Stone pillar

Hamurabai today?

Hammurabi reigned over Babylon from 1795-1750 BC. The code of law that he set down (on an 8 foot stone pillar) is considered the predecessor of Jewish and Islamic legal systems alike. Here are rules that applied for a house builder

  • If a builder build a house for some one, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.
  • If it kill the son of the owner the son of that builder shall be put to death.
  • If it kill a slave of the owner, then he shall pay slave for slave to the owner of the house.
  • If it ruin goods, he shall make compensation for all that has been ruined, and inasmuch as he did not construct properly this house which he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means.
  • If a builder build a house for some one, even though he has not yet completed it; if then the walls seem toppling, the builder must make the walls solid from his own means.

The Hamurabi code was brutal – but no doubt extremely effective.  Poor workmanship in roads and other major infrastructure is not mentioned – infrastructure was somewhat limited back in Babylonian times.

Question for today:   If you were to bring the code up to date for infrastructure, what might you include?  And would you limit your penalties to workmanship alone, or would you include poor decision-making?    Have fun! 

That’s interesting! I wonder why?

bottle balanced on chair

That’s interesting! I wonder why?

Over the last few posts, I have been looking at assumptions.  Questioning assumptions is a way of more fully engaging with the ideas presented, of getting involved in the dialogue.

However asking ‘Why?’ should not be an excuse to let loose our inner 4-year old.  We owe it to our own understanding and that of others to say ‘why we are asking why’.

Is it because we genuinely do not understand and want to know more (a neutral stance)?  Then, let’s be honest and say so. Admitting we need to know more is a sign of intelligent recognition of our own (current) limits.

Often it is because we believe the assumption to be at fault and we are seeking to trip up the speaker with our question. This is   not such a neutral stance.  It is also probably responsible for our reaction when our own assumptions are challenged, to vigorously defend them and to suppose the questioner must be at fault – and probably just a bit stupid!  So now we have an antagonistic situation where neither party learns anything.

There is a way out of this negative situation.  Whether it is your assumptions that are being questioned, or the assumptions of others are arousing doubt in you, the most productive reaction is to say “That’s interesting!  I wonder why?”   Why is my assumption being questioned?   Why am I having a gut reaction to the assumption of another?  In both cases, by all means think through possible answers, but be wary of too quickly coming to a conclusion.  Ask!  But in a spirit of genuine, interested, curiosity.   If you preface your question with “That’s interesting!”  (and mean it!) you will be surprised by the genuine conversation that can follow.