Robert Sproule

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Everything posted by Robert Sproule

  1. Thought & Action

    Thought & Action Please be advised that I am not a psychologist, and have not studied psychology; that Americans and especially Canadians should bear in mind that Americans and Canadians are brothers, and, by comparison to most of the rest of the cultures on this planet, we are soul mates; and Canadians in the context of this article means primarily English Canadian males. That said, perhaps you have noticed, as some comedians have, that many Canadians and Americans have very similar opinions of each other on man’s fundamental nature – the fact that he can think and act. Man also has an emotional capacity, but what he feels is the product of the thinking he does and the actions he takes. And since man has free will – you can read on or not – what he thinks or does is a matter of willpower. Man can’t change what he feels by an act of will, but he can change what he thinks and does, and that will eventually change what he feels. (A man who has difficulty changing the subject of his thoughts should…try…thinking…more…slowly.) In the realm of thought, you may have heard Americans say, “Canadians are the thinkers” or “I thought I could think until I came to Canada.” And Canadians say, “Americans are not as intelligent” or “They are not as honest.” That Canadians seem to be more honest is quite well known to Americans; many think if he is a Canadian he won’t lie to them – unscrupulous Canadian telemarketers take advantage of this. A lack of respect for honesty also presents itself in the province of Quebec. And not being honest is just plain stupid. (There are those, with serious psychological problems, who think honesty is for suckers.) In the realm of action, you may have heard Americans say, “You know what it’s like trying to get a Canadian going.” And Canadians say, “Americans are more gung-ho” or “Canadians are lazy. They will not make the effort to reach their goals.” Both Americans and Canadians seem to agree on a possible cause of this phenomenon. Americans will say, “Canadians need to take more pride in their country.” To which, Canadians will agree. I disagree. Canadians have reached a sufficient depth of pride in their country. “My country, right or wrong.” is a statement that will have more adherents in America or Quebec than in English Canada. Other possible causes may include the American Revolution. Americans fought – men of action – for their independence. Many that disagreed with the Revolution, Loyalists, moved north to Canada. Religion may be a contributing factor; both America and Quebec are more religious than English Canada. Canada’s cradle-to-grave welfare state may inhibit ambition, but Quebec has the same welfare state and French Canadians are more outgoing than English Canadians. Whatever the cause of this phenomenon – that Canadians tend to think more than Americans and Americans tend to act more than Canadians – it seems to be compounded, in both countries, in the sexes. As they progress through high school, girls seem to sacrifice their reason in favour of their interest in boys. Ask any Canadian high-school boy on spring break in Florida what he thinks of American high-school girls and his answer will invariably be: “They are incredibly stupid.” And the Canadian male is “harder to get going.” There is nothing wrong with pride in one’s country or an interest in boys, but one should not sacrifice one’s reason to either – or to anything else. It may be argued that nationalism or religion can provide an incentive to act, but a rational man is self-motivated – he sets a goal and goes for it. So, why is the Canadian male hard to get going – where is his motivation? Suppose he thinks he might like to start a business. If he thinks too long range, too far into the future, envisions too big of a challenge, he might think his goal is too difficult to achieve, and give up before getting started. He should break up his goal into smaller, more achievable goals – the success of achieving smaller goals will provide incentive to go on towards his main goal. But, what if he concludes that his goal is not too difficult, but too easy? I think more than a few women can identify with the following scenario: she gets angry at someone – for good cause or not – and rather than confronting the object of her anger, she envisions her response: what she will do, how she will get even. She has no intention of exacting her revenge, but she plans it over and over again (This explains why some women have such phenomenal memories for such things) until she feels like she’s done it, and the anger is gone. The Canadian male does the same type of thing – but with a far more serious subject – he does it with his goals. Again, suppose he thinks he might start a business. He plans it, thinks about it for months, envisions it operating, daydreams about it over and over again until he feels like he has done it, or concludes it’s too easy and gets bored with it, and the desire is gone. Why does he do this? So he doesn’t have to act. Ask any successful businessman, which is more important in the creation of a business – brains or guts. And most will answer, as I would, guts. And there is good reason for this – the man who goes for it has a crucial ally – reality. Reality will teach him a lesson. He will soon learn that many of his mistakes could have been avoided. What lesson will reality teach him? To think. But the English speaking Canadian male has no such ally. He is free to think on and on – never testing any of his ideas in the real world. And since his ideas are never tested, he is free to imagine scenarios far removed from reality – such as starting at the top of a chosen field – ignoring the value of gaining experience in that field. Many will openly admit that they do not have the guts – he will freely admit even to that, rather than summon up the courage to act. We are not born with courage. The success of achieving smaller goals will also provide courage. The Canadian male should scale back his goals; pick a smaller, more achievable goal; summon a little courage, and go for it. With a few successes, he will gain in strength and discover that a little courage can take him a long way. It is important to keep in mind that this theory – and it is only a theory – is irrelevant in one’s judgment of people. There are thinking Americans, thinking high-school girls, and ambitious Canadians, and one must judge each one individually. And in both countries, there are those who do both – he is a man of the mind and a man of action. To sum up with an analogy: in my opinion, many Americans, French speaking Canadians, and women in Canada and The United States should pull the car over and give some thought to where they are going, and many English speaking Canadian males should get it in gear. Towards Acting On Reason If a man broke his leg skiing, he would have a doctor set the break, and proceed with the necessary actions to regain full use of his leg. The fact that he broke his leg skiing would be irrelevant; he could have broken it in a car accident or falling down the stairs. The actions necessary to regain full use of his leg would be the same – he would have to rebuild the strength in his leg. In human psychology, the cause of a particular problem is irrelevant. Psychoanalysis is not necessary. In fact, it can be harmful – it may provide an excuse for a man to continue his irrational ways. A man will need a doctor to set a broken leg. But, fortunately, he can set his own mind. Even serious psychological problems, such as those suffered by criminals, (It’s in our own interest to help, if necessary, rehabilitate them) can be overcome with a rational mindset. If a man believes that aliens have visited earth, he can change his mindset – he can say, “There are no facts of reality to support this belief. From now on, I will concern myself with what I know to be the facts of reality. I will accept the fact that reality is an absolute, and by a process of reason, learn to understand those aspects of reality that affect my life. I will think – anyone, who has read this far, can think; a sentence is a complete thought – and guide my actions with a process of reason.” This is a new mindset – I will be reasonable and act accordingly. If a man believes he has been abducted by aliens and has had weird surgery performed on him, he will not be able to change his mindset – it’s a too serious departure from reality – about this particular delusion. He will, however, be able to apply a rational mindset to those areas of his life that are more closely tied to reality. With an expanding focus on reason in ever widening areas of his life, he will eventually see the alien abduction for what it was – a bad dream – and that will be the end of that. It’s like pouring clean water into a pail of muddy water – eventually, the water becomes clear. Eventually, he develops a rational mind – in all areas of his life. The attempt at a new mindset, the attempt to be more rational, may come with some apprehension and/or nervousness. This is normal. In fact, a completely rational man should feel apprehension and/or nervousness on occasion – or he is not trying to do new things – not taking enough risks. Besides, there is no rush – a man who had been lying in bed for three months with two broken legs would not expect of himself to get up and run a six- minute mile. What is important here is the sustained commitment to reason – and acting upon it. It’s like trying to loose weight – one must focus on one’s eating habits every time one eats and train the mind to say, “Can I do with a little less butter on my baked potato?” And then, do with a little less butter. A sustained commitment will result in the loss of weight – eventually, a lot of weight. A sustained commitment to reason and acting upon it, eventually, will result in a better life – a lot better life – more interesting, more rewarding, a greater pride, not in one’s country, but in oneself. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited.
  2. All I Ever Wanted

    All I Ever Wanted by Robert Sproule The pool hall was dark. Three bright lights hung low over each billiard table; their conical shades ensured that their light hit only the felt surface – making the rest of the room seem even darker. Four, long, bony fingers rested on the felt. Al Logan focused on the green ball, then the cue ball and then took his shot. Al Logan had played a lot of pool during high school; he would skip classes to play pool. He had not liked school – it was not a world he respected – he observed that his teachers had a greater knowledge than he, but less common sense. High school had felt like some sort of cage to Al Logan. A temporary cage. He thought that after school, out there in the real world – the world of business – he would find what he wanted – all he had ever wanted – to earn his way in a world he respected. School had been made bearable by his certainty that this world existed and by his determination to find it. Determination was the single, immediately observable characteristic of Al Logan’s face – a face whose every feature seemed held together by an act of will. A teacher had once said in front of the whole class, “Look at this face. This is the face of a man that will not be stopped. He should be watched.” Something in the tone of the teacher’s voice, which many students had caught, said that this was a face that would annihilate millions in pursuit of its goal. Al Logan had taken the teacher’s comments as a statement of fact and a compliment. Al’s shot dropped the green ball into the corner pocket, but the cue ball stopped with the black between it and the brown. “You’ve snookered yourself,” said Jack Ryan. “Bartender, another beer!” shouted Al Logan. Al Logan was drunk. Jack Ryan had just joined Al Logan. He knew he could find Al at the pool hall, and he wanted to know what Al would do about today’s events at work. Al had been here for quite some time, noted Jack, judging by the number of empty beer bottles on the table against the wall. Jack Ryan was born in a small logging town somewhere north of Lake Superior. When he was four years old he stepped on a snake in the woods near his house. This frightened him, and that night, lying in bed, he could feel the snake under his bed. He knew that the snake did not exist, but he could not stop the feeling that it did. He summoned his courage and forced himself to look under the bed. There was no snake. The feeling came again the following night, but with less severity, and again he forced himself to look under the bed. By the forth night the feeling did not return, and, at the age of four, Jack Ryan had learned that his conscious mind was in charge of his subconscious mind. When he was eight years old he sat on a rock, high on a hill, overlooking his town below – contemplating misery. He did not know if it was his misery, his town’s, or the world’s. He wondered why there seemed to be so much suffering on earth. He thought if nature, by some fluke, had evolved a creature that knew nothing but pain and suffering, it would have gone extinct long ago. He concluded that pain and suffering did not make sense. But why was there so much of it? He had no answer. When not in school Jack Ryan spent much of his teenage years working as a lumberjack. He grew up as tall and as solid as the trees he cut. The town’s loggers would hold contests of strength, and the citizens would bet on who would place second – it was understood by all that Jack Ryan would place first. It was rumoured among the townspeople that, at the age of sixteen, Jack Ryan had killed a bear with his bare hands. Jack’s denials did not stop the rumours. Jack Ryan knew what he wanted to do with his life. When he graduated from high school, he moved to Toronto and became a cop. ------------------------------------------ * * * -------------------------------------------- Jack Ryan sat at a small table near the entrance to the bar. He sat with his legs crossed, one heavy hand hanging limply from his knee, the other holding a beer on the table. Jack Ryan was huge – and ugly – so ugly that his face became fascinating. His face seemed carved out of rock. His eyes were sunk deep into his skull like tunnels into a granite mountain; one could not see their colour, only flashes of light deep inside the tunnels – like the headlights of an oncoming logging truck wending its way through the night forest – trees breaking the beams into flashes of brightness. Across the table sat his wife. She was a woman of stunning beauty – and more – her face seemed to be saying to every man, “I am a sexual goddess, and I want you!" One could not tell if she was aware of this effect, but it was real, and it shocked every man at first sight. She sat – looking at her husband. Jack Ryan was watching a crowded dance floor. Some couples were quite good – moving in perfect harmony with the music. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. He liked to see people enjoying themselves. Then he heard screams coming from the far end of the dance floor. He stood up. He saw that two men had made their way to the back of the dance floor and were now coming towards the entrance to the bar. They had the build of boxers, and their trained fists were smashing the teeth of women and the skulls of men. They didn’t care which got which. They were dropping as many as they could on their way to the door – they were having fun. The headlights came screaming out of the eye sockets of Jack Ryan’s skull. One boxer saw a massive fist. And like being caught in the path of a logging truck with not enough time on earth to escape, he saw that fist drive the bones of his nose into his brain. Jack Ryan grabbed the second boxer, lifted him horizontally, high into the air, face up, and when gravity started to bring him back down, he placed his hands on the man’s chest. The man, realizing his fate, screamed; it was the loudest scream heard in the bar that night. Jack Ryan pulled him down over his raised knee, and like a weaker man snapping a twig, he snapped the man’s spine, and his life, out of existence. Jack Ryan was suspended from the police force for eighteen months. On appeal, and with the public outcry against the suspension, it was reduced to nine. For the last seven months he had worked with Al Logan at the freight depot. ------------------------------------------- * * * ------------------------------------------ “What are you going to do about …?” asked Jack. “I’ll come off the end rail,” interrupted Al Logan. “No, I mean about Joe’s promotion?” Of the twenty-seven men who worked in their department at the depot, Joe was the most inept. He avoided any task he could. Mistakes were never his fault. But he had been there the longest and, as the senior man, had received the promotion. Al Logan had been there only eleven months, but he excelled at everything he did. He looked for new tasks – as an opportunity to gain experience. To him, mistakes were not to be denied but considered an opportunity to learn. He was, by far, the most competent man on the staff. “I’m going back to school,” Al said in answer to Jack’s question. “Excuse me!” “I’m going back to school,” Al repeated. “You mean you’re quitting!” A childhood question came to Jack Ryan’s mind. Was it really as simple as this? Is this why there was so much misery in men’s lives? “I’m going back to school” was just an excuse, and Al knew it, thought Jack Ryan, or Al would not be standing before him – drunk. It seemed that Al Logan, the most competent man that Jack Ryan had ever met, would rather get drunk than fight for his happiness. But why? Jack Ryan had no answer. Al took his shot and another swig of beer. “Yes, and I’m going back to school. I don’t know what else to do. I can’t believe that this kind of thing can happen. Maybe if I get more education and a better job, it will be different.” “Do you really believe that?” “Well, what do you want me to do?” Al was getting angry: “I can’t stay here! I can’t work where the most incompetent get the biggest reward! I can’t kill Joe and the boss like…” Al stopped. They both knew what this meant. “Like I did?” Al did not answer. “Yes, I killed two men with my bare hands; yes, I took the law into my own hands; yes, I got suspended from the force for nine months – but I kept my soul!” Al didn’t hear “but I kept my soul.” He heard only its clear implication – you’ve lost yours! Al Logan did not know whether it was his anger, or the beer, or both that made him less cautious in the face of an invincible foe. He knew only after it was over that his hand had clenched into a fist. Jack Ryan saw a face that must have looked like his own when he had killed two men: he saw nothing but pure determination and hatred; both had combined into a look that would kill. Jack saw a slight movement in Al’s right shoulder. He put up his hand and blocked Al’s fist. Al Logan turned and walked out of the pool hall. The last thing he heard was Jack Ryan’s voice: “You’ve got the right idea Al. You’ve got to fight.” Al needed to think. Instead of taking the subway, he walked the five miles back to the house where he had room and board. By the time he walked up the stairs to his bedroom, he knew what he had to do. Al Logan climbed into bed, turned off his mind, and fell asleep. ................................................. * * * ----------------------------------------- Jack Ryan walked into the pool hall looking for Al. He saw him alone at a table, finishing a game of snooker. As he approached, Al pulled the billiard balls out of the pockets and tossed them on the table. “Rack ‘em up,” Al said. Jack began dropping the balls into the triangle. “What happened?” he asked. “I got the promotion.” “I heard. Tell me about it.” “I talked to four of the best men in our department and got them to back me up. I went to see the boss, and I told him we would go on strike or quit if he didn’t reverse his decision.” “What did he say?” “He said, ‘You’re right. I should have fired that guy long ago.’ He said that I would get the promotion. It was easy. It didn’t take five minutes.” “Did he say anything else?” “Well, he said that he would be sorry not to have me in his department anymore. He said he gave the promotion to Joe to get rid of him; it seemed an easy way to get him out of his department. I think he was trying to justify himself. By the way, you were one of the guys I named as backing me up.” Jack smiled and said, “Thanks.” “You know, Jack, I owe you big time.” This was Al’s apology and his way of saying thanks. Jack, instead of saying no problem or don’t worry about it, said, “How’s that?” “Well, Jesus,” Al was a little miffed at having to explain what he knew was obvious to them both. “if I hadn’t gone into see the boss – because you told me I had to fight – I probably would have gone back to school and then probably would have got another job where the same type of thing would happen again. I can’t believe I was such a coward about it!” “Is that what you believe, that you were a coward?” “I don’t know.” “Well, did you feel fear when you heard Joe got the promotion?” “No, I just couldn’t believe it.” “Were you afraid to talk to the boss?” “No, I just stated the facts.” “And what were the facts?” “That I deserved the promotion.” “Yes, you stood up for what is right, you stood up for your moral code.” Al had pocketed sixteen balls in a row and was about to shoot the last ball on the table. There was that face, thought Jack Ryan, the face he had always liked – hard, cold, calculating – the only man’s face he had ever liked on sight. “I would hate to miss that last ball after a run like that,” Jack said. Al looked at Jack, with a question on his face. He wondered how Jack could think that he might miss this shot. It was not an easy shot, but Al knew he could not miss it. It was not possible to miss it. He thought that the force of gravity would have to cease to exist – and it couldn’t – before he could miss. It was a feeling of total certainty. He lined up, took the shot, and the black ball clicked sharply into the corner pocket. “My moral code?” Al asked, pulling balls out of the pockets for another game. “Yes, your moral code. Your idea of what is right and what is wrong. In you, it’s so strong, it’s like the law of gravity.” Al started, looked at Jack, and said, “Go on.” “Well, what’s your moral code?” “Well, I guess… Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal.” “You don’t do any of those things.” “No.” “Why not?” “I have no interest in lying, cheating or stealing. It just doesn’t occur to me.” “Because you want to earn your way.” “Yes.” “Think of it this way, Al. Those things you said were all don’ts – don’t do this, don’t do that. A moral code should tell us more than what not to do; it should also tell us what to do. It should guide us in our day-to-day lives. You’re the most moral man I ever met. What is it you do?” “I don’t know. I’ve never thought of it like that. I’ve never thought of a moral code as a list of things to do… What’s your moral code?” “It’s not a list – it’s a way of living – and it’s contained in one word. “Al, we are on this earth to live our lives – to live them as best we can. To live requires an effort. And not lying, cheating or stealing is not good enough. Man must make the effort to think, to identify the facts of reality. He must learn what is good for him and what is not, what food is edible and what is poison. He must build shelter to protect himself from the elements. He must earn his living. What did you decide in high school? That you wanted to go into business, that you would work your way up in a world that you respected. You want to know why you don’t lie, cheat or steal. It’s because you earn everything you get. You’re not interested in the unearned – the unearned has no value to you. You place no value on anything unless you’ve earned it. And how do you earn it? By thinking and doing. You think about what you are doing and you do what you think is worthwhile. You focus on the task at hand, whether it’s your job, listening to your friends and family, or playing a game.” Jack pointed at the pool table. “You focus, you pay attention, it’s your way of living. And if there is one word that identifies the essence of a rational moral code, one word that unites reality, reason, and a proper course of action for man, that one word is – competence. “Al, you didn’t think of fighting for what you want on your own, not because you’re a coward, but because of your moral code.” “Explain yourself, please.” Jack Ryan was seeing the answer to a question – a question formulated by an eight-year-old boy sitting on a rock. “You said it yourself. You said, ‘I can’t believe that this kind of thing can happen.’ You refused to believe it. You refused to see the facts of reality. Your moral code is a law of nature to you – competence pays for man’s survival - and his happiness. You know it’s the only way to get the most out of living. And when you saw the facts of reality contradict your moral code, when you saw the incompetent get rewarded, you chose to ignore the facts of reality. You snookered yourself. It’s as if you said in your mind: I can’t accept the facts of reality, I’ll find another reality – a reality where competence is rewarded. And look at the consequences of ignoring reality, of not fighting for what is right. Everyone in your department knows you should get the promotion. You’re a legend throughout the company – almost two hundred men and women. If you had quit, what conclusion could they draw other than what’s the point? Why bother trying to be better at anything if this is what happens to the very best? And the consequences to you are worst of all: more and more disillusionment as time and time again you refuse to see the facts of reality. Oh, what the hell, give me another beer, as you try to keep from thinking. “But you didn’t quit. You fought for what is right. You fought for your moral code – competence. You fought for your vision – earning your way in a world you respect. Al, that world, that world where each man earns his own way, each to the best of his ability, a world where man feels respect for man – Al, you will have to build that world.” “I know.” .................................................... * * * .................................................... It was Jody’s first day on the job. He had already learned that he and his trainer would have only a moment before the next trailer would be shunted back flawlessly to their dock. While waiting with their load, Jody took that moment to look around. He could see clear to the back of the warehouse where a freight train had dropped off a string of cars from the west coast. He marvelled at half a mile of freight cars sitting inside a building. He could see electric forklifts running in and out of the boxcars. There were so many of them, moving so fast and in so many directions; it seemed they should be continually crashing into each other. But they never did. Jody could not see to either end of the warehouse; it was too far with too much racking and too many machines blocking his line of vision. Outside, he could see the tractor-trailers mirroring the activity of the forklifts. It was an endless line of trucks, pulling fifty-three foot trailers, being loaded and unloaded at an endless line of loading docks that stretched off into the distance in both directions. Jody liked the trucks, their giant wheels, and shinny silver saddle tanks. He had never seen such a wild variety of tasteful colour combinations: lavender with purple accents just went by. A woman with long, black, flowing hair was at the wheel. Most of the cabs had extended quarters for sleeping, making the tractors look like land yachts, he thought. And like yachts, they had been named: “George,” “Road Warrior,” “Intrepid.” One simply said, “It’s Mine!” With that, and the fact they were so incredibly clean, Jody concluded all of them were owner-operated. Jody turned and saw a man standing a short distance away. The man seemed to be watching the activity with enormous interest. Jody didn’t know if it was the way the man stood, the expression on his face, or the lettering on a truck, but the words “It’s Mine!” came to his mind. Jody tapped his trainer on the shoulder and said, “Look at that guy. He looks like he owns the place.” The trainer chuckled, “Oh, yeah, that’s Al. He gets that way sometimes. And, yeah, he does own the place.” A trailer gently touched the cushions that surrounded the dock opening, forming a perfect seal. “C’mon, let’s get to work.” Al Logan had been paged to the loading docks to solve a problem. He had solved it, noticed how busy everybody was, and took a moment to watch. It was like watching a giant living machine that had taken him twelve years to build, and he was now free to watch it function. It functioned on its own, he thought. Although he was the boss, he didn’t control it like a puppet on strings. This machine had earned its independence and these men knew what they were doing. The machine functioned flawlessly – no, beautifully, he thought – each man, each piece of equipment, every action – all united in a single purpose. He watched intently, one thought burning in his mind – “God, I love it when it’s busy.” His feeling was becoming so intense it occurred to him that it might be visible to those around him, and he was beginning to feel embarrassed. He was thankful to hear the page: “Al, line four please, Al, line four.” Al took the call on one of the dock phones. “Al, I’d like to borrow about two hundred of your trucks.” It was Jack Ryan. He had worked his way up in the provincial police and was now in charge of combating gang violence. “What do you want done?” “I want the Ontario-Quebec border blocked – every main highway and every secondary road from the St. Lawrence to the Ottawa river, and every bridge as far up-stream as Arnprior. And I need it done overnight. I’m sorry to ask on such short notice, but I just found out about this now: three of Quebec’s largest biker gangs are going to come into Ontario, en masse, tomorrow morning. They want to make a show of their strength; they want to make us nervous. Now, we can’t stop them – it’s a free country. But we can have a rolling blockade and make them obey the law, starting with the speed limit. I’ll have cruisers and motorcycle cops with all your trucks. I want to show them who it is that has the strength, and who it is that should be nervous. Can you do it?” “I can do it.” “Thanks,” Jack said, and hung up. Al turned to walk up to dispatch; he knew they would need his help with this. But something Jack said stopped him for a moment – “It’s a free country.” Al had heard this sentence used often. It meant that we were free to do whatever we wished, so long as we didn’t violate the rights of others to do whatever they wished. Al had always appreciated the fact that he had been born and raised in a free country, but, like most, had taken it for granted. But, in this moment, the vision of Jack’s lifelong work to maintain our freedom hit Al’s mind with its full meaning. In this moment, he saw that without freedom more than this business could not have come into existence. He saw that he could not have come into existence. He knew that just as he had built this business piece by piece, he had built his own character day by day – and he was proud of both. And now, he saw that neither his business nor his character were possible without freedom – the freedom to build – the freedom to create – create a business and a man. Al stood still, and, for the first time in his life, he offered his thanks – thanks to his country – “Thank you, Canada.” All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited.
  3. All I Ever Wanted

    Thank you, but "pretty"?
  4. The Letter

    Thank you for your reply. I don't think any of our leaders of today "would have the wisdom and courage to reveal the letter and its theme." And it's probably too early to hope for a George Washington, but, hopefully, not too late to hope for a Churchill. Best Wishes
  5. The Letter

    "Ladies and gentlemen: The President of The United States." The President stepped up to the podium and looked out over a sea of reporters from every country on earth. His message would be broadcast via radio and television around the world. While the content of the President's speech had not been leaked, its importance had. Reporters with contacts in very high places had heard comments like “You won't believe it,” “I don't understand it,” “It's not possible,” “It shouldn’t be made public.” The President raised his hands in a motion that asked for silence. He began, "Ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to bring you a message of crucial importance to the future of our civilization. But first, a few facts. As you are all aware, a few years ago we launched a series of NEATs – Near Earth Asteroids Telescopes.” “Oh, my God!” was the horrified reaction from the crowd. The President held up his hands: "No, we have not discovered any life threatening asteroids on a collision course with earth." He paused, and hesitated slightly as if his next sentence was not part of his prepared text. “What we have discovered is a warning of a danger greater than almost any asteroid could threaten. Let me continue. Two years ago we discovered what was first thought to be a very small asteroid. Further investigation determined that it was, in fact, an artificial satellite. We checked all records and databases around the world in an effort to determine its origin. We found no such record. Exhaustive efforts turned up nothing. Either the record of its launch had been lost, or the satellite was of alien origin. “Six months ago I authorized a mission to retrieve the satellite. “For the past three months we have been studying its contents. We have discovered, ladies and gentlemen, that this satellite was launched almost one million years ago. We know its launch date and its exact place of origin. We know that the civilization that launched it was a little more advanced, technologically speaking, than our own. But there is little to be learned from this satellite in the way of technological advancements. The elements used in its construction are the same. There are a few alloys that appear to be stronger and lighter than what we currently produce, but nothing beyond our capability. “The crucial importance of this satellite is in a letter and a map placed inside the satellite. The letter is in another language, but its author, anticipating that its reader would not speak his language, provided a legend for easy translation. The letter has been translated into twenty-nine different languages and will now be broadcast simultaneously around the world. On the large screen behind me, you will see its English translation appear as I read it aloud for our radio audience." The letter rose from the bottom of the giant screen as the President read: "Greetings from another civilization: “Since you have recovered this deep space probe, you are obviously an advanced technological society. You must have discovered certain principles – principles that any rational being, anywhere in the universe, must discover in order to become a technological society. You must have discovered that reality is an absolute, that it exists, that it exists without contradiction, and that it exists independent of the mind. You must have discovered that the survival of a rational being depends on the non- contradictory identification of the facts of reality – that survival depends on reason! You must have had an age of reason, and enlightenment. And you discovered how to reshape your world for your own comfort and pleasure – you had an Industrial Revolution! “My world too made these discoveries and rose to these achievements. But my world is doomed. “In my world there are no principles. The first principle we abandoned was the concept of an objective reality – that reality exists independent of the mind. We are taught that reality is subjective – no, very subjective – that it’s a product of our imagination, and everyone's contradictory view of reality is just as valid as any other – forgetting the fact that imagination requires a thing to imagine. We ignore reality – and reality will wipe us out. We have abandoned reason. Reason is the non-contradictory identification of the facts of reality. But since we have abandoned the concept of an objective reality, reason is not possible. Without reason, understanding, purpose, or any meaning in their lives, the vast majority of our species has turned to faith – a belief, without a single fact of reality to support it. Well, God help us! There is, now, an open attack on the Industrial Revolution: we are taught that we must consume less – not that we should create more; we are taught that our ancestral savages had an idyllic life; we are taught that every life form on our planet has a right to exist – except our own. “Our culture is doomed to return to savagery, where reality is feared instead of understood – because we have given up our means of understanding – reason. I'm not sure I fully understand the reason for being unreasonable. Perhaps, it's that no one with enough influence has risen to say – ‘You can't get away with it!' “I am the chief engineer of this deep space probe and, as such, have had little influence on the direction of my culture. Perhaps, if this letter is made known, I will have some influence on yours." As the last piece of text rose from the bottom of the screen, one could see what appeared to be the beginnings of a map. "Ladies and gentlemen," the President said, "as I have said, we know this satellite's launch date and its exact place of origin. This satellite takes two hundred and forty-seven years to orbit our sun and, according to the orbital counter on board, has made four thousand and nine orbits. And, as you can now see on the map behind me, was launched from the east coast of Africa.” All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited.
  6. The Letter

    Thank you, and thanks to Kitty Hawk, and a special thank you to Betsy and Stephen Speicher who make THE FORUM possible.
  7. To Tell The Truth

    I'm glad my story brightened up your day/week, but I don't understand your comment?
  8. To Tell The Truth

    Based on actual events "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" "I do." Carl Savinski stepped up to the witness stand. Carl's parents had immigrated to Canada when Carl was one year old. They had started a small grocery store and had built it over the years into a major supermarket. Carl now worked there full time. He helped with receiving, at checkout, did accounts payable, and after a busy day helped restock the shelves – often until three or four in the morning. He liked working at his parent's business; it was an honest business. He had been brought up to be honest, to tell the truth, and more – he knew that there was such a thing as truth. He had never heard of reducing an argument to an absurdity as a method of proving the falsehood of a particular proposition – none of his high school teachers had ever taught it. But, a year ago, his homeroom teacher had said in front of the whole class: “There is no such thing as truth.” Carl Savinski had stood up and said, "That would make your statement false." "Huh?" "That would make your statement false," Carl had repeated. "If there is no such thing as truth, then your statement is not true. To say that there is no such thing as truth is absurd – you stupid bastard.” Carl was expelled from school for two weeks. He didn't go back. He joined his parent's business instead. In the past year he had learned that to be honest was not only the right thing to do but also the practical thing to do. He saw how his parents had built this business. He saw that they had made reasonable rules for the staff and employed them equally, without favouritism. The staff liked working there, and his parents had gained a competent work force that cared about the future of the company. "The customer is always right" was not company policy – they seldom were – the staff knew what they were doing. His parents had gained more customers by treating them honestly, by being fair, by giving them more value for their money. If produce was too old, they threw it out; they didn't sell three-day old bread as fresh. Their butcher trimmed more fat off the meat. And they hunted for value; they didn't handle sixteen-ounce cans that had to sell for more than twice the price of two eight-ounce cans. They stuck to terms with their suppliers: if payment was required in thirty days, they paid in thirty days. If a supplier accidentally shipped more than they were invoiced for, they paid for the extra; if this happened too often, they changed suppliers. They built up honest relationships with their suppliers. And they gained: they were first to be offered a commodity in short supply, and first to receive a discount if a supplier was over stocked. In the past year Carl Savinski saw with his own eyes, in his day-to-day job, that being honest paid. He saw that to be reasonable, to be honest, to tell the truth was practical – that one did not suffer a loss by being honest, but made a gain. "Your name is Carl Savinski?" the prosecuting attorney asked. "Yes." "Do you work at Savinski's Supermarket?" "Yes." "Do you recognize the defendant?" "Yes." "Please describe the events of October twelfth that led to these proceedings." "I was restocking shelves near the front entrance to our store when the sensors at the door set off the alarm. I stopped the defendant and asked her to step back through the sensors without her bags of groceries. The alarm went off again. I asked her to come into the office and to empty her pockets and her purse. In her purse was a tube of toothpaste still in its box. The defendant said she had no idea how it got there, that she was sorry, and offered to pay for the toothpaste. I said that she could not, and called the police." "The prosecution rests, Your Honour." His Honour was bored. This would be just another shoplifting case. It had long been the practice not to saddle shoplifters with a criminal record. Instead, he would order her to watch a movie whose message was that it was not nice to steal, that she should feel shame, and go away and never do this again. "How does the alarm work?" asked the defence attorney. The defence attorney looked slimy, thought Carl. Carl did not consider his first impression, good or bad, a valid means of judging a man's character – he wanted to know what a man said and did before forming an opinion. But still, the defence attorney did look slimy. This was the first person Carl had ever met that he disliked on sight. "There's a tag on some of our merchandise. The tag sets off the alarm at the door unless it has been deactivated at checkout." "Is it possible to have a false alarm?" Carl thought that this was irrelevant since this was obviously not a false alarm given the fact that the tagged toothpaste that had set it off was in the lady's purse. But the defence attorney had not asked if this particular alarm could have occurred in error. He had simply asked if it's possible to have a false alarm, so Carl, who always told the truth, simply said, "Yes." The judge, who sat higher than anyone else in the courtroom, sat up straight – there was something about this witness that was beginning to interest him. "Is it possible for the checkout staff to miss deactivating a tagged product?" Carl could not understand this line of questioning – it seemed pointless – and he was beginning to get angry. He thought that the toothpaste had not been de- activated because it had not been paid for, that it was not listed on the defendant's receipt, and she knew it, or she would not have offered to pay for it. He thought that the real reason the toothpaste had not been deactivated was that the lady had it in her purse! "Yes, it's possible," Carl answered calmly. " Describe the checkout process." "The customer puts their merchandise on a conveyor belt. The checkout person passes each product over an electronic device that reads a bar code. If an item is tagged, the checkout person drops it in a bucket, presses a button, and the tag is deactivated. The merchandise is then slid down a shoot where the customer bags their own groceries." "Is it possible that the toothpaste was under, let's say, a loaf of bread, and was passed down the shoot without being registered on the bill or deactivated?" "Yes." The defence attorney seemed to have a smirk on his face – this witness was supposed to be a witness for the prosecution, but he could not have asked for a better witness for the defence. " Is it not then possible that the defendant, instead of putting the toothpaste in her bags with the rest of the groceries, thinking it had been paid for, put it in her purse?" "Yes." Something is not right here, thought the judge – the prosecution's witness is just allowing himself to be made to look like a fool. "If this is, in fact, what happened at Savinski's supermarket on October twelfth, then the defendant could not possibly be guilty of shoplifting. That would be a contradiction, wouldn't it?" "Yes." “Huh.” "It would be a contradiction." There it was – out in the open – “It would be a contradiction.” But there can be no contradictions, and everyone in the courtroom knew it. In some form they all knew that it's a law – a law of reality – there can be no contradictions. There was a certain uneasiness in the minds of most people in the courtroom – as if they had been put on the spot and were now being asked to choose – guilty, or not guilty – she could not be both. Carl Savinski had simply said it, "It would be a contradiction." and thought: there you go, there are no contradictions, it's your problem, you deal with it. The defence attorney was dumbfounded. "Huh" was all he had managed to say. He had expected the witness to concede the possibility of his client's innocence. He did not know what had gone wrong, why the problem had been thrown back in his lap, or how to deal with it. What he did know was that it was his turn to speak, that all eyes were on him, and that with each passing second, it was he who looked more and more like the fool. Knowing no other course of action, he started out again. "Ok," he said, cupping his chin with his hand in a manner that suggested he had given the problem some thought, "isn't it just possible that my client had her purse open in the shopping cart and the toothpaste just happened to fall off the shelf and into her purse?" Carl Savinski ignored the question and turned to the judge, who had been watching with great intensity: "Your Honour, do I have to engage…?” The prosecuting attorney would not have to cross-examine the witness today. He would not have to point out the contradictions in the defence attorney's “toothpaste under the bread” story – why of all the dozens of items the accused bagged that day was the toothpaste the only one she put in her purse, and if she had put it in her purse, why had she said that she had no idea how it got there. He would not have to point out that the “toothpaste falling into the open purse” story was beyond any reasonable possibility. The judge, in all his years on the bench, had had his will prevail. There had never been anything that a couple of thunderous blows with his gavel would not fix. He had always been in control. He had always rendered his decision after careful deliberation and in his own good time. But now, it was he who had been put on the spot, and he didn't like it one bit. "You don't have to do anything!" screamed the judge. Even Carl Savinski was startled. The judge was livid. He looked as if Carl Savinski had physically pushed him into a corner and then slapped his face – the problem had been taken from the defence attorney and thrown at the judge. The judge tried to calm himself, tried to regain control of his thinking: “Yea, how did the toothpaste get into the purse?” he said out loud. The attempt failed – and without a glance at the accused, the judge lashed out at the defense attorney. Pointing straight at him, he yelled, “She’s guilty! She has a criminal record!" "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” were the words Carl Savinski had always lived by. Today, walking out of a courtroom, he marvelled at how well it works. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited.
  9. Bad, bad, bad writing

    You've got me laughing!
  10. Test, September 16, 2006

    September 16, 2006 To The Champions, The Warriors and The Titans Robert Sproule
  11. In Praise of Obesity

    Inescapable logic! Well said!
  12. Test, September 16, 2006

    I see 13 views. Anybody wish to say Hi?
  13. Test, September 16, 2006

    Test: Downloading Word Document I write short stories. Robert Sproule That works.
  14. Test, September 16, 2006

    Deleting all text, hopefully, will reply without quoting.
  15. Test, September 16, 2006

    I see I am most active in Testing, Testing...