For five years, I attended a postgraduate seminar group two or three times a year. The twenty-eight hour gatherings, from 10 am on a Monday until 2 pm on a Tuesday were always a stimulating experience. The intention was that I would register for a PhD, with ordinary theology, the everyday beliefs of ordinary people, being the research field. The gatherings provided an experience thoroughly other than the daily reality of parish work and although theology, ordinary or otherwise, is now a thing of the past, and I would never have had the discipline required to complete a doctoral thesis, there were useful things learned.
The best discovery of the five years was the wide applicability of the word “heuristic,” in Irish vernacular it seemed the sort of approach to answering a question that would be encapsulated in the expression , “sure, it will do.” The Wikipedia entry for “heuristic” says:
A heuristic technique, often called simply a heuristic, is any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method, not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect, logical, or rational, but instead sufficient for reaching an immediate goal. Where finding an optimal solution is impossible or impractical, heuristic methods can be used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution. Heuristics can be mental shortcuts that ease the cognitive load of making a decision. Examples that employ heuristics include using a rule of thumb, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, a guesstimate, stereotyping, profiling, or common sense.
The acceptance of something that is not optimal, perfect, logical or rational, but will be sufficient for reaching an immediate goal is an appealing concept, it is a make do and mend attitude, a feeling that just enough to get by is all that is needed.
The laptop computer on which this is being typed is the single worst purchase I ever made. Bought at the beginning of 2011, it has never worked properly. Having struggled with it for a year, in 2012 I took it to a shop where they understood computers rather than kitchen appliances, a patient man explained that it had not been built with the physical capacity to cope with the tasks asked of it. He doubled the size of the RAM but apologised there was nothing more he could do.
Nursing it through the years since, it has become slower and slower, even booting with a minimal start menu takes five minutes. So many words have been typed that there are letters on the keyboard that are now illegible. Yet, only using it to type things here, to purchase a new machine seems wasteful. The long pauses that follow the frequent freezes of the screen are just extra opportunity to think. I like to think of it as an heuristic computer.