When I was raking leaves in the front lawn recently, I was reminded yet again of the law of diminishing returns, which I learned about in my first college freshman economics class.
I don’t recall the definition, but I’ve always remembered the example. If someone gives you an ice cream cone, that’s great! If someone gives you a second cone, that’s OK, but not nearly as satisfying. And someone gives you a third cone, why that might give you a headache from brain freeze or a stomach ache.
Raking leaves is like that. You rake the yard the first time and you get about 90% of the leaves. You have a strong feeling of accomplishment. You rake it a second time and maybe you get 80% of the remaining 10% or 8% of the yard; not nearly so satisfying. A third time, when you’re making even more effort for not very much of a result? I just can’t be bothered.
Incidentally, when I rake leaves by myself, I put them in a garbage can with tires, and wheel them to the compost pile in the backyard. But when I do this with my wife, we put the leaves in those bags with openings that are too small, and the bags don’t stand on their own. I think my way is better, but the law makes discussing this yet again fruitless.
It’s somewhat like debate on Facebook. Someone writes a piece on the platform that you know for sure is 100% wrong. You comment on the page perhaps with a link to collaborating evidence. He – it’s more often a he – says you’re stupid, and probably don’t even love your country.
You warily try one more time, but it is met with a buzz saw of further resistance. So you walk away. You WALK AWAY. Well, that’s what I do because it just isn’t worth the effort.
I’ve discovered that the law of diminishing returns applies to lots of situations. It sure beats having a Twitter war over insignificant stuff.
In the late 1990s, someone stole my boom box from my office at work.
It’s practically a tradition; I rake leaves on Veterans Day, or shortly thereafter. Usually, some ill wind blows the bulk of the leaves off the huge oak in the back, and the maple tree, not to mention the Japanese maple, in the front.
It’s one of those activities that allows for creative thought. Musing about raking, or the alternatives to it, such as leaf blowers, for instance.
So I don’t mind raking, though my wife is much more thorough than I. She’ll leave one leaf per square meter, and I might leave a dozen. My law of diminishing returns cuts in sooner I guess. I DON’T LIKE stepping into a hidden pile of dog manure, though, since we don’t own a dog.
When I’m out there, I like to play music. I don’t want to get some headphones, though; I do that every day at work. I want to hear music blasting out of my boom box. Continue reading “The Zen of raking”
The issue is perpetual fidelity to the great lawn gods.
One of the things I most remember from my freshman year of college is Law of Diminishing Returns. It was a concept in my Economics 101 course, and suggests that more is not necessarily better. The illustration that sticks in my mind is this: One ice cream cone tastes delicious. Subsequent cones do not provide the same amount of pleasure as that first dessert; in fact, that third or fourth cone may be less than tasty and, indeed, more tummy-ache-inducing.
That’s how I feel about raking leaves. That first pass generates a sensation of good feeling. But subsequent sweeps over the same area, when fewer leaves are being moved, are far less satisfying.