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November 13, 2007 » 5:09 pm

Working Like Sheep

An allegory, by Kirsten Jones:    (MOI)

I have a friend who hearkens from the heartland of America, and is thus more schooled than I in the cosmic truths to be found on a farm. We were discussing the relative dimness of various farm animals, and he mentioned that sheep were pretty much the stupidest animals around. I asked why, and he said that a lamb, when confronted with a meadow full of tall grass, will eat through the grass, leaving a 1-lamb-wide path behind them. When the lamb is full, however, it is faced with a horrible situation. Walls of grass surround it on the front and the sides. After looking left and right in a panic, the lamb will start to bleat piteously, hoping for someone to rescue it from its plight, eventually sitting down to wait until it’s hungry again so that it can extend the path further. I’m not sure how true the story is, but it makes for a compelling mental image.    (MOJ)

…    (MOK)

I frequently find myself in a position where I am trying to solve a difficult problem. The more I push, the more the answer eludes me, but I have this underlying fear that if I break away and come back to the problem with fresh eyes, I’ll lose the context I’ve worked so hard to achieve. The reality is that I’m just like the lamb. The answer I need will only be clear when I back up. The context I’ve built up is broken, which is why I’m not finding the answer.    (MOL)

When Kirsten first told me this story, she was specifically talking about programming, but I think the analogy holds for many endeavours.    (MOM)

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