Concerning the events in Newtown

Here’s a story I read many years ago. Considering the horrible event that occurred on Friday, and the debate it reignited I think it’s quite germane.

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Many years ago there was an old samurai who had decided to retire and become a priest. Before he could do so however he had to decide which of his three sons received the family sword.

After pondering for a bit he decided to set a test for them. He went to a room in his house and placed a small wooden block on top of the shoji, the sliding door through which the room was entered. When the door was slid open, the block would fall and strike the person in the door.

He called his youngest son to him first. This son was a swordsman. He constantly practiced. He was fast, precise and deadly.

This son came to the room and slid open the door. The block fell and hit him. The son’s sword was out of his scabbard and the block was in two pieces an instant after that.

The old samurai stood up, enraged. “Get out of this house!” he shouted. “You are disowned. You will never be worthy of the sword! You do not know what it means to be samurai and you never will be!”

The old man replaced the block and called his middle son to him. This son spent a great deal of time on sword play, but it was not his only interest. He made some, small effort to study other things as well.

The middle son came to the door and slid it open, with the expected result. This son, however, caught the block before it hit the ground. He then bowed to the old samurai and asked, “You wish to see me, father?”

“I did,” the old man replied, “and I have discovered you are not yet worthy of the family sword. I can see that some day you will be though.”

The block was replaced yet again and the old man called for his oldest son. This son spent some time on swordplay but it was only one of many subjects that he studied.

This son came to the door, started to slide it open…and stopped. He then reached up to remove the block before it fell. He slid the door the rest of the way, entered the room and replaced the block in its position over the door. Bowing to his father he asked, “You wished to see me, sir?”

“Yes,” the old man told him. “you have shown me that you are the one most worthy of receiving the family sword.”

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This story has stuck with me for many years. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the oldest son received the sword because he was the least likely to use it.

The youngest son never saw the trap and reacted inappropriately. There was no need to use a sword on the block.

The middle son didn’t see the trap either, but he reacted appropriately, proportionate and proper to the threat.

The eldest son was the only one who saw the trap and he acted to prevent it from activating.

So when it comes to violence and weapons I try to be the oldest son. It’s much better to see where there is a problem and act to prevent it, without violence and with a minimum of effort. Violence, quite simply, is a poor solution to a problem.

Unfortunately, too many people are like the youngest son. They never see the problem and their reaction is inappropriate violence.

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P.S. Sorry there has been no posts for a while. Both angel and I have been either busy or ill, or both. We’ll try to get back into posting regularly again.

Cover for my next e-book

I’ve taken a sabbatical from writing. I had a very nasty experience a while ago that threw a lot of doubt on my writing. Not my ability to write. That’s fine and I’m good at it. But I found out that propriety is just as important to a writer as it is to any other career.

Unfortunately I’m not a proper person.

So writing became difficult. I spent as much time obsessing about what mine I would step on next time as I did writing. It was like trying to walk on a broken leg.

My wife suggested I take a sabbatical. It was good advice and I took it. I must admit now when I think of writing something I don’t stress about the BS.

A sabbatical doesn’t mean I can’t plan for when I do start writing again. I’ve been planning on redoing my first book, a series of short stories centred around a vampire, Georges Belleveau, and his human lover, Diane Patterson. They’re two of my favourite characters. The original book was called In The Dark. The company that published it is defunct. I’m a better writer now and I think a reissue would do well.

A couple of months ago my wife won a professional cover for a book in a contest. She graciously passed that opportunity to me. We told the artist, Suzan Butler, what we wanted and she turned out a lovely piece of work.

Isn’t it lovely? Thank you so much, Suzan. And to my lovely wife, angel.

Dreadfully sorry…

…that today’s blog post is late. The reasons why will be explained shortly.

It’s been a busy week.

I turned 57 last Friday. Friday? (Checks calendar) Yeah, Friday. As you can tell I don’t pay a lot of attention to my birthdays. My mom came over, bought us lunch and gave me a card and a present. She brought along a birthday cake my sister, who is a certified baker, made for us. It’s delicious, and I generally don’t care for sweets.

My wife bought a wheelchair. Her back’s gotten very bad so walking any distance or standing for long is difficult and painful. So the chair is a great idea. She’s been kind of apartment bound since she arrived and now we can go places together.

The reason this blog is late is that my wife found a great software bargain. I got about $750 worth of software for $29. Among the programs is the game Bioshock 2. It’s one of those “just a couple of more minutes” games where you look up three hours later and realize it’s three hours later. It’s been a while since a first person shooter caught me like this. I like that you have to make ethical choices in this game also. It doesn’t happen often enough in gaming.

So, that’s it for this Monday. Have a great week, everybody.

Ah, politics

“They cannot tell the difference between dissent and terrorism.” – Vaclav Havel

I’m a big fan of political discussions. Discussing policy has been an endless source of learning and entertainment. It’s fun debating the state of our world using history, philosophy and literature to try and find solutions to problems, or perhaps even identify problems.

That’s been changing recently. It’s why I started this post with that particular quotation. This is an attitude I’ve been encountering more and more. Far more frequently than in the past I get the internet equivalent of shouted at, “How dare you disagree with me you fascist/commie/capitalist pig/socialist/Muslim apologist/Muslim hater!” I’ve been called all of those things over the last little while.

There simply seems to be no room for nuance or any ideas other than those the people on the other side of whatever we’re discussing hold. It’s become a Manichean world where you are either standing with the forces of Middle Earth or those of Sauron, to use the most well known Manichean piece of literature as a metaphor.

It’s tiring and upsetting this vituperous brow beating. I don’t quite know how to handle it and I leave many discussions with an upset stomach, a bad taste in my mouth and some relief the discussion was over the internet because I fear had it been face to face there would have been violence involved. And I’m not even dealing with people suffering from severe mental and/or psychological problems. There is simply no room for differences of opinion any more.

So, I’m dialing it back for a while. Maybe once the U.S election is over things might calm down.

I hope.