Does It Make Sense?

“Does it make sense?” That sounds like a simple enough question that can be applied to a business proposition, an invention, a novel or story, or even a proposed law. Then… why do we see so many impractical business ideas, inventions that never pan out, stories that are ludicrous, and laws that seem to us to make the situation worse?

At the same time, I’ve seen ideas that I’ve thought were preposterous result in millions of dollars in sales of one sort or another. Back when I was a teenager, there was the hula-hoop craze. Why would anyone want to gyrate around so that they could keep a plastic ring some three feet in diameter continuously whirling around their mid-section?

And then there were – and still are – lava lamps, in which a glob of gloop in a sealed and lighted glass container gets heated, expands and rises, then cools and falls. There must have been thousands of different combinations of colored liquid and differently colored gloop, all so people could either sit and watch gloop or not watch gloop but have it for background visuals. Exactly why has never made sense to me.

I even question the popularity of golf. Why would any sane individual really want to whack a round hard ball across 7,000 odd yards of grass, sand, and water… merely to see who wins by whacking it the fewest times between eighteen holes in the ground. Now… being somewhat commercial, I can see why professional golfers do it. There’s a LOT of money there when you’re whacking for money, but three to four hours of solid masochism for pleasure?

I also can’t say I understand the spectator side of NASCAR racing. Sitting in the sun or rain or whatever watching cars go around in a circle for hours on end, while drinking too much beer [but then, maybe that’s part of the “enjoyment”] makes little sense to me.

But that’s not really the question. The better question is not whether something makes sense, but to whom it makes sense, or to whom it appeals.

A law requiring sloped curb cuts makes little sense to a healthy individual, but a four inch curb to someone in the wheelchair is as much of a barrier to them as a ten foot fence is to someone healthy. For many disabled individuals, stairs are not a way to the next floor but a barrier to them.

Golf may not make sense to me, but it was my father’s exercise [he carried his own bag and walked], relaxation, and escape. I, obviously, love fantasy and science fiction. F&SF never made sense to him.

And those are some of the reasons why “Does it make sense?” can be incredibly misleading.

2 thoughts on “Does It Make Sense?”

  1. Joe says:

    How did these policemen in your neck of the woods think what they were doing made sense?

    Cloudfare uses lava lamps to generate better random numbers. The behavior of the “lava” is impossible to predict, which is useful.

  2. Hanneke says:

    “Does it make sense?” should be asked about laws and regulations, and probably most medical interventions. It is not a useful question to ask regarding harmless pastimes.

    Your father’s golfing harms no-one else, it’s even (slightly) good for his own health, so it doesn’t have to make sense. Your (and my) reading provides income for authors and booksellers, harms none (except perhaps ourselves through promoting sedentary habits), and keeps us off the street and harmlessly occupied instead of going out and making mischief (as my grandma used to day), while hopefully contributing to some mental growth occasionally.

    On the other hand, rules have to make sense at least in context if you expect people to obey them.
    And if you don’t expect that, why make those rules? In the context of avoiding later/larger harm it might still make sense, but then you have to plan for enforcing the rule which people (or companies) have not internalised as making sense from their point of view.

    The rules of golf may make no sense to me, a non-golfer, but for golfers who want to compare themselves to others and play with others a set of recognised rules to play by are important – hence, in context, even those weird rules can still make sense.

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