Have you heard of Murphy’s Laws?
There are many variations, which are summarised as ‘If anything can go wrong it will’. Other versions relate to specific events such as ‘falling bread always lands butter side down’. We may have a chuckle at them, and also feel an empathy with it when things go wrong for us. There has been serious research into Murphy’s law, linking it with concepts such as entropy (everything tends towards decay). But at its root is a pessimistic outlook on life that is typified by Eyeore in the Winnie the Pooh books.
I don’t think Jesus would have quoted Murphy’s Law, or a Hebrew version of it, except to point out that it is not how God looks at his world. I sense a divine optimism in the way that Jesus approached life. For him it was not whether the glass was half full or half empty it was: ‘Wow, a glass with water in it! How can we use that to bless someone?’
Sometimes Christian theology and teaching suggests that it’s all doom and gloom. You don’t see so many people with billboards now saying ‘The end of the world is nigh’ but that does typify the approach we sometimes take. The Ten Commandments are (on the whole) phrased negatively: ‘Thou shalt not…’ (Have a look at this bloggage if you want a different perspective on the big ten). Christians are sometimes portrayed as negative people in TV shows (Dot Cotton anyone?)
But there’s another side – Jesus spoke of bring life ‘in all its fullness’. The Bible speaks of God’s love for his creation and of how he longs for all humans to know him and be with him forever. Jesus’ life did not finish on the cross but continues because of his resurrection and that is the prototype for us if we have faith in him. The word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’.
So here are some rewrites of Murphy’s Law:
If anything can go wrong, pray. If it does go wrong, pray. If it doesn’t go wrong, pray.
If anything can go wrong and even it does God is still with you and for you.
God can redeem any situation.
Be blessed, be a blessing
The heating is off in the church. It hasn’t broken down, we simply switch it off at the end of April each year and turn it back on in the autumn. As soon as we switch off the heating you can be sure that the weather will turn colder and we will all feel the cold. It’s one of Murphy’s Laws.
Others include that buttered toast will always fall buttered side down (see blog entry for 16 Feb). The Official Monster Raving Loony Party have taken and used it to create a perpetual motion machine that will solve many power problems. Cats always land on their paws. So if you strap buttered toast to the back of a cat and drop it the result will be a perpetually spinning cat. The energy created can then be harvested.
Before you all go scurrying off to make some toast and find a cat I should point out that Murphy’s Law may be violated by the strapping of the toast to the cat. It will surely create an imbalance in the weighting of the toast (if not the whole Universe) meaning that it will more likely land cat side down and thus the cat will simply land on its paws with buttered toast strapped to its back.
Jesus seems to be an equally improbable and unlikely happening. He was simultaneously fully divine and fully human without compromising either aspect of his nature. He was subject to the same laws of physics as us (gravity, laws of motion etc) and yet was able to transcend them in the miracles he performed. He died yet was raised to eternal life. The Bible has a wonderfully optimistic phrase: “… with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19: 26)
I don’t think Jesus was saying that God can do the logically impossible (such as creating a stone so heavy he can’t lift it) but he was talking about how God has made it possible for all people to enter the Kingdom of God. He said the words in the context of his saying that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. While his disciples were shocked (the prevailing view was that rich people were blessed and therefore had a headstart on getting into heaven) Jesus continued to show that getting into God’s Kingdom is possible for all.
Perhaps if you strapped a cat eating buttered toast onto a camel and pushed it through the eye of a needle you would create perpetual motion (or simply a terrible mess).
Other wonderful (?) inventions:
The water-proof towel
Solar powered torch (except they do exist!!)
A book on how to read
Inflatable dart board
A dictionary index
Ejector seat in a helicopter
Wooden barbecue grill
Water-proof tea bag
A number of years ago nightwatchman came into work clutching his brand new gadget – a thermos flask. His friends had never seen one before.
“What does it do?” asked one.
“It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold,” he replied proudly. “I’ve currently got two scoops of ice cream and a bowl of soup in there.”
There are various versions of ‘Murphy’s Law’ going around. It may be Murphy’s first law of inevitability: ‘If anything can go wrong it will’ or his first law of obsolescence: ‘If it jams, force it. If it breaks it needed replacing anyway’. There’s Murphy’s law of duplication: ‘The legibility of a photocopy is inversely proportional to the importance of the document.’ And Murphy’s law of computing: ‘The attention span of a computer is only as long as its power cable.’
Of course Murphy’s law is traditionally tested by dropping a piece of toast that is buttered only on one side. Murphy’s law dictates that it will always fall buttered side down. This has been scientifically tested and is not true. It does not always fall buttered side down. A development of the theory then states that the likelihood of the toast landing buttered side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet. Still not scientifically proven.
Murphy’s law(s) are predicated on pessimism. They assume that the worst will always happen. While they may be amusing, if we live our lives based on Murphy’s laws we will miss out on so much joy. So, on Shrove Tuesday (otherwise known as Pancake Day in the UK) I have a suggestion for breaking Murphy’s law. Instead of dropping toast, toss pancakes – because they are double-sided they always land right side up.
(unless they stick to the ceiling!).