Murphy Was Wrong

You know Murphy's Law and may enjoy lists of its many corollaries. Basically it's the idea that "If anything can go wrong it will", and even more ominously, "If more than one thing can go wrong it will be the worst one", etc. I haven't quite worked my response out, but I think I'm far enough along that there may be something to share. Too bad I didn't put two and two together before Oprah went off the air. I slip into seeing traces of the truth of Murphy's Law in situations like being in a hurry and getting stuck at red lights. "It's always that way. When you're in a hurry you get red lights, when you have plenty of time you get green." It hit me a couple of weeks ago that Murphy's Law may be connected more to the effects of human perception and memory than it is to thermodynamics ("the universe is headed towards disorganization"). You just notice things going wrong more, and remember them better. You don't remember all the times you were in a hurry and got lucky with green lights, or when you were not in a hurry and hit red lights. Murphy's Law is a reflection of the way the human brain processes experience.

Maybe if we had a name for the opposite effect it would be easier to grab ahold of and see pleasant patterns. It's worth a try. How about "Willey's Law"? "If anything can go right it will, and if more than one thing can go right the best one will." Then when you're in a hurry and you hit a green light it won't just slip by unnoticed, you'll say "There it goes again—Willey's Lawwhen I really needed it something good happened."

Let yourself be lucky. It's not something magical, like a shimmering glow you get from being tapped by a fairy's wand. If you don't believe it, check out Richard Wiseman's article ("The Luck Factor") on a ten-year scientific study into the nature of luck.

Anyway, back to my debunking of Murphy's Law. If everything that could go wrong, and the worst of all possible ones being most likely, you would never get anything accomplished. You definitely wouldn't make it to work, what with the accidents that could have happened and all the mechanical problems your vehicle could have developed.

While this may perk you up a little and give you a bit more bounce in your step, I think the most productive application of this awareness could be in your relationship with your partner. We often develop resentments about the way people who are close to us are, seeing patterns and believing that we have figured them out. "You are always doing X."  It is another result of the sort of perception we have that makes us imagine Murphy's Law in effect. You just don't notice all the times that they are doing YZ, or J. If you think that someone is a certain way, try remaining especially attentive to times  they are not that way, and be willing to revise your estimation of them. Resentments are often hardened by believing in patterns that may not be there.