* * *
One sunny day this last summer, while walking to the park, I saw my neighbor power mowing his lawn in his bare feet.
I asked him, and admittedly my manner and tone were both accusatory and condescending, “Have you lost your mind? Don’t you realize that your naked feet are vulnerable to seriously injury?”
He reciprocated in kind with an answer that was irritatingly superior, given to me clothed in a tone of unctuous politesse. He explained, “Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of lawn-mowing accidents, in fact almost all, involve people wearing shoes. Very, very few lawn mowing accidents, in fact almost none, have involved people with bare feet.” “So,” he reasoned, “I don’t think I’m out of my mind, I think your actuary reasoning is defective. You’re apparently ignorant of the statistics, because statistics force the conclusion that power-mowing accidents are most likely to happen to people wearing shoes.”
I nodded, bid him good-day and walked on. Well . . . we had both expressed opinions defining us as persons of opposing issues. But, just because we’re all entitled to an occasional opinion doesn’t mean that all opinions are equally reasonable. I thought that the lawn mower’s opinion could use a little fine-tuning, i.e., the unskewing of his statistics.
* * *
While continuing my walk, I gave some thought to analyzing the fallacy environment of our exchange. When I thought my neighbor should, in the circumstance of his activity of the moment, be wearing shoes, I became (with that thought), a person with an issue. In the broader sense we don’t need a discussion or a dispute to have an issue; an issue can be raised in a single person’s thoughts. If a circumstance raises a question in your mind, then it’s an issue for you. In this case my issue was the truth or errancy of my implied premise that it is dangerous to power-mow a lawn in bare feet.
Well, my opinion is that it is dangerous to power mow a lawn while your feet are naked. I justify this position by modestly asserting that I too am entitled to an occasional (of course, prudently infrequent) opinion, but . . . admitting that my opinion might also need a little fine-tuning (however improbable that might seem to the readers of this scrivening).