Some Thoughts – From My Perspective of a Soup Can

Once upon a time, there were two philosophers: William Toppingham, and Archibald Siderwick. Both philosophers had their own ideas, and both had numerous followers.

The Toppingheimers believed that they were superior, as they always looked at every issue from up above, believing that a bird’s eye view would bring every problem into clear perspective.

The Siderwickians believed that wisdom was on their side, as they took a more “grounded” approach, looking at issues from various sides (but never from up above, as they didn’t want to be seen as foolish Toppingheimers)

One day, a young child asked a simple question: “what shape is a soup can?” His Toppingheimer father said, “It’s a circle”. But his Sidewickian uncle (who happened to be visiting at the time) said, “that’s ridiculous. It’s clearly rectangular!” The visit had been going well, up until that point, but this simple question put the two brothers at odds. Before too long, the uncle left, and the child still did not have a satisfactory answer

The two brothers each took the question to their mentors, and each was confirmed in his answer. Toppingham said “circle”, and Siderwick said “rectangle.”

Within a few days, the argument had been taken up by the masses. The Toppingheimers staged protests and demonstration, the Sidewickians resorted to insults and name-calling. It wasn’t too long before the first rocks were thrown (both sides blamed the other side for starting it), and ultimately, blood flowed in the streets.

~~

Maybe my story is silly, but I think my point is clear: it’s surprisingly hard to look at an issue from someone else’s perspective. Who was right in my story? Both…and neither. From one angle, a soup can is a circle…from another, it’s a rectangle, but viewed from all angles, it’s clear that neither point of view is completely accurate.

We live in a divided world. The current “soup can” is a virus, and we all are looking at the issue from one of 2 or 3 perspectives. I have my own point of view on the matter…and I have my reasons. I firmly believe that my way of seeing the issue is logical, rational, intelligent, and correct. But guess what? Those who hold opposing views also firmly believe that their way of seeing things is logical, rational, intelligent and correct. Who’s ultimately right? Probably, to some degree, the holders of both views. Who is wrong?…probably to an even greater extent, both camps. Maybe the answer to who’s right should be: “Who cares? Let’s find some common ground and start behaving like civilized human beings once again!”

~~

Even while writing this, I must confess that I still find it hard to see past my own nose to look into the eyes of someone who holds a different viewpoint than me. I still find myself so blinded by my own desire to be right that I can’t see how I could possibly be wrong. So if you find yourself in the same room as me, and I get upset with you because, “I’m right and you’re wrong”, please be patient with me. This whole process of seeing things from someone else’s point of view is something I’m still working on…but I’m trying. I only ask that you try too. Hopefully before too long, we’ll all learn to get along again.

The King’s Banquet

The following is based on Matthew 22:1-14

I dreamed that the King held a banquet to celebrate the wedding of his Son.  He sent invitations to all in the land.  The prostitutes received the same gilt-lettered envelopes as the doctors.  The drug addicts and lawyers received invitations that were worded the same:

“Come to the wedding feast of my son, two weeks hence.  A package will arrive with clothing befitting of your value to the King.”

I saw what sort of people were getting the invitations and was thankful that would not be receiving the same humiliating garments as some of my neighbors, and so, when the package arrived, I placed it, unopened, in a dark corner of my basement, for surely my own best clothing were far superior to anything that my neighbors would receive.

The day of the banquet arrived, and I strutted out in my finery, certain that every eye would be on me, envious of my splendor.

I knew that indeed, I had made an impression, when the King himself came to my side and spoke to me of my clothing, but he surprised me by what he said, “Friend, how is it that you came to my banquet without the clothing that I provided?”  I would have answered, but it was then that I finally opened my eyes to see that my neighbors, whom I had despised, were adorned in the most radiant of garments, and the clothing of which I had been so proud, were nothing more than the filthiest of old rags.

As His soldiers escorted me forcefully from the hall, I heard the King say, “my loyal subjects, you look in wonder at the garments I have provided, and I know that you think, ‘I am not worthy of such raiment as this’, but you forget, that I see you not as you have made yourselves, but as I myself have made you to be: for on this day, I have made you my friends.  Now let the feast begin!”

Aurora

As we were heading north on Circle Drive, I pointed towards the sky to draw the attention of my wife and three boys to the green curtains of light that were playing across the heavens.  It’s not often that we can see the Aurora Borealis from within the city. so we knew that tonight’s display was unusually bright.  We abandoned our plans to take the Attridge Road exit.  The shopping trip to Canadian Tire could wait until tomorrow.  My wife and I both concluded, without the need to consult with each other, that we needed to continue driving until we could leave the city’s light pollution behind us.  We took the Idylwyld Drive exit, and followed it north until we were on Highway 12, north of both Saskatoon and the community of Martensville.  We went a bit west of the highway on a gravel road, then parked, turned off the car, and exited the vehicle.  By now, the Northern Lights had faded quite a bit, but we figured that this would still be a treat for the boys.

After a few minutes, we were sufficiently cold enough that we re-entered the car to make the drive back to our home.  The gas gauge was nearing empty.  My wife worried that we might not make it back to Saskatoon.  I was fairly certain that we had enough, but agreed to fuel up in Martensville, just to be on the safe side.

After we were back on the road again, and just about back to the highway, my wife commented, “Oh!  That’s beautiful!”  Apparently the lights had not finished their show, and had decided to put on an encore.  Instead of heading back south to Saskatoon, I continued west out of Martensville on another gravel road until we were again away from the lights.  Once again, we turned off the car to embrace the evening’s chill.

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The Samaritan’s Journey

A man sat silent upon his donkey as it plodded slowly down the dusty road that linked the towns of Jericho and Jerusalem. He cast his eyes downward each time he passed a fellow traveler. Fellow Travelers? Hardly. For they were either Jews or Gentiles, while he was a half-breed Samaritan, accepted by neither group.

While stopped by a well to draw water for his donkey, he had to step away from the well when a priest and a Levite started coming towards him, and while the priest simply had a drink and continued on his way, the Levite chose to take a nap in the shade next to the well, so the Samaritan had to wait a full hour before he could finally draw water and continue on his way.

Shortly after his journey recommenced, he was startled to see a bloodied, mangled, wreck of a man lying by the side of the road.  From the amount of blood, the buzzing of flies, and the circling of carrion fowl, it was clear that this man…Jewish, judging by his tattered garments, must have been lying there well before either the priest or the Levite had passed by.

Hatred between their races was not merely tolerated, but encouraged, and so no one would have blamed him if he had continued on his way, especially as the injured man’s own religious leaders had done the same.

Instead, he stopped and dismounted.  With wine from his wine-skin, he washed the wounds.  With his own garments, he tore strips of cloth to staunch the flow of blood.  With his own animal, he transported the man to a place where he could recover.  With his own gold, he payed for the man’s care, and promised to return with more to pay any unexpected costs.

clouds of dust rise up
but he turns the way of love
and is a neighbour

The Legend of Stars – ReWrite

Last week, I wrote a haibun entitled “The Legend of Stars”.  While I received some wonderful positive feedback, I was not entirely happy with the piece, and so I have re-written all but the first paragraph.  If you have read the original, please let me know what you think…which version is better?  What changes should I still make?

~~

Each evening, as the season shifts from Summer towards Winter, the blanket of night comes a bit earlier, and covers the sleepy Earth a little bit longer.  The blanket, though, is old, and filled with holes that let in the cold.  The maker of the blanket once asked the inhabitants of this planet if he should craft for them a new blanket.  A warmer cover to drive away the chill of winter nights.

The people called a meeting to discuss whether they should accept a new blanket.  The gathering was considered by all to be mere formality, for who could possibly have reason against the generous gift?

One after another, men, women, and even children came forward and spoke of how much they would benefit from a warmer blanket.  Just before the meeting could adjourn, however, an elderly lady slowly rose to her feet.  When she stood, silence fell on the assembly, for although she had been blind for many years, she was renowned for her remarkable foresight.

“Before we accept this gift,” she advised, “let us go outside.”

Curious to discover what she was trying to tell them, the meeting quickly moved from the comfort of the hall to the biting cold of the winter night.

“Look around and tell me what you see.”

A young boy, impatient for the warmth that would come with the blanket, replied, “What do you care what we can see, for you are blind.”

“I have not always been thus, child, and therefore, I know what I have lost much more than you understand what you retain.”

The boy then took the time to take a good look around him.  “I see the world in shades of blue.  Subdued, and yet beautiful.  And I see the snow sparkling as if infused with diamonds.”

“And now, look up.”

As those assembled turned their gaze upwards, they saw, at first, nothing but the holes in the blanket.  Eventually, however, they began to see what she had been trying to show them.  One by one, they saw that which could not exist if the blanket were replaced.

Once more, the woman’s voice was heard:  “While it may be true that the cold leaks in through the blanket’s many holes, you see now that light also finds its way in.  As you gaze up at the blanket on this cold winter’s night, ask yourself if you would truly give up the immense beauty of the light, just for a little bit of warmth?”

a grey wolf shivers
in the chilly winter night –
then howls in joy

Perception

Any child can play on a piano, with no regard for which black or white keys sound harmonious together, and which are a jarring dissonance. If someone could be found who had never heard this instrument, and we subjected them to a toddler mashing keys indiscriminately, he might conclude that this is an instrument, not of music, but of torture. He would have no clue that those same 88 keys, beneath the fingers of a Glenn Gould or a Dave Brubeck, could have a dramatically different effect.

There is much that we miss seeing and hearing, because we don’t have the same eyes and ears as the one next to us. We might have merely seen a stone, but Michaelangelo saw David trapped within. We might have seen an experiment contaminated by mould, but Alexander Fleming saw a cure for disease.

Our lack of ability to see something that is clear to another is not a handicap, for we, too, see things that another will not. We each express ourselves in different ways. We each see the world uniquely.

But we are also enriched when someone takes their hand, touches our face, and says “Look! This is what see”…and thereby helps us to experience what otherwise we would not.  We are blessed when someone, through their unique ability, unlocks something so that the rest of the world can benefit.

We each see the world through different eyes, but through skill, we can often make what we see accessible to the eyes of others as well

about the canvas there is nothing grand
until it has been touched by artist’s hand

~~

I wanted to try writing a haibun style piece in a slightly different way.  Instead of concluding with a haiku (as is typical in a haibun), I have concluded my piece with a heroic couplet.  This is being shared with dVerse for Open Link Night.