Things are not what they seem

What do you call two physicians with no opinions? A paradox.

I hope that was worth it. My wait just got twice as long.

Paradox. Defined by Merriam-Webster as “a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true.”

I have had a secret love affair with such statements for many years.

Things like “The most important years of a person’s life are the ones he or she won’t remember” (i.e., early childhood).

Perhaps it’s my backwards personality or my twisted sense of humor, but I’ve always loved when things aren’t what they seem.

Paradoxes first popped out at me in early Bible readings: The last shall be first. The “foolish” will shame the wise. Death brings life. Whoever wants to save his life must lose it. The Lord disciplines those he loves. Field laborers sleep better than the rich.

Then I saw them throughout the created world: The burning of a forest can make it more healthy. The tiniest acorn becomes the biggest oak. Eskimos stay warm inside of ice. You can die of thirst in an ocean of saltwater. The sun that makes life possible can burn you miserably.

And soon I saw them in every part of life:

In school. The least attractive 7th graders make the most attractive 21-year-olds. Street-smart C students land better jobs than book-smart A students. How does a sharp teacher get students quiet? By whispering, not yelling.

In sports. The advent of armor-like football padding has brought more injuries, not fewer. With tennis, baseball and soccer, the line is in; with basketball and football, the line is out. Games are won or lost in practice, not in games.

In relationships. We are most drawn to those who let us go. Living together before marrying makes divorce more likely, not less. The shortest marriages come from the world’s prettiest people. The more selfish you are, the worse yourself feels.

In government. Lower tax rates generate greater total revenues because there is stronger economic activity across the board.

In business. The biggest company in the country is based in Bentonville, Arkansas. Sales are best made by asking questions, not making statements. Paying more in employee benefits can lower total personnel costs over time.

In technology. Third world countries have the best wireless networks because they skipped the “legacy” wireline phase. Apple has been successful because it cannibalized its own products. Only a fool would argue now that Apple should never have made the iPhone because it would eat into iPod sales.

Steve Jobs was as much brilliant for what he left out of products as for what he put in them (RIP floppy disk drives and removable batteries).

In everyday life. If you write it down, you’ll remember it without the paper. Fatigue through exercise gives you energy. Scarcity makes things valuable. All-you-can-eat is not very satisfying.

Finally, and most compellingly, in country music. How do you get the most out of life? Live like you were dying.


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at

3 Responses to “Things are not what they seem”

  1. 1 Bennye Waskom August 18, 2013 at 23:39

    Good one Kevin. I enjoyed it. Thanks for coming last night. Bennye


    • 2 Juanita Overstreet August 19, 2013 at 00:05

      I enjoy all your writings! Your Dad sent me my first
      one and I asked him to keep sending all the ones you
      send him & you Mom. You do a great job & I love to
      research. Your writings intice me to research something
      which has influenced me & I
      appreciate that very much! Thanks, Juanita

  2. 3 jessestroup August 19, 2013 at 11:36

    I like it, I love it, I want       more       of it! Smiling, Jesse

      Jesse R. Stroup Director of Spiritual Care Lifeline Chaplaincy 2777 Stemmons Freeway, Ste. 1020 Dallas, TX 75207 214-678-0303


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