We all find ourselves in confusing situations now and again. Occasionally, though, they seem to defy any sense of logic or reason. That is to say, sooner or later, you may encounter a paradox:
It’s quite simple, as you explain. You see, if everything that happens is God’s will, then can you truly have made any decision yourself? For some reason, however, the jury at your trial for insider trading seems disinclined to agree.
You build a time machine to investigate the cause of the fire that took your parent’s life. Hiding in the dry brush behind their house, you watch them on that fated day, waiting to see who sets it. Of course, the wait is a bit boring. Surely a cigarette can’t hurt? And why shouldn’t you be able to nap while you smoke it?
You’ve built up a good life as a barber, known for shaving only those who do not shave themselves. One day, a customer poses you a simple question: “Do you shave yourself?” You’ve never thought about this before. Do you? You can’t seem to recall. You stare into the distance, thinking, unaware of anything happening around you. The customer shakes you, but you do not look at him. You merely sit down, weeping. You never shave another man again.
You and your partner in crime are arrested for both murder and shoplifting, but they only have enough evidence to prove the latter charge. Worse, now the police are asking you to throw him under the bus! Here’s the deal: If you both stay silent, you both go to prison for shoplifting. If you both attempt to throw each other under the bus, you both go to prison for murder. If one throws the other under a bus, though, only the betrayed man goes to prison for murder. Tough, right? Fortunately, you can count on your partner’s silence. Unfortunately, you try to pin way too much on him. When the cops realize he did not, in fact, “take down the Hindenburg,” they’re not so friendly anymore.
You make up your mind to go get the girl of your dreams! Excited, you leave right away. Sooner than you think, you’re already halfway there! Even sooner after that, you’ve covered half the remaining distance. And then half the remaining distance once more. You halve the distance to her over and over again, and yet can’t seem to arrive. O, how love breeds agony!
While traipsing through the jungle one day, a crocodile manages to steal your baby! Worse yet, he tells you that he’ll only return your child if you guess what he’ll do next. Desperate, you guess, “You’ll keep him?” This confuses the crocodile. Does this mean he must keep the baby? Or that he must give them back? “Either way,” you think to yourself as you leave the jungle. “It’s his problem now.”
When your friend claims to possess a winning lottery ticket, you can’t help but laugh at the poor creature. You patiently explain that, because the odds of any individual ticket winning are so low, you can assume any given ticket is a loser. Therefore, she might as well throw hers out. In fact, you do so for her. She seems to disagree, however, and now she’s angrily calling you greedy, rude, and a whole slew of other words you can’t hear over the sounds of her plates whizzing past your head.
As a poor law student, your wise, elderly professor, Protagoras, promises you that you can take his class for free, as long as you pay him once you win your first case. However, as soon as you graduate, he sues you for payment. If he wins, you lost your first case, and therefore cannot pay him! If you win, you’ve won your first case, and therefore must! This dilemma confounds the judge, who simply decides to send you both to Riker’s.
You can be a real rascal sometimes, which is why you’re on death row. The guards assure you that the day of your execution, though it will be this week, will be unexpected. You realize that this means you can assume it won’t be Friday, as you’ll be expecting it by then if it hasn’t happened yet. Which means it also can’t be Thursday, for the same reasons. And so on, and so forth, until you realize that there’s no possible day you can be executed, as none of them would be a surprise! Unfortunately, the guard was lying. It’s Tuesday.
“Hey Pinocchio!” you call out. Your friends start giggling, aware of what’s to come. “What happens if you say, ‘My nose will now grow?’” You all burst out laughing, oblivious to the rage in the wooden boy’s eyes; unaware his nose has been sharpened to a tip. He marches right up to you, and whispers, “The free market rewards efficiency.” Your friends can only look on in horror as his horrid schnozz bursts through your chest.
You volunteer to go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby. Unfortunately, he’s an insanely ripped baby. Just absurdly muscular. He beats the shit out of you, and it’s not even close.
As a pilot in the Air Force, you’d love to get taken off combat duty. Unfortunately, the only way to get out of it is to be declared insane. The only way to do that is to ask a doctor to diagnose you. Of course, if you ask a doctor that, then you’re certainly sane, and have to face combat. It’s a real pickle. Fortunately, you remember that you can just threaten the doctor until he complies.