Ruby, Yoga for your Brain

Just a fun little bit of writing, for a contest

LISP has jokingly been described as “the most intelligent way to misuse a computer”. I think that description a great compliment because it transmits the full flavour of liberation: it has assisted a number of our most gifted fellow humans in thinking previously impossible thoughts.

The analysis of the influence that programming languages have on thinking habits of its users, and the recognition that, by now, brainpower is by far our scarcest resource, they together give us a new collection of yardsticks for comparing the relative merits of various programming languages. The competent programmer is fully aware of the strictly limited size of his own skull…

- Edsger W. Dijkstra, The Humble Programmer

“Brainpower is by far our scarcest resource,” indeed. Why then, would I want mine blown? I’d rather gently stretch it. Extend it. Liberate it. Yoga for my brain, please.

In yoga, you honor your body’s suggested threshold of pain. If you can’t do the full posture, don’t hurt yourself, but try this modification, so you still benefit. When you’re ready, you can try the full posture.

Ruby is like yoga for your mind. Ruby encourages you to stretch to your limits, and come back when you’re ready for more. You can write getters and setters, and old-school for loops, and Ruby won’t complain…but it’ll gently encourage you to try attr_reader and attr_writer, and block iteration. You can write your own database access code, until you’re ready to try active record. You can write straight OO, and never leave the Kingdom of Nouns, until you’re ready to try something more functional.

Ruby lets you learn new things, in a familiar setting. With Ruby, you can honor your mind’s suggested threshold of pain. Ruby hasn’t blown my mind, and I trust it never will. A few nasties have blown my mind, and it’s never fun. It takes time to recover from abuse like that. I’d rather follow the yogis out there, and enjoy the benefits of life-long mental flexibility.

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