The vonCube corollary (idea)
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A fascinating social tool, the vonCube corollary states that there is almost always an exception to every rule, and someone in a group of people will lack the necessary awareness which recognizes that they are not adding to the conversation by sharing an extreme case where the normal rules did not apply. Consider the following Socratic statement: All men are mortal. Most people would agree that this is valid, because there are billions of men on the planet, and men are continually dying just as baby boys arrive in this world on a daily basis. Every man I know can expect death, possibly some even anticipate it while others seek to delay this inevitability. If a group of people were standing around discussing the death of ancient philosophers and a member of the group jokingly declared that 'All men are mortal'; another member of the group may pipe up and announce that according to the Bible, both Enoch and Elijah were taken directly to heaven without first dying.
Supposing that the group accepts the biblical accounts as reliable, the statement does not further the conversation, nor does it add anything to the remark that all men are mortal since these two instances have not been repeated for millenia and neither of the two men mentioned are deceased Greek philosophers. At the most, a new discussion about whether a man who leaves this earth without dying is mortal or is actually immortal can ensue. Some people are very literal, others are reluctant to share the limelight. The vonCube corollary works in both scenarios because it acknowledges the fact that there are cases that do not follow the traditional rules. After your pedant cites an extreme example, they are expecting attention. This is where the vonCube corollary can be invoked. You casually remark that you had forgotten about Enoch and Elijah, thank the speaker for bringing it to your attention, after all, this person may know something you don't, and follow with a question to the person who made the statement about men being mortal. At no point should the vonCube corollary be mentioned by name, however it is entirely appropriate to mentally classify speakers in need of its coverage.
Here is the scenario in a different format:
Speaker 1: "The market was everywhere today, I can't remember the last time the trading floor was that busy. I didn't even get a chance to talk to Sandra, she got a lot of attention from the research analysts and the guys who run the short term bond funds monopolized her, of course, all crows under heaven are black."
Speaker 2: "The zoo in Naples has an albino crow. Some people claim that crows can't be trained to speak but this bird knows its caretakers by name and can recite pi out to a hundred digits. The crow's name is Charlie and it eats the carrots that are put out for the flamingos. Normally flamingos eat shrimp, that gives their feathers their distinctive coloring but shrimp costs too much so the zoo gives them carrots instead."
You: "Interesting. I wasn't aware that any crows ate carrots. I'll have to mention that to my parents, they're heading to Naples at the end of the month." Your attention returns to Speaker 1. "The market was crazy today, I got your text about Sandra's skirt, how did she handle the stress?"
Little is known about the reportedly reclusive Canadian responsible for the vonCube corollary, although a knowledge of fine wines, malt whisky, and a reluctance to appear in photographs are accepted as fact. Perhaps the best application of the vonCube corollary comes when you realize that it may be applied to yourself. You're standing around talking, or listening to people in the catbox, when someone makes a statement that would generally go unchallenged. The person's remark is not wrong, but you have unconventional knowledge of an out of the ordinary time when the rules were broken. The problem is, your anecdote doesn't further the conversation and the previous speaker's comment was an offhand remark. Invocation of vonCube's corollary upon yourself spares you the label of conversational hijacker and preserves social harmony. Listening is an acquired skill; security and self awareness coupled with the vonCube corollary will place you in that camp of people who are astute enough to realize that there is a time to speak and a time to refrain from a tangential references.
Communication with your fellow beings ought to be a privilege. Everyone participating in a given conversation has a different role which can change as the conversation progresses. Interrupting people is rude. Train yourself to be a good listener, be sensitive to the flow of speech, observe conversational lags where a new point or narrowly known fact is appropriate, and avoid monologuing after you speak. Including other people in the conversation is always appropriate. If you don't care to listen to what other people have to say, or fancy yourself above them, why not let people who want to speak with each other and freely exchange ideas mingle without you? Find new, stimulating people to hang out with if the people you know are lackluster or ill informed. Every day we make choices about the way we live our lives. Resolving to internalize the vonCube corollary will make you a more attentive speaker because you will be listening for your cues instead of focusing on when you get to speak next. And now, if you'll excuse me, there is another corollary that requires investigation.
For a real time application of the the vonCube corollary, and the first recorded instance of its invocation, please refer to the full disclaimer revealed at the end of wine aging.