. We may not often find the perfect answer, we can hopefully find one that will work.

    Good luck in finding the perfect way to get your God’s perfect reason.


  2. Hi Love, it’s nice to be back and see you are still capable of completely baffling me with your scientific and mthematical abilities. I will not argue with any of this, I’m sure you are right:)


  3. Thank you Ed. Thank you Rain. 🙂

    The more i ‘look’ at the life we all share – and the ‘reasoning’ i can find behind it all, the more convinced i become that we humans are woefully inadequately equipped to deal with real-life situations on our ‘own’.

    As smart as we tend to think we are (or as dumb as some of us prove ourselves to be from time to time) we quite simply are incapable of fully understanding some situations – and as i proved to myself very adequately this weekend – even the very simple seeming ones are way beyond our ‘common-sense’ understandings.

    i become convinced day by day that only a supremely knowledgeable and wise and loving ‘God’ could ever be allowed to be in control of all life and we would do well to learn His Many Ways – the ‘simplest’ one of which is love 🙂


  4. Have you seen the funny memes that accompany the words, “You had only ONE job . . .” ? That was my first thought when I began this article (I know, I was headed to bed but I suppose I’m a glutton for punishment. Couldn’t resist clicking the link to see what this post had to say on the topic).

    Add in a bit of brain-based resistance to making decisions, and it doesn’t take many permutations at all for things to become complex enough to go very wrong very fast.

    Although I personally find a great deal of comfort in the idea of “turning it over,” for skeptics who aren’t comfortable leaving things in God’s hands I would suggest a read of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: the art of thinking without thinking.

    While I don’t agree with all he says (and a few things have since been disproved), it attempts to explain why “figuring it out” is not always the best approach to decision-making – in brain-based terms. God works in mysterious ways (that science will always attempt to explain in earth-bound terms.)

    Then again, at the moment right before of death they say there ARE no athiests. 🙂 And now I AM heading off to bed!

    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!


  5. I have indeed found quite a few funny meme’s on You Had One Job… they match my weird humour (i even spell it funny, lol).

    Had not heard of Blink however… i imagine when i get time to read it we’d agree in large part. Wish i knew then what i ‘know’ now! (Stiil try to figure stuff out logically 😦 )

    Hopefully (very hopefully) by the time we die we have figured out that we can never be 100% certain of ANYTHING and therefore a bit of an each way bet on God can’t hurt! But then those who believe should have the same logic! – but have probably already ‘earned’ their spot in the hereafter! 😉

    Having said that it is my belief that a number of those who think they have will be very disappointed come the day.

    regarding your last comment – I’ll bet you didn’t! 🙂 >:-)



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