Penkava: An unbearable approach to logic
The other day, my wife and I were sitting at the dining room table having lunch together. She had just received the latest issue of “Better Homes and Gardens” in the mail and was perusing it. I was looking out the window watching the Special Forces Squirrel Squad carry out Operation Urgent Belly as they overtook the birdfeeders with stealth and nibbles.
I happened to glance down at where my wife was in her magazine and saw a page that had a photo of a bear. I wondered how a bear would make our home and garden better, so I asked my wife.
“No, Mike, I’m not thinking about getting a giant brown bear to improve the potency of our compost. It’s an advertisement.”
“We could call the bear ‘Larry.’ I always liked that name.”
“Michael, it’s an ad. Just look at the squirrels.”
But there was something intriguing about that bear photo, so I politely asked to see the ad. Above the bear in big letters it read:
Bears love the taste of berries.
Bears don’t cough.
You draw the conclusion.
Under the picture of the bear was an offer of a new berry-flavored cough syrup.
What conclusion should I draw? This is like a puzzle. Let’s see … there are these bears, right? They are eating berries. Then they don’t cough. What does it all mean?
My first thought was that perhaps it means that bears that eat berries and are not coughing have developed an autoimmune system resistant to pulmonary irritant receptors in the epithelium of the respiratory tract. But that sounded too simple.
Maybe berry-eating bears are just too busy eating berries to cough. You know, when you’re so focused on something that you forget to do something else, such as when you’re so busy writing a column in your office that you forget that it’s time to watch “The Littlest Groom,” a reality show in which a group of tiny bachelorettes compete against average-sized women for the heart of a 4-foot, 5-inch bachelor. That would make anyone forget to cough, right?
Another theory I had about the noncoughing bears is that it is possible that the bears, in search of berries, have broken into someone’s camp and stole a backpack that contained a bottle of this new cough medicine. Somehow they opened the bottle, drank the contents, and now are wandering the forests cough-free.
Then again, what about other species of bears? Take, for example, polar bears. There are no berries growing up above the Arctic Circle, right? I betcha they’d love some berries to offset their steady diet of seal fat and an occasional beluga whale carcass. But does the lack of berries impact their coughing? I designed another syllogism to contemplate this possibility …
Polar bears don’t have berries.
They eat mostly fat.
You draw the conclusion.
Geesh, that’s easy. It’s obvious that polar bears will cough like crazy because of a fat-dominated diet lacking small, round, juicy fruits, right? I think I’m really getting this specious argument thing down. I wonder if I can carry this into human food consumption. Let’s see …
All humans must eat food to survive.
Chocolate cake is food.
I must eat chocolate cake to survive.
Let’s move into marital relationships …
Women want to marry a genius.
My wife married me.
I am a genius.
So, thanks to the syllogistic bears, I have suddenly become a lot smarter and now have unlimited access to chocolate cake. Oh, and the connection between the bears and the cough medicine? I guess the proper conclusion is that if brown bears used their product, they wouldn’t eat berries anymore and polar bears would cough. At least that’s what I got out of it.
• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He currently is reading “Better Homes and Gardens” to find more cool pictures of animals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.