Which came first, the chicken or the ed?

Y’ caught me. I meant “egg”, of course.

So which did come first? It’s a basic Philosophy 101 question, and one designed to stump people, to stop them in their transcendental tracks.

The theoretical question is so popular that it’s not surprising that someone would eventually try to make a buck out of it and who better to do that than Disney? In order to promote their 2006 release of Chicken Little on DVD, Disney organized a three-man team–a geneticist, a philosopher, and a chicken farmer–to discover the answer. (I’m not kidding.) And no, I’m not going to tell you their conclusion until the end of this entry.

What about this question–can God make a rock so big that he can’t lift it? Do you have any idea how many different websites actually try to answer this question? It’s absurd.

How about this one–which wing of the airplane would you rather not have? Duh. This one gives us a better clue that the problem with many of these unanswerable questions is not the answer, it’s the question.

I have a confession: I’m a hopeless romantic with a weakness for chivalry. There’s a fantasy series I catch on Netflix (Legend of the Seeker) that meets both of those qualifications. Based on Terry Goodkind’s, Wizard’s First Rule, the story involves The Seeker, a young man whose purpose–in the novel more than the TV series–is to seek the Truth in all its varying complexities. More often than not, his veridical pursuits cost him something but he isn’t seeking the truth for convenience or because it makes things easy, he’s seeking it quite simply because it is The Truth. And truth hurts sometimes.

The Samaritan Woman in John understood the dual pain/peace experience that often accompanies the truth. In her initial meeting with Jesus, her questions and suppositions weren’t just out of left field, they were all over the park and bouncing off the bleachers. Like the rest of us, she was just trying to look like she knew what the heck she was talking about. Jesus cleared the smoke when he told her the truth was all that mattered, and the woman embraced it.

On the other end of his ministry, and with a completely opposite response to the truth was Pilate. When Jesus challenged the governor that anyone who pursued the truth would see him for who he was, Pilate took the other fork in the road, the classic I-don’t-want-to-know response–“What is truth?” He might as well have joined Descartes in asking, “Do I think, therefore I am” or “I am, therefore I think”?

So why do we love to throw out those types of questions? Why do we love to chase our tales with controversy? I scanned a dozen articles in my research of this topic and I came away more confused then when I started. All those $10 words make writers sound intelligent and readers feel stupid.

Why do we do it? Simple–deflection. Sorry, let me dumb that down. We don’t like the truth. The truth exposes us. It forces us to make a choice. I don’t want to face the truth of the bathroom scale after the Thanksgiving holidays because there are still leftovers in the frig I want to enjoy. So I deflect and neglect to do my habitual scale-treading. If I don’t see the extra pounds the pecan pie added to my hips, then I can pretend they’re not there. I can deflect and neglect to go to the gym after work because, ah, shucks, I forgot my workout clothes.

It’s like those Chik-Fil-A cows, the ones who are always advertising how wonderful chicken is so they can keep their own flabby beef flanks intact. Let’s just cast the attention elsewhere so we don’t have to face the music.

It makes me all the more grateful that I didn’t live during the ages when the Bible was written. Our ancestors tried to deflect all over the place inventing ways to violate the Ten Commandments but were exposed and called on the carpet again and again by prophets or God himself. And with the Bible being the all-time bestseller in history, EVERYBODY still knows about it. Talk about getting your nose rubbed in it.

It makes me look at myself more closely and consider–what kind of questions do I ask others? What kind of questions do I lay before God? What do those questions say about me, about my love for the truth? When my husband points out my lack of patience with my mother, do I deflect? Do I throw it back at him so I don’t have to face the painful-then-peaceful truth? When my kids point out that I just had my fifth Christmas cookie of the batch, do I question their motives? (They did only get four cookies themselves.)
Why do we feel such pressure to twist the questions to make them work to our advantage? I’m sure if the Chik-Fil-A cows approached the hens in the Chik-Fil-A farms with the age old Chicken-Egg Dilemma, you gotta wonder what how the chickens would respond. Maybe, who got ate first, the chicken or the egg?

By the way, the answer that the Disney-funded “research team” came to of the original question was (drumroll)–the egg. I guess none of them ever read the original version of what happened on The Fifth Day.

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