If you have Problems, you could look for Solutions.
Or you could look for more problems. And gather them all up and lock them together in a room and see what happens.
I don’t like to waste things, and I don’t like to keep things. These two preferences alone can result in a significant shaping of daily behaviour. Because the easy way to not keep things is to throw them away – but if you don’t like to waste them, then one is disinclined to throw them away. Where does this leave you?
Well, you tend not to buy things you don’t need. When I am making a purchasing decision, I seriously consider whether I really want that thing around – the price has almost become secondary (in many cases, it is). I bought a scanner/printer not long ago, and while it worked, it didn’t work well enough — not well enough to justify the amount of space it took up, and not well enough to justify keeping it. So I returned it.
It results in only buying produce that aren’t shrink wrapped or unnecessarily packaged, and the majority of what I contribute to landfill are those stupid little stickers they put on fruit. I hate those stickers.
Most of the things that I buy are consumed, composted, recycled, or used until rendered inoperable. I consider my pants inoperable when they are frayed to the point that I can’t effectively stitch or patch them. I consider underwear inoperable when the elastic is dead and they keep falling off or if they have so many holes that when I’m wearing them I still feel pretty naked.
But even when they are rendered inoperable as pants or underwear, I still put the material to use. Dead pants are a source of fabric, and dead underwear elastic makes for pretty strong patching material.
And even though I am happy to recycle my scrap paper, I prefer to get as much use out of it before I send it away. Once it has been used as scrap, it often gets used as origami before being burned or recycled. As much use as possible creating as little waste.
To be sure, packaging seems to generate the greatest quantity of unnecessary material, which is why some of my favourite places are bulk stores that let you bring and use your own containers.
I also don’t like to be wasteful with problems or solutions. Very little is so satisfying using a problem to generate a solution for another problem. If you’re clever enough, you can usually turn an existing problem into a solution for another problem, allowing them to cancel each other out. That means that if you have only one problem, you might have to put a lot of effort or material into a solution. But if you have two problems, you may be able to make them solutions for each other. thus, 1 + 1 = 0. But sometimes things aren’t that simple, and you actually need more problems to allow them to cancel each other out. So while 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 1 + 1 can equal zero.
If your really wanted this math to work, then you’d actually have to think of the problem in multi-space. Each problem might have a magnitude of 1, but they won’t have a sign. That’s fine for the ‘two problems cancel each other out’ set-up. One problem is +1, and the other is -1.
But what if you need 3 problems to get everything down to zero? Maybe it’s a +1, +1, -2 kind of situation. But maybe not! Maybe they are solving each other in totally different metrics! We can’t use numbers any more, we have to turn to vectors. So one problem is (1,0,0), one is (0,1,0), and one is (0,0,1). They are all perpendicular… but now that I think of it, they don’t really cancel each other out. You’d need a fourth vector, which I suppose would be (-1,-1,-1). Yes, some of you will point out that the first 3 vectors all have a magnitude of |1|, while the last vector has a magnitude of |√3|. You might ask yourself (or me) “What does that mean?”
Well, it means a few things, and it could mean a lot of things. For one thing, it describes the reality that not all problems are the same magnitude, and for another thing it allows for the possibility that several small problems can be used to solve a larger problem. Or that problems of different magnitudes can be used to solve each other.
But now the problem we’re running into is defining things as problems, when any given phenomenon could be viewed as a problem or a solution – depending on one’s viewpoint as to its utility.
So let’s call them something else. Because, they are all just phenomena – aspects of our environment. Details about the way things are. God is in the details. You could probably make a pretty good argument that finding God is synonymous with finding Enlightenment. You probably wouldn’t get a ton of argument on that point from a Buddhist – and the phrase could be taken to mean that you can find God, or Enlightenment, by paying attention to, or appreciating the details.
And this does not lead us away from what we’re (trying) to talk about here. If we can make full use of our details, we can find efficient solutions. We might even say that pursuing such solutions is the path to enlightenment. Someone might say that to be on the path to enlightenment is to be enlightened, but at this point I’d say we’re getting off topic.
Because today I want to talk about milk and toilet paper, and gardening.
Problem ‘Planter’: some of my plants are best started indoors, but I don’t have containers in which to keep them.
Problem ‘TP Roll’: When I finish a roll of toilet paper, I would like to find a practical use for a perfectly good cardboard cylinder, rather than have resources expended in recycling them
Problem ‘Paper Plate’: I bought a slice of pizza the other day, and ended up with a perfectly good plate. It seemed wasteful to just recycle it, but I was lacking a practical use for it.
Problem ‘Creamer Carton’: When I buy milk, I have a carton. Sure I can recycle it, but I want to optimize that carton, so I usually turn it into a wallet. The ends of two milk cartons can also be put together to make a nifty little box. There is always a kid that wants a wallet and/or a box for all the wonderful treasures they might come across. And so the lack of wallets and boxes for kids is solved by the problem of what to do with my milk carton. But the other day I bought a 250mL carton of coffee cream. These cartons are too small to turn into wallets, and too deep to be optimal planters.
It turns out that all of these problems can solve each other. Of course, the bottom half of the carton can function as a planter (solving half of the Creamer Carton Problem), but the tp rolls and top half of the carton lack bottoms. What to do? Well, cutting each TP Roll in half makes them the right depth. Right now I have 3 tp rolls and one creamer carton. That means that I currently have 1 functional planter, meaning that solving half of the creamer carton problem solves one unit of the planter problem (we might call the planter problem an indefinite one — for our purposes, there is not a specific number of planters needed. At this more planters is better, and the problem isn’t so much one that can be ‘solved’ in the sense we are used to, as much as it is possible to contribute to the solution).
So at this point, we have 7 more potential solution units for the planter problem if we can just manage to get bottoms on those would-be planters, which would of course solve both the tp roll problem AND the second have of the creamer carton problem.
And so we will solve the remaining problem units by bringing the paper plate problem into the equation, which can serve as a bottom for all 6 toilet paper halves and the top half of the creamer carton. And there it is, all three tp rolls and both halves of the creamer carton AND the paper plate create 8 solutions units towards the Planter Problem.