The Spear-Shield Paradox

There is an old paradox, ‘Irresistible force meets immovable object’. The earliest mention of this paradox appears in 3rd century, BCE Chinese philosophical book Han Feizi where it’s called the spear and shield paradox, what would happen if a spear that can cut through any shield meets a shield that can resist any weapon.
In Greek Mythology the paradox takes the shape of the Teumessian Fox Story. Teumessian Fox or the Cadmean Vixen, was an animal in Greek mythology that always evaded its hunter. It was sent by the god Dionysus, to punish the city of Thebes for a crime the people had committed. Eventually, Creon, the regent of the city, told Amphitryon to catch and kill the fox. Amphitryon had the idea of bringing the dog Laelaps in his aid; Laelaps was able to catch whatever prey it was after. Thus, the paradox was created; a fox that could never be caught was hunted by a dog that caught everything it hunted. Zeus bored of the racket turned both animals into constellations; Laelaps became the constellation Canis Major, and the Teumessian Fox became Canis Minor and the chase continues across the night sky.
In popular culture the irresistible force paradox finds several mentions, Superman v/s Ultrasphinx, Batman v/s Joker in the 2008 film, The Dark Knight and my favourite one, where Mandrake’s Majordomo, Inter-Intel Chief, 7th degree Dan Black belt Hojo meets Lothar, Mandrake’s bestie and world’s strongest man, with the power of 10 men and the strength to pick up an elephant in hand to hand combat.
The most recent illustration of the paradox was closer home, nay at home on day 3 of complete isolation:
Kid1: Devoo wash your hands
Kid 2: Whistling tunelessly
Kid1: DEVOO, wash your hands
Kid2: Doing pull-ups with utmost focus
Kid2: Drops down to do push ups
Kid1: MOTHER! Get your son to wash his hands. Is there no other adult in this house?!
Kid2: Deliberately touching all surfaces he can find.
Kid1: I can’t take this anymore. I’m calling the cops. DEVOOOOOOO. WASH YOUR GODDAMN HANDS.
Kid2: Trying to wipe his hands on a towel

When Superman encounters the Ultrasphinx, who asks “What happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object?”, Superman answers “They surrender.” So I did. I slept.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s