A story is told about an engineer, a psychologist, and a theologian who were hunting in the wilds of northern Canada. Suddenly, the temperature dropped, and a snow storm descended, lashing them with its fury. As they trudged on, they came across an isolated cabin, far removed from any town. Because friendly hospitality is a virtue practiced by those who live in the wilderness, the hunters knocked on the door to ask permission to rest.
No one answered their knocks, but, discovering the cabin was unlocked, they entered. It was a simple place—two rooms with a minimum of furniture and household equipment. Nothing was surprising about the cabin except the stove. Not the stove itself—it was large, potbellied, and made of cast iron. What was unusual was its location: it was suspended in midair by wires attached to the ceiling beams.
"Fascinating," said the psychologist, stroking his beard. "It is obvious that this lonely trapper, isolated from humanity, has elevated his stove so he can curl up under it and vicariously experience a return to the womb."
"Nonsense!" replied the engineer as he scratched some calculations in the dust on the cabin floor. "The man is familiar with the laws of thermodynamics. By elevating his stove, he has a way to distribute heat more evenly throughout the cabin."
"With all due respect," interrupted the theologian, folding his hands in a gesture of piety, "I'm sure that hanging his stove from the ceiling has religious meaning. Fire 'lifted up' has been a religious symbol for centuries."
The three debated the point for several hours without resolving the issue.
When the trapper finally returned, they immediately asked him why he had hung his heavy potbellied stove by wires from the ceiling.
His answer was succinct: "Had plenty of wire, not much stove pipe!"