For my birthday this year, Whitney purchased Numbers Rule Your World : The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do, by Kaiser Fung. In Numbers, Fung looks at the way we understand and apply probabilities and statistics in everyday life. Knowing me as she does, Whitney guessed—with a 95% confidence that she would be right—that I would enjoy the book and she was 100% correct.There are a lot of gems in the book but let me highlight just one for you amusement park enthusiasts and try to make a spiritual application.
What is the least enjoyable part of a trip to the park? For me, it is the long lines when the park is crowded. Fung offers the following assessment of long lines at Walt Disney World:
Queues happen when demand exceeds capacity. Most large rides can accommodate 1,000 to 2,000 guests per hour; lines form if patrons arrive at a higher rate. If Disney accurately anticipated demand, could it not build sufficient capacity? Did the appearance of long lines reflect negligent design? Surprisingly, the answer to both questions is no. The real culprit is not bad design but variability. Disney constructs each theme park to satisfy the “design day,” typically up to the ninetieth-percentile level of demand, which means, in theory, on nine out of ten days, the park should have leftover capacity. In reality, patrons report long lines pretty much any day of the year.
Worse, statisticians are certain that queues would persist even if Disney had designed for the busiest day of the year (8).The problem is not capacity but variability. A ride can handle 2,000 guests in an hour. The problem is that in a fifteen minute period, 3,000 guests may suddenly decide they want to visit that attraction.
There’s no way to account for this variability—or is there?To try and combat the problem of variability, Disney introduced “FastPass.” FastPass allows someone to visit a ride, receive a voucher to arrive at an attraction at a given time, and enter a different, shorter line. Variability is removed because the patron arrives at a certain time. Thus, from the moment they receive the voucher to the time they ride the ride the total wait time would be longer than if they simply stood in line but it feels like a shorter wait!
And guests—for the most part—love the system. Fung juxtaposes complaints of patrons who hate waiting in line with the praises of those who love the FastPass. Even though those with the FastPass are technically waiting longer to ride the ride they love the system.What does our Biblical understanding of life tell us about waiting in line?
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong about minimizing the time spent waiting in line. There’s nothing evil about finding things to do to allow us to feel more productive.If our heart attitudes are not right, however, things like FastPass are merely a placebo. They allow us to feel better while not really having our hearts change. I haven’t increased my ability to practice patience. I’m just not feeling the discomfort like I was before.
Patience is a fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22), indicating that my heart is growing more like Christ. As James says in James 5:7-11:
7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
Be careful not to confuse a change of circumstances with growth in sanctification.
By His Grace,