Tuesday, February 9, 2010

On the Nature of Cognition

At one o'clock on Sunday morning I noticed, quite by chance, that a radiator had burst in a part of the house we don't use much (no, not the East Wing, just a kind of spare room). Water all over the floor and spurting everywhere. The insurance company immediately sent a plumber, who managed to cut off the water, but next morning we discovered there was a problem with the tap/knob that should have stopped water getting in, and it was still dripping, continuously.

The washing-up bowl we put under it took two hours to fill, and we had no plans to go out for longer, but it would have meant getting up several times in the night, until we could get a proper plumbing job done on Monday. Not something I had any wish to do.

There is a point to all of this...

I spent most of Sunday afternoon looking for ways to at least partially reduce the drip rate, using silicon sealant, chewing gum, plasticine, clay, blu-tac and an innovative system of leverage and bracing involving a teaspoon, a salad server and a headless doll. Nothing worked, the water found a way out at the same rate as before. I refused to resign myself to an almost sleepless night, and in the evening I was still thinking of ways to reduce the rate of flow.

My readers are a bright lot, you've probably guessed what's coming...

At tennish, in desperation, I changed my approach to the matter. I had become obsessed with the idea that the drip rate from the radiator was the problem, whereas in fact it was merely the cause of the problem. Stepping back and up a meta-cognitive level, I saw that the real problem was that the bowl would overflow regularly during the night.

It had taken me a mere twelve hours to recognise that the solution was... a larger bowl. I found a large plastic tray with high sides, and slept like a log.

And I used to think I was reasonably intelligent.

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