August 26, 1998,8:00 p.m.

 After we dropped off Jamie this morning, we had to stop at Wal-Mart to pick up a new lock for Brian's locker.

Yesterday, someone took his old one.

They didn't take anything that was in the locker...they just took the lock!

All the books, notebooks, supplies et al that he had in there were intact. Someone had taken the lock and only the lock. It's as if bank robbers blew a bank safe open, and then carried the bank door out, rather than the money.

Yeah, I know. Probably some kid forgot his lock,and took Brian's, somehow. Still, it is kind of funny...someone stealing the thing, and only the thing, that is supposed to keep thieves out...

Senseless, but funny..

Fair warning: philosophical musings practical applications, just a thought experiment.

 Some things are fantasy, but not senseless. Tonight on the Disney Channel, they showed DUCK TALES: THE MOVIE, in which Scrooge McDuck and company found a genie in a bottle. This morning, as I was helping Jamie get dressed, the cartoon ALADDIN was on. The other night, the first episode of I DREAM OF JEANNIE was on, bless Barbara Eden's harem pants. All of these featured omnipotent supernatural beings that can grant any wish.

Or...can they?

Suppose there is theoretically no limit to the genie's powers. Suppose they can literally do anything. That they can create worlds out of soap bubbles, or use the Big Bang as a reading light. Are there things even an omnipotent being like a Jinn out of the Arabian Nights cannot do?

Despite the definition of "omnipotence"...I think so.

 Suppose you were a fisherman out of the Arabian Nights, pulling out of his nets an old lamp. He rubs it, and the mist rises, and resolves itself into a giant figure with blue flames where his eyes should be, and a voice like thunder.

"MORTAL! I first vowed to give the person who freed me from my prison three wishes! But as the centuries mounted, I made a further vow...that I would kill the person who freed me for making me wait so long. Make your wishes, for they will be your last act....."

The fisherman thinks for a second.

"You can't kill me until all three wishes are granted?"

"Indeed. But there is nothing beyond my power, so that won't take long."

"What if I wish to become immortal and invulnerable?"

"Then I will place you in space, light-years from any star, where your immortal life would be, after a few centuries in airless space, a cause for madness..."

"Hmmm. Three wishes....very well, the first wish."

"Make them good, mortal. They are your last..."

 "My first wish is....I want you to make me a seven-sided triangle."

The jinn looks down at the fisherman, his cocksure look replaced with an unaccustomed doubt.


"Secondly, I want you to make a world where there are valleys but no mountains."


"Thirdly, I want you to make a world where two plus two equals three...and three can be made into two sets of two."



"A triangle is a figure with three sides! A seven-sided single triangle is meaningless! It can't be done!"

"So much for 'omnipotence'..."

"Or a valley without any mountains to contrast it not a valley! A depression, maybe, but not a valley...."

"Not my problem. It's yours. You have to deliver."

" can I change what numbers add up to? 'Four' is just another name for 'Two plus Two'...."

"Again, not my problem. But after...and only grant those wishes....then you can kill me." He turned his back on the jinn. "Good luck!"

 The same holds true of any virtual reality we might develop. We could create worlds where cities floated in the sky or tigers lived on the sea's bottom...but we couldn't make a world, even a virtual world, where a cube could,a t the same time, be a virtual sphere, of have a desert exist, without any covering, at the bottom of the ocean.... and still be a desert. . It isn't possible, even for someone who's omnipotent. It's not as if such things are beyond the power of one of the omnipotent beings....just that some things cannot be done. Period.

Thomas Aquinas once maintained there was one thing that even God cannot do, and that's to make something that is logically contradictory. I agree...such a thing is senseless.

It's nice to know that even omnipotence isn't.....everything. That ultimate power isn't enough.

That's my thought experiment for the night.

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