Do you want a big rock or a small rock? You have to pick one or the other. A huge, heavy, substantial, unbreakable hunk of granite? Or a tiny, buoyant, crumbly piece of pumice?
Which one do you want?
I’m assuming you know what the rock is for. The question would be silly — utterly stupid and pointless — unless we all already agreed on what the rock is for. No point in asking about the proper size or weight of the rock unless we know that — unless we all share a comprehensive, proper and correct understanding of the purpose of said rock.
After all, that’s what determines the appropriate size, shape and weight of the thing, right? You wouldn’t want to be picking out a good flagstone only to find out later that what you really needed was a slingstone. If the rock is something you’ll be building on, that’s quite a different prospect than a rock you’ll be carrying. We all agree that the rocks we’re standing on and building on need to be solid and unshakable, while at the same time we all agree that any rocks we have to heft on our backs should be as small and light as possible. We all agree that we want tiny rocks on our shoulders that won’t burden us or weigh us down. And we all agree that we want massive, unmovable rocks beneath us, upholding our homes and businesses and keeping us from collapsing into a bottomless pit.
But there’s no need to clarify which sort of rock we’re talking about here. We can just assume that everyone already knows that.
That’s how professional pollsters like Michael Dimock, associate director of the Pew Research Center, approach such questions.
“We are in the midst of a fundamental debate” between big and small Dimock says of his poll findings. “It’s almost exactly down the middle … almost 50-50.”
So which side of that fundamental debate are you on? Do you want a big rock or a small one?
You have to pick one or the other.