The Plurationalist Foundation (January 1, 2020) -- Happy New Year! Today is the 20th Anniversary of the 2000 A.D. founding of The Circle of Reason (TCOR) and its millennial social initiative, "pluralistic rationalism" (or "plurationalism") -- the moral commitment to reasoning regardless of worldview. On January 1, 2000, there was one declared plurationalist. 20 years later, we're now 2781 -- both plurationalist interbelief reasoning dialogue group participants and at-large TCOR-International members. We ask you to join our cause by charitably giving not your money but your commitment to practice being more objective, open-minded, and equable; and by extrapolation to also permit and encourage others to do so, as well. (Yes, you've just seen the world's first objective moral code. Hey, you can't reason when someone lies to you, pumps you full of dogma, and emotionally or physically coerces or kills you.) Asking for such personal and social volunteerism isn't the world's quickest way to grow our numbers, especially in a political era stampeded by those who are being subjective, close-minded, and emotive. (Yes, we mean you, President Trump. And, btw, "we" includes our plurationalist GOP conservatives.) But encouraging plurationalism is, nevertheless, the only path that will one day move our civilization to abandon its potty(-mouth) training and take its next major step toward adulthood. It was twenty years ago today that we envisioned, in the words of Archimedes, that our "small force" would take the "long lever" of 50 generations on the "fulcrum" of plurationalism to "move the world" to its optimum -- an objectively moral society. Today that generational countdown decreases, from 50 generations to 49. Within another generation or two our founder will be gone, but we'll hope to still strive to practice, and help the world to practice, plurationalism -- the last, best hope for humankind's maturation into a species that will at last deserve the name Homo sapiens -- "Wise humans." Live long and prosper!
Help others learn about and practice plurationalism (commitment to reasoning regardless of worldview) by name-dropping "plurationalism" or "pluralistic rationalism" in one of your posts, tweets or links this month. If your Twitter followers or Facebook friends ask you what that word means, tell 'em! (Or tell them to check it out at Wikipedia.)
The social initiative of plurationalism began on Jan 1, 2000, as an attempt to offer a workable and inclusive alternative to the antirational approaches of the 20th Century in solving our human, political, and global problems. Hopefulness abounded in the new millennium. Yet in a matter of mere months, America stepped boldly forward with its eyes firmly on its own feet -- and walked the long road to butterfly ballots & the SCOTUS election of President, 9/11, non-existent WMDs & the Needless Iraq War, the Afghanistan War (the longest in U.S. history), the first President accused of being a foreigner, and the Rise of Trump. Two years into the Trump administration, we have seen first-hand the consequences to our politics, our planet, and our humanity, when those given power commit to the practices of denialism, dogmatism, and emotivism. What will be the ultimate consequence of choosing to be subjective instead of objective, close-minded instead of open-minded, and emotional instead of equable? None have answered this better than one who wrote the answer more than a century ago:
"Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, 'Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good -' At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, today, tomorrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark." -- G.K. Chesterton, "Heretics" (1905)
Op-Ed by: Katy Waldman, Slate | June 16, 2015
Slate Op-Ed, noting how both OITNB and Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek endorse "pluralistic rationalism" -- the use of reason and empiricism, regardless of our diverse worldviews, to lead us to reject our "preconceived notions" and "reconsider our biases."
Reason bridges all worldviews, when not confused for one. -- Frank Burton (2015)
The Last Hominid, The First Human
One hundred thousand winters ere the Age of Writing, lived the last of a tribe of great-brained apes -- the hominids, whose people had ruled Earth for millions of years.
And on that day there too lived, in a nearby rift valley, the leader of a new tribe of great-brained apes -- humans.
This day, when hunger forced them to grub for sustenance from the insects that coated their own furs and skin, did one chance upon the other in the cathedral of rocks between their two rift valleys.
From a distance the human smelled the hominid - then, over a small rise, saw him squatting among the boulders and scrub grass, busily conking two heavy stones together.
Slowly the human approached from behind, downwind, each careful step attuned to the rhythm of the other's hammering stone blows.
As he drew up behind the hominid, the human looked down, past the other's boyishly tiny but hairy shoulders and lion's mane hair, to see him pounding a round hunk of granite into a more pointed, but still blunt, bludgeon.
The man halted, looked down at the hide sack he carried strapped around his waist, and lifted out his own sharp flint knife.
He raised the knife.
But then paused.
Through the man's mind passed the image of the two of them, squatting together, the man teaching the hominid the simple trick of chipping flint into sharp cutting stones, instead of pounding granite into blunt points.
He saw the hominid singing with him, as they roamed the steppes with their flint knives in search of three-toed prey, and cut vines to climb to the tips of the tallest fruit trees.
He saw the tiny hominid as his friend, reenacting stories of the hunt in the ruddy light of their campfires.
The man turned his flint knife over and over in his hand, staring at the small hominid's crude pounding and the sweat pouring down his back.
Then the man reached across the gulf between them.
And sliced open the neck of the last hominid on Earth.
Thus, the greatest act of sapience in the cosmos is to engender sapience.
December 31, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director, The Circle of Reason, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Circle of Reason's Parable of the Decade is dedicated to the NIH's suspension of new medical research on chimpanzees as an animal model for human health research; but also in supplication to leave the door open to one day permit future veterinary neurogenetics research to assist chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans to become fully sapient species. One day Mankind will journey far afield of Mother Earth -- and our sibling species should journey there beside us.
The Pitied, The Loved
Homelessness has no home in, and begging beggars, the imagination.
Two men could naught but pity a pair of homeless beggar women.
The first man brought one woman into his home, and fed and clothed her.
Because his pity for her was boundless, he gave of his generosity for years -- while she, feeling his pity as a crushing weight, could naught but beg for more in her misery.
The man so aided her in all things -- until, one day, he fell dead from his effort to provide, cook and clean for her.
Staring down in anguish at his body, she sealed their twilit union with a last kiss.
The second man too brought the other beggar woman into his home, and he too fed and clothed her.
To avoid the weight of his pity, and to honor his sacrifices, she partook of his generosity for but a few weeks -- then sought ways to return his generosity with her own.
She cooked and cleaned and sewed, and read books to aid his business, so he could more easily provide for her.
Although his pity for her too had known no bounds, soon he found, as he watched her trying to stand tall, that he no longer felt pity for her at all.
His pity had transmuted into love.
Abiding in his love, her once overpowering misery and helplessness diminished.
The two so aided each other in all things -- until, one day, they sealed their dawnlit union with a first kiss.
Thus, pity is a gift unreturned, love a gift shared.
December 17, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the political compromise between the U.S. Republican stance that too-extensive renewal of unemployment insurance will prevent the unemployed from looking for work, and the U.S. Democratic stance that too-premature termination of unemployment insurance in a weak economy will prevent the unemployed from having a chance to find work.
The Aristocrat, The Inventor
Neath the rubber trees swayed pots of gold.
The plantation's hereditary owner was an aristocrat of fabulous wealth.
Living in an opulent palace with a mighty family crest emblazoned on its pediment, every day he hunted, golfed, or shopped for exotic tapestries and robes; and every night he hosted salons and balls.
Politicians and celebrities flocked to his plantation and ate of his roast duck, caviar and ancient wine -- and ate of his very presence.
So did Society men and women revere him -- even though his rubber went into the bullets shot from the guns of the junta that, with him, ruled those who slaved on his plantation.
The inventor lived in a two-room rental on the outskirts of the city, abutting the plantation shantytown.
Every day he taught the poor children who slaved among the rubber trees; and every night he created new uses for the gum that dripped from the rubber trees.
After years of effort, he created a sterile powder to stanch the bleeding wounds of the injured. This brought him a measure of wealth, but not enough to interest politicians and celebrities.
Yet the poor -- who saw him heal the lashes on their backs inflicted by the aristocrat's cronies, and sate their starving minds with his teachings - revered him.
Thus, neither thief nor inheritor of wealth revere, only its creator.
December 10, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of Sen. John Corzine's MF Global, which "mislaid" 1.2 billion dollars of farmers' commodities funds supposedly safely segregated from risky European bond trading.
The Literal, The Intuitive
Detectives were dispatched to the home of a missing person.
The junior detective was young and eager.
Briefly perusing the missing man's home, he noticed no signs of an altercation. "My husband's suitcase and clothes are gone!" his wife cried. Leaning deep into the junior detective's chest, the young woman sobbed.
"My husband's been so unhappy after losing his job, and with his responsibilities as a provider!"
The junior detective consoled her, breaking away only long enough to jot in his notebook that the man had deserted his wife.
The senior detective was an older and slower man.
He looked closely at the woman's face, and asked, "Where do you think your husband is now?"
For an instant, as he watched her eyes dart toward the backyard, the detective felt a deep chill. Then the woman looked down at her feet, sobbed, and cried, "He's just vanished...oh, we loved each other so much!"
The senior detective walked into the kitchen for a glass of water, and, as he drank it, stared out the back window into the dark backyard.
"'Loved,' not 'love,'" he murmured.
In the bedroom, he confirmed the man's clothes and suitcase were missing.But in the bathroom, two toothbrushes still lay on the sink.
When next he returned, with a search warrant, the senior detective found the missing husband and his suitcase of clothes, spread beneath a bed of newly planted roses in the backyard.
Thus, emotions must be clues -- and you a detective.
December 3, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director, The Circle of Reason, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Safe Bet, The Gamble
Generous folks described how the brothers were raised, as "protected."
"Smothered" was more accurate.
As a man, the first sibling's heart raced when he spoke of risk.
He decided to be a safe bet.
He refused to ask women out on dates, because he did not want to risk marrying the wrong one.
He refused to invest his cash, and instead buried it in his backyard, because he did not want to risk investing in the wrong businesses.
He refused to visit the doctor, because he did not want to risk having his medical costs raised.
The second brother's heart outpaced his sibling's when discussing risk. But although just as scared, he fought his fear of it.
He decided to take a gamble.
He asked women out on dates.
He invested his cash.
He visited the doctor.
The "safe bet" died young, poor and alone.
The "gambler" died old, wealthy and with his loving wife and children by his side.
Thus, avoid risk at your risk.
November 26, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the Egyptian people, who now risk all so that their children are freed of the risk of enslavement -- whether by dictator, dragoon, or doctrine.
The Critical Woman, The Helpful Woman
Immersed in possibilities of perfection, the woman said, "I shall make it so."
She grabbed the arm of the first woman to pass her on the street, and told her, "Your scarf is gaudy!"
She ran to a man coming out of a cafe. "Your belly is fat!"
She hurled herself on down the street, grabbing every passerby.
"Your crucifix is tarnished!"
"You have too many freckles!"
"Your child is too loud!"
These people soon hastened across the street away from the woman, whenever she left her home.
Another woman also saw the possibility of perfection in all around her, but said, "I shall help others seek it."
Befriending her neighbors, she encouraged them by saying, "Do what you think, after careful consideration, is the right thing."
The woman with the gaudy scarf saw it was indeed gaudy, but functional, so kept it.
The hefty man decided to eat healthier.
The person who carried an old, tarnished crucifix as a charm recommitted to his faith and polished it -- but kept it inconspicuous, to show an open attitude toward others' opinions.
The freckled woman bought a wide-brim hat to avoid sun damage.
And a parent chose to hug and play with his child, who'd once screamed for attention.
These people soon hastened across the street toward the woman, whenever she left her home.
Thus, it is better to guide than criticize.
November 19, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the U.S. Congressional Supercommittee's failure to guide our "government of the people" for the people.
The Workslave, The Partner
Small-town women moved to the big city to find jobs.
One woman feared homelessness, and so remained in the very first job she found -- filing papers at a firm for whose work she cared nothing. Over the years, she grew cold and resentful of her coworkers' daily joys -- because her only joy was in returning home to her apartment.
So did she become a slave to her work.
The second woman also feared homelessness, but even more feared aimlessness, so sought to find a job she loved. She bided her time in her first job, likewise filing papers for coworkers, until through volunteering she gained the skills and astuteness to garner a job she relished.
So did she become not a slave but a cheerful partner to her work.
Thus, seek not work you hate, but work you love.
November 12, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the inspiring music and career of R.E.M. (Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry.)
The Daydreaming Woman, The Working Woman
Dreams may waft like an ephemeral breeze -- or spiral into a finger that etches what it wills upon the earth.
Neighboring girls shared their secret daydreams, when spent from playing outdoors.
The first's dream was to become a dancer; the second's, a doctor.
The would-be healer took science and math classes in school every day, and finished all her homework every evening.
Meanwhile, the first girl lounged around her house and imagined wearing a white tutu and stockings -- but she did not practice, and so grew a bit chunky.
"You must practice now if you want to be a dancer!" the second girl often told her neighbor.
But her friend would just glance up from the couch and say, "Later! Look at this beautiful ballerina on the TV!"
The next year, the second girl lost touch with her couch-bound friend when her family moved away. She remained a studious young woman, in time enrolling in university to learn medicine.
As a young doctor starting her own practice in a nearby clinic, she drove to her old neighborhood to find her long-ago companion, and knocked on the door of her old house.
"Come on in!" she heard a harried but familiar voice say.
She entered the front door, to face a gaggle of four children and, in their midst, changing a diaper, her old childhood friend -- very clearly too fat to have ever been a dancer.
Over lemonade and cookies, she asked her old friend, "Tell me, what happened to your daydream about being a dancer, so long ago?"
"You know, girl, I never got around to starting that," her neighbor replied with a chuckle and shake of her head. "I was so busy imagining accolades, fame and handsome lovers that, before I knew it, I was too big and short of breath to even think about dancing!"
"But," she laughed dismissively, "it was just a daydream!"
"So, girl," she continued, "what have you been doing all these years?"
Thus, plan your future -- but do not live in it.
November 5, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in warning to Congressional Republicans and their representatives on the 12-member bipartisan "super-committee" -- the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- that the perfect is now the enemy of the good; and that to wait in hopes of electing more Republicans to cut the U.S. deficit only with spending cuts and deregulation, but with neither tax increases on the most wealthy nor with closed tax loopholes, will damage the American economy and its shrinking middle class consumer base. Returning to the Reagan and Clinton years will not betray your ideal of a smaller, more effective government -- but only recognize the reality that a smaller and yet effective government is a useful economic partner.
The Right Fielder, The Left Fielder
Standing deep in right field, the ball player had good mitts.
He was popular with his club mates, and with the fans who came to watch the game, because he was always busy fielding hits.
On the same club there was a player who stood, instead, deep in left field.
He, too, caught the balls batted his way. But because so few fly balls were ever hit into left field, he stood alone, watching the game crawl by before him. The right fielder -- arrogant with success -- and the fans, too, cajoled him; but never once did he budge from left field to jawbone back at them.
One electric week the club was to contest for the Pennant -- and the opposing team brought out new hitters, trained as lefties.
In consternation, the right fielder, the other club mates and the fans watched helplessly as the opposing hitters smashed fly ball after fly ball deep into left field -- where stood only the lone fielder they'd disdainfully heckled.
But each time the ball sailed far out into left field, there he stood -- reaching up to catch it with a casual flick of his mitt.
That week his club won the Pennant -- and he was carried off in victory from left field on the shoulders of his cheering teammates.
Thus, respect those who stand alone -- for the world contains the well trodden and the unexplored.
October 29, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the perseverance of the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Mass movements begin with those who stand alone.
The Weight, The Lever
Strong as an ox he grew, as each day he hefted onto his broad shoulders huge fieldstones from his father's croplands, to carry them across the road and stack them into a playground wall.
One day a girl in the playground leaned over the wall and looked up into the eyes of the young man as he gently set down a huge stone, and asked him, "Why are you so unhappy?"
"I must carry and drop these stones all day," the young man replied. "I want more out of life, but know not how to change it!"
As he was about to mortar the huge stone onto the playground wall, the girl cried, "Wait! Bring the stone back here!" She led him around the far end of the wall to a seesaw.
"This will cheer you up!" She cried happily! "Stand on that end there," she pointed at the lowered seat of the seesaw's metal pole, "then toss the stone onto the other seat!"
Curious, the young man stepped onto the seat, heaved the huge rock toward the other seat, and suddenly found himself flying and tumbling through the air. He spun completely around and landed on his butt -- and laughed in unison with the little girl's cheers.
The other children in the playground swarmed about him, yelling, "Oh, do it again! Do it again!" Soon the young man was able to tumble backward and forward through the air like a monkey, shot into the sky by the very weight of the boulders he had so dutifully hefted.
Within the passing of but a few days, the young man left his father's farm and joined a circus as a strongman and acrobat -- and for the rest of his life knew many days and nights of joy.
Thus, sadness is a weight, and can be leveraged -- so find your fulcrum.
October 22, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton.
The Purposeless, The Purposeful
Residing in the body of a small, gentle man with a twitchy mustache and darting, smiling eyes was the greatest mind in the world.
As this man saw the world about him, unbidden solutions to all the world's ills erupted from the volcanic fissures of his brain.
Yet he put his solutions aside in a small notebook and spoke of them to no one, as if they were raw nuggets of gold in a small jewel box.
Over the years, the man with the greatest mind would sometimes retrieve an idea to change the world, rub it in his fingers to a burnished sheen, then, yawning in distraction, return it to the far, still niches of his awareness -- there to perch in the dust, inert and forever untouched by any other.
Residing in the body of a large dynamo of a man with a squinty face and still, intent eyes was the greatest will in the world. As this man saw the world about him, few solutions to but a few ills in the world could he mine from the coal-dark cave of his methodical, ungifted mind.
Yet his willfire consumed those ideas like a forge, and would not relent.
Over the years, the man with the greatest will methodically hammered together each nugget in his solution to change the world -- and steadily forged his idea until it was laid out for all to see and touch.
Thus, purposelessness is your most terrible foe -- for it destroys not only what you are, but what you could have achieved.
October 15, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in warning to America, for 2012: You've been of two minds, yet both seeing dogma and reality as one. Your fate now depends on rediscovering your single-minded purpose as one people - and uncovering the one path to its achievement: "Reality in 2012!"
The Wanderer, The Strider
Continental Divide crossed from Pole to Pole between their feet, on the grey peak from which each embarked to explore the world.
"Where will you go?" one explorer asked the other.
The first explorer stuck his finger in his mouth and held it up to the wind, then turned around and pointed downwind.
"That-a-way!" he replied.
Then he picked up his backpack and ambled wherever the wind blew.
Over the years this explorer meandered across the earth. He never was known for going the farthest, but was fondly remembered for his stories of the many different people well met on his rambling way.
The second explorer watched the first explorer traipse down the peak, then turned and faced the cold boreal wind, picked up his backpack, and strode.
Far and straight toward the Northwest did he stride, with a long gait and a face always looking beyond, with one eye on the setting sun.
Over the years this explorer strode across the earth. He never was known for stories of friends well met on his unwavering path, but was admired for the tale of how he walked farther than any man across plains, tundras, glaciers and ice floes, until he rounded the aurora haloed tonsure of Father Earth and strode the long way home, walking always west.
Thus, wandering and striding both take you places.
October 8, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the Occupy Wall Street protests.
The Camel, The Donkey
Beast before burden, or burden before beast?
Both a Camel and a Donkey were treated as beasts of burden -- and resented it.
Over years spent carrying water, tents, axes, poles and tapestries, the Camel grew ever more sullen -- until, one day, he began to spit.
Into everyone's face.
When, one scorched-bright day, the Camel, in his rage, leaned his head way, way down, stared into the green eyes of the sheik's favorite infant son, and hawked a big one square onto the little child's face, the Camel was freed from his burdens.
Over those same years spent carrying water, tents, axes, poles and tapestries, the Donkey, too, grew ever more sullen -- except for those who petted him, watered him, or gave him sugar cubes, to whom he returned only a friendly nuzzle and a helpful back.
But those who took out their own rage on him with a whip or a fist found themselves face down in the sand with a hoof-shaped imprint in their rears.
So was the Donkey not freed from his burdens -- but freed from his unjust ones.
Thus, self-defense is not aggression -- nor aggression self-defense.
October 1, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to those on the international stage -- in Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sudan, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Syria and America -- who see a distinction between defense and aggression, and act accordingly.
The Fatuous Idiot, The Unrecognized Genius
Small coastal towns were, once, all they knew.
One man ran the town garage. Though uneducated and a poor reader, one day he believed he'd designed a way to create unlimited and clean energy for all.
He bought five car batteries, arranged them in a loop surrounded by magnets and lightning rods, and attached this contraption to a light bulb. He then proclaimed he'd created a perpetual battery.
People came from miles away to watch the light bulb, which stayed lit for a very long while. Reporters from big cities flew in to interview the "unrecognized genius."
The sense that something had forever changed thrilled the air.
That is, until the light bulb eventually dimmed after the five batteries lost their charge.
So was the "unrecognized genius" eventually seen for what he was -- a fatuous idiot.
The other man from the coastal town ran its boat repair shop.
Although he was educated and well read, his college teachers had been curtly dismissive about his ideas -- which they'd called "naïve," "fatuous," and "strange."
One day he, too, became convinced he'd had an idea for a perpetual supply of energy.
Using his skill as a welder and engineer, he fashioned a seabed post with a buoyed pulley that lifted a ratcheting drop-weight, hundreds of which could be timed and interlinked to spin an undersea magnetic dynamo, tapping the power of the surf to create electricity.
He tried mightily to interest power companies, but was unsuccessful -- because, in their words, he was "just a mechanic!" Yet he interested a private investor who'd remembered that even Einstein had been forced by his university peers to be a patent clerk.
The inventor and his investor started a small company to build their "surf cells," which one day were sold to coastal power companies and home builders.
So was the "fatuous idiot" eventually seen for what he was -- an unrecognized genius.
Thus, only one thing separates genius from fatuousness -- facts.
September 24, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to CERN's potential discovery of slightly-faster-than-light travel of neutrino matter, a dramatic claim that will be vetted -- or refuted -- by later experimentalists.
The Drunkard, The Recovering Alcoholic
Drinking buddies was the generous way to describe them.
Together they drank whiskey in the evening, beer in the afternoon, and rum as morning punch.
Together they stumbled, insensate, down the streets -- and later the back alleys -- of their city.
And so stumbled insensate through their lives.
Yet one day, one of the drunkards, awakening in a cardboard box for a bed, stared up through gummy eyes at the bright blue sky and a single, fluffy white cloud.
He looked over and stared into the faces of the living, who passed just an arm's reach, yet so distant, from him -- then he reached over and plucked the stiff, mucus-stained sleeve of his fellow drunkard.
"I can't live like this!"
"So die," the other man mumbled, "and don't hurt my ears anymore with your whining!" The second drunkard hugged his bottle tighter and returned to sleep.
But the first could not close his eyes. He stared at the cloud as it sailed past the skyscrapers, untouched.
He took no drink, ever again.
He tossed in delirium and terrible desire, under the wings of others who'd gone before -- into the fall from, and resurrection into, awareness.
One year later, he returned to this last alley in which he'd ever slept -- to this last alley where he'd ever swallowed a drink, and this last place he'd ever seen his fellow drunkard.
There was no trace of his fellow traveler.
The earth had swallowed him -- all he ever had been, all he ever could have been.
The recovered alcoholic turned away, to life.
Thus, addiction dwells in the unreal.
September 17, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the U.S. Republican Presidential candidates' call to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with no answer to how America's natural health -- the air it breathes and the water it drinks -- will not be destroyed by America's loss of long-term thinking.
The Corner, The Duck
Cheap business suit frayed and tie askew, a morose young man jaywalked along the city streets. He stared down at his feet, and at the cracks in the pavement and cigarette butts in the curb gutters, as he trudged on.
But as he turned a corner, he stumbled to a halt.
Two big, webbed yellow feet sat before him, on the concrete pavement.
He lifted his eyes -- and there stood a wood duck.
In the middle of a bustling, city sidewalk.
Its ringed, red eyes stared quietly at him, then it clapped its crimson bill twice, honked gently, and squatted down on the concrete.
The young man stared at the duck's green-crested, white-bridled head and the quiet, but blazing, regard of its eyes a moment more -- then shook his head violently, barked a short laugh, skirted the duck warily, and walked on.
Muttering and chuckling to himself, he passed by the next corner, briefly glancing down to his left.
And there sat a mallard duck.
The man stopped in mid-stride. He stared down at the mallard's green face, which calmly regarded him over its bright yellow bill. The man turned back to look at the other corner, then again at the mallard's black-pearl eyes. The mallard blinked one silver eyelid at him, and cocked its head sideways on its white-ringed neck.
Then, the man's head slowly turned toward the third corner of the building, a block out of his way.
He slowly stepped around the mallard, which quacked softly, and he began to walk to the third corner of the building.
Halfway there, his pace quickened, and he began to jog to the third corner.
As he came up to the third corner, he slid to a halt and peered around the cornerstone.
And there sat a canvasback duck, its flat brown face regarding him quizzically over its long, black bill.
The young man paused for but a second, then dashed around the canvasback duck and ran on -- ran as fast as he could -- for the last corner.
To see if there was another duck.
Thus, there is always a duck around the corner.
September 10, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason ("Epilogue"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to "Marvelous Mia" Gerold and Coach Jerry Kill.
The Trudger, The Dancer
Steamy, inner boroughs of the equatorial city muffled the music of the dance hall.
A man trudged by its entrance every day, to and from his way to work.
After a day wrought of hard labor, as he passed in the night he slowed in the cool breeze blown from the hall's entrance, and felt the drumbeats through his feet on the sidewalk.
He heard such songs, muffled through the walls and the frosty windowpanes.
He imagined the people inside -- their smiles, their whirling legs -- and imagined himself among them.
Yet, always, he lowered his head and trudged on.
Another man also passed by the dance hall every day, to and from his job.
After a day sweating in the equatorial sun, he drew near some nights, his glistening brown face turned to the cool breezes wafting from the dance hall, his hand touching the water drops rolling down its windowpanes.
On those nights he'd wipe a small peephole and stare in at the people laughing and dancing, and listen to the muffled music and drums.
And, always, he lowered his head, smiled, and waltzed inside -- to dance.
Thus, dance, to celebrate that you are alive.
September 3, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of self-proclaimed Christian organization OneMillionMoms.org's bigoted call to boycott the TV show "Dancing With the Stars" because its fall lineup for the first time includes celebrities who are openly gay (Carson Kressley) and transgender (Chaz Bono).
The Famous, The Great
The void within a soul is a vacuum that hungers.
Unfulfilled in their jobs, the sisters grew restive.
The first sister took a long weekend to think on her future. When she returned the following week, she said to her sister, "I want fame!"
She quit her job and spent all her hours, every day and week, auditioning to be a model and actress.
When the attentions of dishonest agents and producers lay upon her, she did not refuse their overtures but ensured she was hired.
Acting skills neglected in her race to fame, she was cast in pornographic films -- and, with cosmetic enhancements, achieved some measure of fame.
In the twilight of her career, skimming over her dusty collection of blue movies, she confessed to her sister, "I desired fame in the world, and got it."
"But why does fame feel so empty?"
The second sister had taken many months to decide where her restive ambition would rest.
Eventually, she, too, quit her job, and, like her sister, spent all her hours, every day and week, auditioning as an actress.
But to craft her skill she auditioned and worked only for the stage.
For years she went from one playhouse to another, one role after another, growing in her range and scope.
Acting skills risen to greatness, she was cast in major theatres and movies, and achieved a different measure of fame.
In the twilight of her career, glancing only briefly toward her collection of faded movies, theatre reviews and acting awards, she remarked to her sister, "I desired to move the world, and did."
"Fame wasn't my goal -- only its consequence."
Thus, do not seek fame -- seek greatness.
August 27, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to Steve Jobs.
The Dog, The Parrot
Families have characters as well as character.
In this small duplex the family characters were a dog and a parrot.
The brown wiener dog was a curious and cheerful sort. But one thing bothered its owners.
When the dog grew hungry, it barked.
When the dog got bored and wanted to play, it barked.
When the dog was scared, it barked.
The day when an intruder's face loomed in their front window -- the dog barked.
The little dog's owners loved it dearly -- but were never quite sure what it wanted.
Their grey parrot was a different sort entirely.
When the parrot grew hungry, it said, "More power, Scotty! I Need! More! Power!"
When the parrot got bored and wanted to play, it said, "Ten quatlus on the earthling!"
When the parrot was scared, it said, "Beam me up!"
And the day the intruder peered through their front window, it yelled, "Red Alert! Security to the bridge!"
Its owners loved their grey parrot no more than their wiener dog -- but were always sure what it wanted.
Thus, talk -- or bark.
August 20, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the ad hominem rhetoric and disproved, reflexive claims of the Republican Presidential candidates and U.S. Congressmen; by calling federal economic stimulus and monetary policies "treasonous," and asserting that only continuing the super-rich's income tax cuts can somehow now invigorate an economy with no demand due to rising middle-class poverty, the GOP is releasing the floodgates to a sea change in American politics: driving the U.S. business sector to realign with the founders and protectors of the middle class -- the Democratic Party.
The Stillborn, The Quickened
Dwellings were carved in the windswept cliffs of the desert.
Seers of the cave tribe had long foretold a child would be born to the chieftain -- one touched by an eagle, who would become the greatest leader of their tribe, bringing them the light of new knowledge, strength and peace.
Yet over the years no child was born to the chieftain, who grew old.
In his doddering years, the chieftain took a young wife after the passing of his mate of many seasons, and she became pregnant. The tribe danced in the chieftain's cave hut on the eve of the birthing, awaiting the coming of prophecy.
But the male child was stillborn.
In dismay, the chieftain and the tribe rent their clothing and cast out the young wife from the chieftain's hut. In pain from labor, she crouched in a stony shelter among lowest cliff caves -- where she soon gave birth to a twin child, a female. Bending over her baby, her mother whispered in her ear, "Your spirit name shall be Touched-by-an-Eagle, and will forever remain unknown to all but me."
The mother held her tenderly through the cold night.
The next morning, in disgrace, she returned to her own family's hut and suckled her quiet infant girl. Over the years, the now infirm chieftain oft stared angrily at the girl -- who, in spite of his anger, grew tall, raven-haired and swift, with the probing eyes of a raptor.
When the intent young girl became a woman, she chose not to take a husband, but studied the hunting ways of her tribe, and then fashioned a new weapon: short spears notched with eagle feathers, which flew straight through the air -- with an eagle's spirit -- into the hearts of their prey.
With these spears the tribesmen and women were also able to defend against their aggressive neighbors -- until peace negotiations became their enemies' only alternative to death.
And the young woman was the first to insist on peace. She led the way by befriending the women in the opposing tribes -- so that strutting men had no bed to sleep in until they'd calmed their minds and opened their fists.
So did the tribes merge into one great tribe of brothers and sisters.
And, when the time came to choose their leader, the combined tribe chose she who'd brought them the light of new knowledge, strength and peace -- she whose secret name was Touched-by-an-Eagle.
Thus, do not be stillborn -- quicken to your destiny. -- via Whale Rider
August 13, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the emerging leaders from Ames, Iowa's Straw Poll of the U.S. Republican Presidential candidates -- whose future mission will be, whether ultimately as President or as spokespersons for the opposition, to help spur Capitol Hill back to restoring America's balanced budget; but also dedicated in supplication to remember that the cure for America's ailment mustn't be worse than the disease.
The Giraffe, The Snake
Emerald boughs and grass caressed one's head, and the other's belly.
The Giraffe bemusedly called down to the Snake, "Oh, how I long to rub my belly in the low grass, and crawl in its cool green embrace!"
The Giraffe bent his head down as far as it would go, and tried to lower his great, tall legs as far as he could. But try as he might, the Giraffe could not plant his belly on the ground.
Sighing, he stood tall once again and munched some leaves at the tip of a tree -- which, he silently admitted to himself, were pretty tasty.
The Snake, crawling in the grass beneath him, laughed at the Giraffe's attempt to squat, but then confessed, "You know, I, too, have longed to stand straight and tall and look down on the tips of the trees!"
The Snake uncurled the front half of his body and stretched straight upright as far as he could. But try as he might, the Snake could not stay upright as his rear formed a smaller and smaller coil, and he toppled back into the cool grass.
He, too, sighed a sad, undulating hiss -- although, he admitted to himself, the grass was pretty cool and comfortable.
Thus, in some arenas you will fail, in others surpass -- find your arena.
August 13, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the also-rans of Ames, Iowa's Straw Poll of the U.S. Republican Presidential candidates, whose future mission will not be as President, but who can each become unique contributors to and guides of America's public discourse -- a responsibility that mustn't ever be taken cavalierly.
The Addict, The Ex-Addict
Novitiates in the art of narcosis, young lovers stole money from their parents to frequent an opium den.
The boy spent every hour away from work and school at the den, smoking an opium hookah.
He gazed into the blank space just beyond the tip of his nose as if it were the most important thing in the world.
The girl too spent many an hour at the den, lying in the boy's arms, blue smoke curling up from her nostrils.
In time, on the days when their school took chartered bus trips, they cringed in the back of the bus, near the toilet, pulling at their sweaty hair and fighting off shivers.
And they staggered away, hand in hand, down the street as soon as the bus pulled into the school parking lot.
One day, the girl, about to take her first puff of the day, paused with the opium pipe near her lips.
She looked at her reed-thin arms, then down at her pale, sweaty flesh, and slowly turned to the boy.
"We're both addicts," she said. "Bad addicts. We can't go on like this, or we'll die."
The boy reached for the hookah and took a deep breath of blue smoke, then replied, "I know we're addicts. 'Life is but a dream,' anyway, right? Might as well enjoy it."
As his eyes lost focus, hers began to intensify.
She grabbed the pipe and held it up.
"But is this really joy?"
She glanced nervously at her image, haggard and threadbare, in the den's mirrored wall, and her grip on the opium pipe tightened.
"What if this is false joy?" she murmured, and shook the pipe before her face, as if she held the neck of a snake.
One last time she looked deep into the boy's clouded eyes.
"What if true joy is the only kind that fulfills?"
The boy said nothing.
So did the girl throw down her opium pipe, and, shivering from fear as much as from withdrawal, run home -- to lock herself away until she became a human being once again, not a figment of a nightmarish dream.
Thus, both being and illusion reward with joy -- one false, one true.
July 30, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton, Ph.D. Dedicated to MN Community Measurement, and to the doctors, nurses and staff of the CentraCare clinic of Becker, Minnesota, who in response to the shock of first seeing online their patients' dismal health outcomes in that statewide publicized "scorecard," increased the percentage of their diabetic patients who were receiving proper care from 5% to 60% -- confirming that publicly rating health professionals' patient outcomes shatters all illusions of competent care, saving lives and wealth.
The Yelling Man, The Reasoning Man
Anger was the cave dweller within the man who yelled his way through life.
He yelled at his son when the boy missed a soccer goal -- even though a small voice inside him said, "In truth, he and his team were outmatched this game."
He yelled at his field hands when the monsoon flattened their soybean crop, even though his small voice had said, "In truth, there was no way they could have saved this harvest."
As he barreled onward through his life, this angry man continued to ignore the small voice inside him.
Until one day it shut up.
For the dark remainder of his days, this man relished only in abusing all who crossed his path. But his pleasure was hollow -- because nothing ever seemed to go his way, and no man or woman called him friend.
Deliberation was the glacial spring within the man who reasoned his way through life.
He listened to truth's small voice -- and, in spite of his emotions, divulged only truth's words to his children and field hands, when they came to him in failure or fear. They were amazed that he always said the right thing, putting in perspective the hurts of the day.
As he reached outward through his life, the voice of truth grew in this reasonable man, until it spilled out of him like spring water, and nourished the same voice in all who crossed his path.
For the remainder of his days, both light and dark, this man felt the joy of clear and right actions taken, of the many things that went his way with effort and thoughtful persuasion, and of the many men and women who called him friend.
Thus, emotion unharnessed is the font of life's storms, and reason unleashed of life's balm.
July 23, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the people of Norway and its democratic Labor Party workers, bystanders and youth killed in the country's worst mass murder since WWII; and in admonishment of the alleged actions of Anders Behring Breivik, and of his fellow right-wing Christian Nationalist extremists, in perpetrating or condoning murder to thwart democracy and liberty. In the words of one of the Labor Party youth summer camp victims, "You will not stop Norway's democracy by shooting us."
The Siren, The Bell
Rising from the village square was a medieval belfry topped with a cast bronze bell and a bright-red, hand-cranked siren.
On days of rest and celebration, and on any day the Mayor addressed the townsfolk, the bell rang -- its clear, exalting peal calling villagers to put down their bridles, bread or books, and meander like a slow tide toward the square's battlements.
Yet one day, a new functionary, instructed to ring the bell for a town meeting, instead cranked the red siren.
An ear-splitting trumpet pierced the air.
Villagers dashed from their homes and fields into the streets -- some sweating from their dropped labors, others half-dressed from siesta, and a few who'd ne'er before heard a siren crying in terror of unseen angels heralding the End.
Great was the townsfolk's anger -- and sorry the functionary's political fate -- when the people found the siren call had been a mistake.
Yet another day, a new and arrogant young Mayor rang the town bell, and all the people slowly gathered to its call.
But when the Mayor told the crowd he'd rung the bell to call only his own council members, and that the townsfolk weren't welcome to participate, he, too, suffered the functionary's fate.
Thus, evoking emotion has proper roles, but is dangerous to misuse.
July 16, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the U.S. GOP's emotional brinksmanship in considering voting not to raise the nation's debt limit, causing the country to fail to pay what it owes. For the U.S. to declare itself "bankrupt" when owing but a fraction of its annual net worth will make it a credit risk, losing all ability to borrow on good terms -- like a well-paid worker who yet refuses to pay his mortgage, his bills and his credit cards.
The Path, The Hill
Rolling woodland dwarfed the young sisters standing at its foothills.
When they'd become old enough to forage for fruits and nuts, and to know how to use a compass, their mother smiled secretively, kissed them and said, "Beginning today you may explore all you want."
The sisters squealed and lunged for their backpacks.
At the edge of the woodland, seeing the vista of trees, grass brooks and hillocks stretching to the horizons, and hearing the croaks of frogs, cries of birds, and patter of rabbit and fox feet amidst the leaves, one sister grew timid.
"Sister, if we're going to explore the woods today, I want to keep to that path winding its way through it!"
Her sibling, feeling adventurous, chided, "We know our directions!" She pointed past underbrush, toward the base of a distant tall hill -- and excitement gleamed in her smile.
"Don't you want to go over that tall hill, to see what's on the other side? Let's not simply go where the old paths lead -- let's carve a trail ourselves!"
She then poked her timid sister in the ribs. "Or what's exploring for?!"
Thus, exploration must involve the new -- or is an illusion. - via Ralph Waldo Emerson
July 9, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the new vistas of our universe shown by NASA's Space Shuttle program -- and to the next phase of space exploration humankind shall launch in the future. We must never cease to "light the fire."
The Instinctive, The Reflective
Day to night was one sister to the other.
One sister flared with instinct and whim.
She believed only an unconsidered life adventurous.
Her days merged into a parade of floats and balloons -- while she stood, deep in the crowd, witnessing her life pass by.
At the end of her life's parade, she was remembered -- as a victim of the whims of fate.
The other sister glowed with reflection and intention.
She believed a considered life could be adventurous.
Her days merged into a parade of soldiers -- while she marched at the head of the line, drawing her life forward.
At the end of her life's march, she was remembered -- as fated to succeed.
Thus, there is but one path between suffering the whims of fate and being fated to succeed -- effort.
July 2, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the ideological stalemate and lack of effort to find any consensus between the DFL-led Minnesota State Executive and GOP-led Legislative branches, which has led to shutdown of the state government.
The Empty Hook, The Baited Hook
Fishing was not their hobby, but their existence.
The first fisherman was, that morning, still inebriated from a night brimming with plum wine, and forgot his tackle box and bait.
So he decided to talk the fish into biting his empty hook.
He used all manner of reasonable arguments (if uttered with a bit of a slur) to persuade the fish of their value to him, and to his family, of biting the bare hook.
The fish didn't listen.
The second fisherman, amused by this increasingly plaintive soliloquy, put a plump worm on his own hook but offered none to his partner.
His fish basket grew full that day.
As night fell and sobriety dawned, the second fisherman turned to his morose partner, gave him half of his catch, and reminded him of their first fishing lesson.
"If it don't look or taste interestin', they won't swallow it."
Thus, logic is the hook, but love the lure.
June 25, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to yesterday's passage and signing of the State of New York's same-sex Marriage Equality Law -- which passed only with the aid of four Republican Senators who according to Governor Andrew Cuomo were "People of courage," and who according to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg "will long be remembered for their courage, foresight, and wisdom," and will "10 or 20 or 30 years from now...look back at this vote as one of their finest, proudest moments"; and dedicated to the noble impetus justified by the logic of same-sex marriage equality, an impetus seen from the first day of the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969 to today's Minnesota Pride Festival -- the impetus of love.
The One Way, The Many Ways
Eating only of the fallen fruit of the trees and the milk of grazing goats, the small tribe yielded to other living creatures under all circumstances.
They dwelled in huts built only of fallen branches, twigs and leaves, and moved out if insects made their home there.
They had few children, because too many exhausted the natural fruit and milk supply, and tilling the land to grow more fruit trees, or fencing it to domesticate more goats, would evict wildlife into homelessness.
The tribe built a mud brick hospice for dying animals, so that each could die a natural death with interference from none. Some of the dying thrashed in pain, but the tribespeople felt they should do nothing to hasten their end.
Few plants and animals ever died at the hands of the small tribe. The tribespeople decided this reward was worth their sacrifice of good homes, large families, and ready food.
Across the river, a large tribe ate of the flesh of cultivated plants and animals.
Understanding that Man must consume either the leavings, or the essence, of life, they reasoned that the killing of plants or animals was necessary for their tribe to thrive, grow and explore -- because only a few could live on fallen fruit and milk.
Yet they bred the plants and animals in open ranges to grow strong and, while living, live well and in harmony with their wild neighbors.
The tribe killed only for food, not pleasure, and killed only what they bred, to not decimate wildlife and so harm other tribes or their own descendants. And they killed painlessly, with alcohol or hand-fed poppy bulbs, to prevent suffering.
They built a fired-clay brick hospital for sick animals to recover, and when animals were dying helped end their suffering.
Many plants and animals both lived with, and were later killed by, the tribe for their food. The tribespeople decided that the lives of these plants and animals were good, their ends quick, and their use for the tribe's survival justified.
One day a woman from the small tribe, rinsing her long hair in the river's delta shoals, met there a woman from the large tribe.
While the first woman bathed and the second bottled and inebriated a farmed catfish, they talked of their disparate lives.
Each woman saw the other's earnest belief, and heard the logical arguments of the other that her people's actions were right, not wrong.
Yet as the sun set beneath the distant hills, the women stared at each other, perplexed -- with halting glances at one's stuporous fish and at the other's protruding ribs -- and turned away.
Later, each woman approached the wise ones of her tribe and asked, "How could we both be right?"
The old wise ones gave them the same answer -- "Reasoning people can still disagree."
Thus, logic is the straight path -- but leads from many places.
June 18, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton.
The Musket, The Cannon
Soldiers in blue and grey faced one another across a field of carnage.
The soldier in blue looked down to his right hand, which held a bayoneted musket.
The soldier in grey looked down to his right hand, which held a torch to a loaded cannon.
The soldier in blue shouldered his musket and ran for his life -- to battle another day and in a better way.
Thus, retreat before defeat, and regroup to recoup.
June 11, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the Minnesota and U.S. Republican Party's willingness, during a time of economic fragility and structural job changes unlike any other since the Great Depression, to entirely shut down state and federal government and send it into financial default -- all for the sake of non-taxation ideology -- rather than consider balancing their budgets by mixing spending reductions with restoration of even some income taxes from prior Republican-led governments in earlier years of economic growth. Bankruptcy isn't the same as austerity; it endangers the health of the people, the economy, the state and the country that the GOP so professes to love.
The Lightning, The Wind
Pinnacle of the Peloponnesus, Olympus was claimed to be the home of the gods.
So men, in their youth and ambition, sought to scale it.
The people in the small town at the foot of Mount Olympus lived well off of tourists who traveled to see the so-called Home of the Gods.
But they warned the young men, "Thunderbolts from the Father of the Gods, Zeus, will undo any foolish enough to try to scale Olympus!"
One young man spat and replied, "The gods are a myth!" and began at once to scale the mountain. Yet later that very day, as thunder rolled in the skies, his fallen, crushed body was found -- and the townspeople cried, "His ambition attracted the wrath of the Gods as lightning!"
But a second young man noted the slitted eyes and the full pockets of the townspeople who'd warded them off -- and saw how they had crept hurriedly up the foothills that morning.
So he tarried -- for weeks -- building a mysterious object of canvas, poles and rope.
But, as he wasn't trying to scale the mountain, the well-fed townspeople ignored him.
Then one day, this second young man proclaimed to the townspeople, "You say that ambition called down the wrath of the gods upon my friend as lightning! But I say his ambition called down your wrath!"
"The only bolts that struck my compatriot were stones!"
The young man then unfurled a great pair of ribbed wings, and, climbing to a nearby hill, ran into the blowing wind. As he sailed up to the peak of Mount Olympus, he called down to the screaming crowd below him.
"The wrath of lightning from neither god nor man touches me! But I am lifted up by the winds and wisdom of the gods -- and will show all that Olympus is not the abode of gods, but of the courageous!"
Thus, wisdom is your wing and ambition your wind, but the wrath of others falls like lightning. -- via Theodor Reik
June 4, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the murdered marchers for Peace and Democracy in Syria, and in admonishment of the Assad regime that in this Arab Spring is firing upon and torturing to death its own young children.
The Well-Trodden Path, The New Path
An adventurer chanced upon two paths in a dense forest.
One path was well trodden. She squatted and stared at the tracks, mostly human, that lay in the black dirt. The other path was hard to see, and partly overgrown. Its tracks were sparse, newly made, and appeared to be those of the boar, deer and occasional predatory cat, but no humans.
The adventurer stared at the two unfamiliar paths, and chose first the well-trodden one. After walking a half-hour, the path unfolded into a bright village, where she bought supplies and fresh water. After a few moments of stroking the woven cloth, testing the bamboo cages, and fingering trinkets in the small market, the adventurer's head slowly craned away -- back down the path by which she had come.
She turned and walked back the path, to the spot where the new path sprang into the forest.
The adventurer stopped, uncorked a flask and took a swig of water, wiped the sweat from her face, then squatted to crawl beneath the underbrush down the new path.
After a few kilometers, she heard a faint noise in the distance ahead. It grew as she trudged on in a crouch, while the sun oozed down into an orange and purple sky at her back. Soon the noise was a roar, and she smelled cool, wet air.
Suddenly the new path blossomed into a clearing -- at the base of a one-hundred-meter waterfall.
A rainbow circled about her head, as the setting sun cast the misty rocks red and gold.
The adventurer's mouth slowly fell open.
Thus, the safe path leads nowhere new.
May 28, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the myopic vision of Saudi monarchs, who seek to avert the Arab World from replacing its monarchic dictators with theocratic dictators -- not seeing that both are but the two feet that walk one worn path.
The Old Fool, The Born Fool
Chewing on blankets until they passed furballs like cats was a favorite past-time.
The brothers even enjoyed tossing their own excrement -- to the shocked dismay of their naïve parents.
As youths, one quickly learned to hop on the toilet when the need arose -- but the other felt, "That's what diapers are for, aren't they?"
Soon the first brother became the darling of his parents, as he learned to not spit out his food, to wipe his own face, to speak whole sentences, and to tie his own shoes and button his own shirts, in short order.
But his brother preferred to spit, drool, scream, kick off his shoes, and leave his shirt unbuttoned -- for as long as he could get away with it. It was certainly easier.
Their philosophies remained underfoot like a faithful dog.
The first brother learned to work hard in school and college, in marriage and family -- becoming a patriarch, and a wise elder.
But his brother skimmed through school, flunked college, and sired children out of wedlock, with no job to support them -- becoming a burden on his brother's family, and a foolish codger.
Thus, we are born fools, and without great effort fools we remain.
May 21, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the Tennessee Senate bill to ban school discussion, teaching material, or instruction about the existence of gays or gay lifestyles.
The Dying, The Living
The sameness of the grizzled at first made the two men think they stood before shimmering mirages of themselves, when they met in the middle of a vast desert.
But as they hailed one another, their ears -- the last bastion of the flesh to slough into the bronze sand -- made the truth known.
The first old man asked the second, "How come you to be in the middle of all these dunes?"
"I came here to die," the second old man replied. Face wrinkled by sadness, not just by time and illness, he continued, "I've lived a life filled with nothing but regrets. Every choice I made in life was wrong. Every opportunity I had, I let slip from my hands."
Squinting, he looked around, his sparse strands of hair tossing about in the blowing sands, whose grains filled the creases of his face.
"My life meant nothing to anybody -- least of all to me. So I've come here, to this desolation, to die without causing anybody any fuss."
The first old man nodded thoughtfully, silent.
"And you?" the second old man asked. "You came here to die, as well?"
The first old man, his face equally wrinkled, but most of all by laugh lines creasing his eyes and cheeks, smiled.
"Well, not quite -- I'm dying too, that's true." He, too, looked around at the desolation, and the sun tossed off red glints from his deep-set, cobalt-blue eyes.
"But this is my last adventure. I've always wanted to see what plants, bugs and lizards could possibly live in this sandbox of the demons. And now that I'm dying, well, there's no better time to pursue the dream one still has left, is there?"
"You see," the first old man continued, "I didn't come here just to die. I also came here to play."
Thus, even in its final days, life can be an adventure.
May 14, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to Harmon Killebrew.
The Soldier, The General
Charnel stench misted the battlefield.
In the center of this battlefield lay, pinned down in a foxhole by friendly fire, a foot soldier. As poorly aimed mortars exploded on the ragged ground above his head, he hunkered down in his hole and wished fervently he were somewhere else.
Then, while the soldier enjoyed a respite from the shelling and waited for his squad to catch up to his position, into the foxhole dove his army division's top commander -- a brigadier general, his shrapnel-riddled coat adorned with single stars on its epaulets, his fists carrying a pistol and a walkie-talkie.
As the soldier involuntarily started to leap to attention, the general swept out a leg and knocked him back down.
"Don't even think about it, soldier. At ease."
"Sir! What in flaming hell are you doing here?!" the soldier yelled over sporadic small arms fire.
"This is a war, isn't it, son? Let's get the lay of the land." The general crawled backwards up the east side of the hole and just below its edge stared with a handheld periscope at the field of battle, then hunkered down and radioed in precise map coordinates to his artillery.
"I knew you all were a bit close to enemy lines, soldier. And I don't intend to bomb the troops under my own command. Now we'll see just how much starch in the britches my gunners have, now that I'm right here with you."
As the friendly mortar fire passed overhead and landed fifty meters east, right on top of the enemy's front line, the general looked at his grateful soldier and grinned.
"You see, I was once a foot soldier too."
Thus, what bravery conquers, strategy enlarges.
May 7, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 and their Commander-In-Chief for their circumspect persistence and ultimate success in removing the head of the global terrorist network, Al Qaeda.
The Snob, The Egalitarian
Outskirts seemed to them such a lovely, frilly word for living on the fringe.
In the neighboring girls' drab apartment complex, the first girl watched her mother do no work other than spend every last cent of her husband's money.
Her mother bought only the gaudiest jewelry and velour pillows, even as her own daughter went without gym shoes -- "because," her mother said, brow furrowing with deep, makeup-caked lines, "only trash have no jewelry or use cheap pillows!"
Her mother invited only her most ostentatious neighbors for afternoon "aperitifs," even though their daughters all shunned hers -- "because," she said, lounging in a pool chair with vodka in hand, "poor people are only poor because they're lazy bums, not like my husband!"
But the second girl watched her own mother work by her husband's side every weekday to eke out a modest salary and thrifty living.
Her mother's bright, unmade face bore a smile as her only jewelry. And sitting on her family's pillowless sofa, she laced up new gym shoes for her daughter's feet.
Her mother invited every one of her neighbors for weekend potlucks. While the ostentatious ones never came, many others did -- including her neighbor's daughter, hand-in-hand with her own.
Thus, snobbishness is a sign -- of limitation. -- via Pauline and Jean Phillips (Dear Abby)
April 30, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to President Obama's willingness to show his birth credentials to those who cannot bring themselves to believe an African-American could rise to the Presidency on his own merits; and in admonishment of Donald Trump's repeated doubts both about Obama's native birthright as an American and (by Trump's next asking to see Obama's early college transcripts) about Obama's intellectual capability as an African-American -- in spite of Obama's possessing, in the recollection of his undergraduate student classmates and roommates at Columbia, a "sharp mind, unshakeable integrity and passion for the underprivileged," and in spite of Obama's becoming at Harvard Law School the president of the Harvard Law Review, and later a Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago School of Law.
The Meaningless Life, The Meaning of Life
Skin as grey and marbled as the ancient colonnade she leaned against, a wise grandmother watched her two young charges explore the Ruins of the Ancestors, long ago fallen to decay.
One grandchild darted from behind the white robes of his twin sister, and climbed upon a great, fluted pillar of marble, fallen and half-buried in the grass. There he grabbed a twig from the top of an olive tree and brandished it over his head.
"I am the conquering King!" he cried, stabbing his wooden sword into the ghostly bodies of men to come.
His grandmother watched her small grandson, and saw the man he would become -- and her face grew as solemn as the cold marble under her withered hand.
Yet the other grandchild, gathering her robes about her legs and unshodding her sandals, quietly joined her grandmother, there on the marble stairs of a small temple to a god long ignored.
She stared at her brother's strutting swordplay, then at the broken temple columns, and the azure of the empty sky -- then turned to her grandmother and asked, "What is the meaning of life?"
The wise woman's sad gaze broke away from her grandson and, growing radiant, swung toward her.
With dawning joy the old woman stared at her granddaughter's querulous blue eyes, and then, reaching out a wrinkled hand to caress her smooth cheek, replied, "Oh, my darling grandchild! In asking that question, you have answered it."
Thus, the meaning of life is that it's the meaning of life -- you are that you are.
April 23, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the perseverance of Pakistani women's rights advocate and educator, Mukhtar Mai; and in admonishment of the men of Mai's village council and of the Pakistani Supreme Court who, blinded by obedience to inhuman customs, first instructed and have now refused to imprison the men who gang-raped Mai and expected her subsequent suicide to enforce clan honor.
The General, The Gardener
Long had the General fought for the empire, and grown old in its service.
On his half-century birthday, with marbled mane and wrinkled but still muscular arms, he turned to his second-in-command, clasped his arm in farewell, dropped his breastplate and scepter of command onto the table, tossed his crimson robe over his shoulder, and walked away.
He returned on foot to his father's estate, and, upon his father's death, made all his inherited slaves free. With them he started a communal garden on his estate, and there they tended to their fruits and their vegetables, and to their wives and children. To his great pleasure, the lords of the empire ignored him.
But, a decade later, an invading horde rode from the Eastern plains, and, unchecked by the empire's scattered armies, plundered and burned villages on the border of their capital. In desperation, the empire's lords rode up to the old General in his vegetable garden, heeled their horses, and threw at his dirt-blackened feet the golden breastplate of command over the armies of the empire. With a glance into the pleading face of his former second-in-command, and with a great sigh, the old General bent over and tightened the laces of his sandals, then picked up and strapped on the golden breastplate and leapt into their festooned chariot -- and, once again, went to war.
With vastly outnumbered troops, but the sleight-of-hand learned from a lifetime of battle, the old General hoodwinked the barbarian horde, which soon fled in disarray back into the mists of the East.
In triumph, the General was robed in purple and wheeled on a golden chariot to the seat of the empire, and there all the lords of the empire offered him the wreath of Dictator.
But, once more, he turned to his second-in-command, clasped his arm in farewell, dropped his breastplate and scepter of command onto the marble dais, and, hefting his robe over his shoulder, walked away -- to his vegetable garden.
As he stood again on its verdant grass, gazing into the welcoming faces of his family and friends, with a great sigh he bent over and loosened the laces of his sandals.
Thus, a small life is not trivial -- only an unconsidered one.
April 16, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the peaceful People's Movement of Syria -- the united thousands of Syrians from different regions, classes and religions, who seek liberty from political repression while holding banners proclaiming, "No to Sectarianism."
The Mannequin, The Harlequin
Spanish moss draped the lintel of a bayou mansion - and all who passed through its foggy tendrils hid their faces and bodies beneath masks and silks of past ages.
Wine flowed freely at the costume party, and one partygoer partook without moderation.
So drunk did he grow, that, espying a female mannequin masked and dressed in a whalebone-corset gown and laid recumbent on a settee, did he sit at its feet, caressing its stiletto heels, and whispering into its gently sculpted plastic ear.
Only when he tossed away his mask and buried his face in the mannequin's cold, hard bosom did he recoil, in bent-nosed confusion, to the laughter of the crowd who'd watched his awry wooing.
But then, a woman partygoer, dressed in a harlequin mask and bodiced gown, walked out of the crowd to the settee, tossed off the mannequin, lay down and beckoned back the drunk.
He spun on his heels, and, to the crowd's cheers, lay down in the woman's arms and buried his face in her warm, soft bosom.
Then the woman reached up and snatched off her harlequin mask, to reveal the beautiful, yet angry and sorrowful, face of the drunken man's wife.
The drunken man staggered back to howls of glee and, red-faced, fled from the party -- his outraged wife, fists clenched, closing behind.
Thus, we are persons -- not patinas.
April 9, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. The Circle's "Hall of Shame" award is dedicated in admonishment of the Mississippi Republican Party's generational bridge of racism: In a recent poll of Mississippi GOP voters, more than half of its GOP elders older than age 65 -- and of its GOP youth age 18-30 -- think interracial marriage should, once again, be made a crime.
The Hopeless, The Hopeful
Homeless, the forgotten men dwelled in a cardboard box.
Because they could not sit up straight without their heads bursting the seam of their corrugated paper roof, they could but stare at their own feet -- which they grew to know as intimately as other men their own hands.
They slept beside one other, under winter's ice-needle stitched quilt, to avoid dying from frost. But none other, in the frigid metropolis whose anonymous alleyway they called home, remembered either's name -- nor cared whether they lived or died. They killed and ate rats to live, grimly joking about gourmet recipes for rat-meat dishes.
One day, one of the duo crawled out of their box to sit straight up on the gritty concrete, tipped up a frayed hat brim and stared quietly at the blue sky with his grizzled and grimy face, yet glistening eyes.
Then he looked down and said to the other, "I want to die now. What else is there for me?"
The other's bowed head suddenly cocked sideways to reveal a rheumy eye peering from beneath oily strings of hair.
The eye blinked twice.
But before his companion could even think to speak, the first stood up, pulled his hat brim down, straightened his rancid jacket, and stepped from the alley into the path of an oncoming truck.
The other man stumbled up to the street and, looking down at the body of his dead companion, found his voice.
He murmured, "I was there for you, you fool."
Then, wiping a tear from his eye, he picked up his companion's hat from the red gutter, placed it on his head, turned away and searched for a new companion -- for tonight the cold wind would blow even harder.
Thus, do not murder your hope -- the future isn't absolutely certain.
April 2, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the resilience of the American people, who grew the private sector by 1.4 million jobs in the last 6 months, in recovery from the Great Recession; and in supplication to state and federal legislators, to not risk undercutting the recovery by removing employee bargaining rights, refusing healthcare reform, firing public workers and shutting down government services.
The Studhorse, The Racehorse
In a leisurely realm horses raced for the pleasure of men.
A black steed with a raven mane and a golden gelding with a silver mane outran the autumn wind.
They reveled in facing the other on the long earthen track.
For years they did battle, winning their lords and ladies great wealth.
One day, as all do, the horses grew old. The day came when stable boys surrounded the black steed, placed a harness upon his head, and led him away from the track forever, to stud on a small farm.
The golden gelding whinnied, for his racing mate was lost to him.
Yet, incapable of breeding, the gelding was allowed to race on.
Now racing against younger horses, valiantly did the golden gelding still try to win, but his now-aged muscles could not break the reins of time.
The golden horse tossed about his head in frustration, as he faltered and fell behind in the greatest races. Yet none dared face him in the smaller races, so great was his renown.
And so, on a burning, cloudless day, with parasols twirling in the corner of his feverish eye, the golden gelding fell -- broken from the strife of striving far beyond one's limits.
On that same merciless day, the black steed seethed.
Long since taken from racing to stud, he had sired seven colts and mares, and all who looked upon him in his small, fenced-in range were proud and happy.
But he cantered and galloped from one edge of the fence to the other. He reared, whinnying, and kicked at the wooden rails with the dawn light, and bucked high into the air.
Wanting to run. To race.
Yet, for fear of injuring him, his owners had raced him not once.
Enraged, the black steed tried to jump his too-tall fence, and fell -- broken from the strife of not striving.
Thus, exhaustion arises from too much effort -- and too little.
March 26, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the effort of those made idle by the 2011 Japanese Triple Disaster, or "Toripuru Saigai," to remain active and aid their fellow citizens.
The Builder, The Pipedreamer
Backyard reveries are a boy's prerogative.
The eldest was a stolid lad. He'd hammer nails into planks all day -- but if asked what he'd like to build from them? He couldn't say.
The other boy, the younger, ran from his father's chores, lay on his back in his friend's backyard and gazed at the blue sky -- and "what ifs" popped up from his open mouth, as iridescent, fragile and wandering as soap bubbles.
This day, the elder boy's father had told his son to stop hammering nails and go out and play -- while the younger boy had, once again, sneaked away from his father's demands, to join his friend and pipedream.
But for them the day brought a different thing than planned.
The younger boy, staring up into the clouds, said, "I wish we had the town's biggest and best treehouse!"
The idle hammering of nails into a piece of scrap wood stopped. The elder boy looked over at his friend and slowly replied, "A treehouse?"
"Yes, the biggest and best in the world! Wouldn't it be great!" the younger said, dreamily.
The elder boy sat, hammer in hand, a long while -- then stood up and reached down to his friend's hand.
"Let's do it. And you're my architect!"
So was the beginning of the world's (or at least the town's) biggest and best treehouse.
Thus, workers and dreamers both have value -- one makes the world run, the other points the world's way.
March 19, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the Egyptian Constitutional Referendum of 2011 -- the first ever democratic vote of the Egyptian people.
The Defeated, The Challenged
Soccer balls are black and white -- you play or ride pine.
The two boys, one gangly and the other small and clumsy, desperately wanted to be on their school's freshman soccer team.
On the day of soccer tryouts in their first year of high school, the boys tried their mightiest. Although the coaches saw their effort, and told them, "We wish the rest of the team tried as hard as you two," they did not pick either boy for the team.
Disconsolate, the gangly boy hung his head and cried, and ran off the field, never to play soccer again.
Equally disconsolate, the small boy also hung his head, but rather than cry, grew angry, saying to himself, "If trying hard wasn't enough, I'll try harder!" He too walked off the field, but only to grab his own soccer ball, walk to the adjacent public park, and drill by himself, over and over, until the red sun nestled like a cardinal in the trees of the western hills.
During that long freshman season, every day the coaches saw the lone, small boy in the distance -- juggling, heading, volleying and dribbling his battered soccer ball downfield and upfield -- and saw with each passing month his ball control becoming more swift and agile.
The next season, as the head coach set up his table for sophomore soccer tryouts, he watched the small boy dribbling and chip passing the ball toward his table with a skill that he could only call grace.
When the boy stopped juggling the ball on his knee and stood still, looking up at the coach, the coach said only two words.
Thus, defeat will overcome you -- or you will overcome it.
March 12, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the perseverance of the people of Japan.
The Dwarf Star, The Neutron Star
Conceived together in one instant of flame, twin stars hurtled through the cosmos, always and forever facing the other.
The first was a dwarf star.
Eons before, it had once been a yellow, hot torch illuminating the sawdust of a newly-hewn universe -- but had since become a browning, aged, shrunken star, giving off no more than the gentle heat of a newly baked loaf of bread.
The second star was even smaller than the brown dwarf.
Eons before, it had once been the most blue-brilliant diamond of all the stars in the heavens.
But in that consummation which overcomes all who burn so brightly, it swelled into a giant and burst, seeding the cosmos with its offal.
Yet remaining, at the beyond-white-hot core of churning possibility, lay a tiny, condensed ghost of what had been.
All complexity was now purified, all randomness now ordered, all diffuseness now crystallized.
So did the neutron star give off, so it seemed, no more than a searchlight -- waving back and forth through the blackness of the universe to tell, to those with ears to hear or eyes to see, of its onetime greatness.
Yet those who approached close saw a pure fire singing within, and felt an irresistible pull.
Thus, beneath the cool crust of every human face sits an ember, or an inferno. -- via Vincent Van Gogh
March 5, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director, The Circle of Reason, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Family, The Orphan
Neighboring families dwelled in a mountain hamlet.
The first family bused down the cliffs to a coastal university, for their eldest child to interview for admission.
Accepted into University, but with no money, she turned to grandparents who agreed to pay for her schooling.
Freed from part-time work, she graduated within four years near the top of her class. Awarded an academic scholarship, she went on to a prestigious law school -- and, one day, to great wealth and influence as a government lawyer.
The second family, that very same long ago day, had boarded another bus to the same coastal University, for their eldest child to likewise interview for admission.
But torrential rains fell during the drive down the mountain -- and the bus skidded over a guardrail, plummeting into a ravine.
Of the entire family, only this eldest child, a boy, survived.
Now an orphan with neither relatives nor money, the boy lost his family home and was made a ward of the state.
Until he came of age, he languished in a group home -- and then was turned into the streets.
The young man found work as a menial laborer, saving just enough money and vacation days to once more bus to the coastal university to interview.
Accepted into University, but with no tuition money, he worked full-time -- once again in menial labor -- while enrolling in a few night classes every semester.
Within eight years he finally graduated.
But, exhausted from his full-time work, he graduated well below the top of his class.
Over another four years he saved what money he could, studying in his studio apartment for the law school admissions test -- and was accepted into a local continuing-education law school.
After graduating with a law degree -- but little pedigree -- he went on to a job as legal-aid staff for local homeless shelters and orphanages, and, one day, to great esteem in the hearts of the abandoned and disenfranchised.
Thus, this is your time and your place -- what will you do here now?
February 26, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. The Circle of Reason's "Hall of Fame" Award is dedicated, first, to the non-violent democratic protesters throughout the Middle East now spearheading this century's "Arab Awakening"; second, to the County Prosecutors of the State of Minnesota for their new policy of treating teen prostitutes as sex-crime victims, not as criminals; and third, to President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for the U.S. Justice Department's new U.S. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court policy to assert as unconstitutional all legislative provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and other laws or bills that discriminate, on the basis of sexual orientation, against the equal rights of LGBT citizens. The Circle's "Hall of Shame" Award is dedicated in admonishment, first, to Libya's dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, for ordering the jet-fighter bombing of his own peacefully-protesting Libyan citizens while denying the rationality of their just cause; second, to U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, for illegally ordering his Psy-Ops unit to emotively induce U.S. Senators and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to boost Afghanistan funding and troops; and third, to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, for rejecting his state public unions' complete agreement to all his desired benefit and salary cuts, and instead insisting on legislation to gut union members' right to collectively bargain.
The Wasp, The Ant
Droning wafted through the forest as the Wasp hovered, searching.
It found a caterpillar feeding on a large leaf.
Flying down and landing on the caterpillar's back, the Wasp stung it. The caterpillar fell to the ground, unmoving.
Then the Wasp laid its eggs inside the caterpillar to incubate its young, who slowly consumed the caterpillar from the inside.
The newborn wasps broke out from the caterpillar's body and flew toward the sky, in search of more caterpillars as hosts.
As the wasps grew in number, the caterpillars grew scarce, until few wasps or caterpillars lived.
After one of the last of the wasps fruitlessly searched for prey in which to lay its eggs, it fell to the ground, dead.
While its body mouldered, a skittering noise approached it from below. Two antennae reached up and sniffed the mildewed chitin; then the Ant brusquely moved on, searching.
The Ant found a small cave in the rich soil, and then skittered up to a partly eaten green leaf, whereon it found an aphid.
The Ant bent down and, caressing the aphid's back with its feelers, picked it up gently in its jaws and carried it back to the cave, to live in comfort.
Each day the Ant brought the aphid a piece of leaf to eat, caressed it, and drank its sugary droppings. The Ant grew strong and laid a colony of its young, all of whom marched out to find and breed more aphids.
As the ants and aphids grew in number, the forest teemed with their colonies.
Thus, to use others destroys all -- to work with others renews all.
February 19, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the collective bargaining rights protest of the Wisconsin public employee unions -- our teachers, guards, firefighters, policemen, social workers and administrators, who stand as the lone Democratic counterweight for balanced two-party government. The day when workers' right to strike dies is the day when only corporations will rule.
The Elm, The Grass
Once there stood, in a fallow field, a tall elm tree and a tuft of grass.
One day the hoof of a dust devil plunged from the sky and stamped on the elm.
The elm was riven. Its broken halves fell to the earth and lay still.
In time, its husk was crushed and forever buried.
Another day, the hoof of a stampeding bison plunged from the sky and stamped on the tuft of grass.
The grass was flattened into the earth and lay still.
But that evening its blades drew water from the soil, and with the sun's next dawning the tuft of grass rose again -- steam pumping from its swelling stems.
In time, the tuft of grass spread over the fallow field, and grew forever beyond the horizon.
Thus, every time you fall -- rise. - via Ralph Waldo Emerson
February 12, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the peaceful citizen protesters of Egypt's "Facebook Revolution," and their spearhead, Egyptian Google executive Wael Ghonim, who one day shall see Egypt become the Arab world's beacon of Freedom and Democracy -- a "Shining City on the Nile": Go, Go, Ghonim!
The Fountain of Youth, The Fountain of Age
Armada in tow, a conquistador set out for the New World, to find a fabled Fountain of Youth.
For many years they hiked from swampy bog to fen lake, from forest creek to blue mountain stream -- whereupon the conquistador bent down in his rust-spotted armor, removed his helmet, and, with pursed, wrinkled lips, dipped his mustachioed face into the boggy, silty, or clear waters.
And always, after retreating a few minutes into his royal blue tent to stare into an old silver mirror, the man's furrowed face -- unaltered and frowning -- popped out from his tent and barked, "Onward!"
Yet one day, the aging conquistador came to a small creek, in the middle of which rested a moss-covered boulder.
And upon which sat an ancient native of a tribe that had dwelled there for one thousand generations.
The conquistador stared quizzically at the old man, while twirling the points of his greying mustache and pinching the tip of his sparse goatee.
"Tell me, Indian!" he yelled. "Where can I drink from the Fountain of Youth?"
The ancient native, not even opening his eyes, slowly pointed down at the creek.
"This creek is the Fountain of Youth?!" exclaimed the explorer, frowning. "Then why do you look old?!"
The native opened one eye and replied, "It is also the Fountain of Age."
Thus, life's flow cannot be halted -- so channel it wisely.
February 5, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the decades-long reluctance of Hosni Mubarak to begin Egypt's transition to a secular democratic republic, and in supplication to its military to entrust their might to all Egyptians, rich and poor, Muslim and Coptic Christian, and allow Egypt to become Africa's "Shining City on the Nile."
The Feather, The Arrow
Drifting to earth after the passing of a great raptor were two feathers.
The first feather was blown by the winds.
At times it sailed high into the air. At other times it plummeted into the dirt, or was caught on cactus needles and tumbleweeds.
Wide were the desert lands across which the first feather was blown.
Yet it ended as it began -- cast on the wind.
The second feather was picked up and smoothed by the hand of a wise hunter, who placed it onto a sharp shaft of wood to make an arrow.
Wide were the lands the feathered arrow's maker roamed.
And when the need to feed the hunter's people arose, the feather once again took to the wind.
Yet it nevermore knew aimless wandering -- but purpose and direction.
Thus, no reward is greater than from following your calling.
January 29, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples' protests for representation and liberty, and in supplication that they be vigilant to avoid replacing their military dictatorships simply for new ones garbed in theocratic robes. Liberty must be liberty for each, not just for all.
The Adulterous, The Faithful
Three brothers married their wives on the same day.
The eldest brother's wife married young, yet only after being burdened with sufficient heft to lose her beauty in the eyes of superficial men.
She resolved to lose her weight.
Once she was thin again, the amorous attention of shallow men made her pine to recapture her past.
She fell into secret infidelity, with not a word to her husband.
In time she divorced the eldest brother in a fruitless search for lost youth, and both were bereft.
The middle brother married poor, yet eventually acquired great fortune.
Once he was rich, he cast away his past -- and its reminders. He suddenly left his loving but now older wife for a younger woman -- who desired his money more than she desired him.
The youngest brother married poor, and to a wife with submerged beauty, yet eventually they came respectively into wealth and restored beauty.
Each was sorely tempted to stray from the other's arms -- into those of the women who coveted his new wallet or the men who coveted her new form.
Yet they chose to confess to the other their temptations, and together resolved to stay faithful to each other for life -- which, with effort from both, they always did.
Thus, faithfulness is a commitment.
January 22, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director, The Circle of Reason, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Irrelevant, The Germane
Professors parry for prestige - and these two were no different.
One professor gossiped at the hallway water cooler half the day, making snide remarks about all who passed by -- as long as their backs were turned.
The other professor sometimes spoke of colleagues, but only spoke the truth, and only when needed, appropriate and humane.
In the passing of years, the first professor came to find himself alone at the water cooler -- while the second professor always found a crowd around him, no matter where his feet took him.
Thus, speak only the right, and only when right.
January 15, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to President Obama's, John McCain's, Jeb Bush's, Tim Pawlenty's, Rudy Giuliani's, Al Sharpton's, Roland Martin's, Paul Krugman's and John Stewart's call to "expand America's moral imagination" with "more civility in our public discourse"; and in admonishment of Sarah Palin's, Sharon Angle's, Glenn Beck's, and other political pundits' and candidates' proudly violent imagery-laden vitriol about opposing politicians, and their disingenuous post-Tucson-massacre pretense of slandered virtuousness for raising up vitriol as their shining example of "passionate free speech." ALL ad hominem is BAD hominem, worthy only of shunning.
The Mud, The Water
Volcanic fog rose from the red lake of a mountain caldera. An old man circumnavigated its black mud shore.
He paused to pick up two large stones.
One stone the old man tossed ahead, onto the shore. As it thumped heavily into the thick mud, it punched a crater, at the splattered center of which the stone lay askew. The old man walked on. In time, the small crater dried and lay like a trap for the unsuspecting toes of those to follow.
The other stone the old man tossed aside, into the lake. As it splashed heavily into the ferrous water, the water rose around the stone like a bloodied crown, but then fell back, quietly covering it. But for a small, spreading ripple, all signs of the stone's fall vanished. In time, the lake lay as still as before, never revealing what had crashed into its depths to those who followed.
Thus, reason settles like water -- emotion splatters like mud. -- via Karate
January 8, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to Tucson, Arizona's Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnick, and to U.S. Congresswoman, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, for their respective admonishment of vitriol and violent imagery in place of reasoned political discourse. May today's attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords and the mass murder of her constituents mark the final time patriotic politicians and commentators use invective like "Don't retreat -- reload," and "If ballots don't work, bullets will."
The Fencepost, The Signpost
One whose ancestors had been slave-owners and the other whose ancestors had been slaves walked hand-in-hand down the back roads of kudzu-shrouded antebellum ruins.
They came to a weathered-grey picket fence and, stopping at its corner fencepost, gazed beyond it -- toward an abandoned grove of leaning fieldstones, fallen wooden crosses and scattered cobblestones.
The first girl hopped the fence, ran up to a rough-hewn fieldstone, and brushed back her blond hair to read its mossy inscription.
"Jeremiah, unknown-1857, Now Free in the Lord's Embrace!" The girl looked over to her friend, and yelled, "Is this a slave graveyard?"
The second girl, a quizzical frown brushing her brown face, hopped the fence and walked over. She looked down at the black- and green-streaked stones and rotted wood posts, then slowly lifted her eyes to the many half-buried markers rising over the vine-overgrown hill.
"Yes, it is, isn't it?" she replied softly.
"There are so many of them!" the golden-haired girl exclaimed. "They ought to be cleaned and straightened up. It seems disrespectful, you know?" Then she sighed and walked back to the fence, hopping over it to the dirt road.
"Let's go!" she called.
The second girl stood facing the graveyard, pondering, then put her hands on her hips, grinned, and said, "Yes, let's go." She too hopped back over the fence, took her golden-haired friend's hand, and walked on to town -- but with a small smile pasted on her face -- a smile that even a good scrubbing in the bath later that evening failed to remove.
And so, over the next several weeks, did the old folks of the town slowly dawn to the awareness that the vines in the slave graveyard began to disappear, and the gravestones and crosses right themselves. And no one noticed a little brown girl walking away each dusk with dirt and moss under her once tidy, manicured nails.
Thus, inspiration is a signpost -- not a fencepost.
January 1, 2011, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2011 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the New Year's Day prediction for 2011 of Humanist Chaplain Greg M. Epstein (compiled by Dan Gilgoff, CNN Belief Blog Editor, January 1, 2011): "After years of increasingly contentious debates and billboard wars between religious believers and atheists, American secularists will begin to embrace a message of positive humanist community, gaining increasing acceptance as they organize cooperation between nontheists and theists for the common good."
The Unimaginative, The Imaginative
Nothing she created was novel.
She was, she admitted -- irony quenched in the placid lacunae of her eyes -- an unimaginative artisan.
The young woman found a patron who gave her direction in her artisanship, which fit nicely into the store's inventory of baubles and collectibles.
But sometimes, late at night, she lay awake in her bed in the back of the store, and wondered if her success was deserved.
Another young woman also came to the store in search of a patron and a place to sell her art. As the patron rummaged through the supplicant's satchel of artworks, she scratched her head in wonder and confusion.
Everything she created was novel.
Hearing her murmuring, the unimaginative artisan peeked over her patron's shoulder into the satchel, to see these strange works of art.
They were swirls of colors and shapes, so evocative and hauntingly beautiful, yet they looked like nothing she'd ever seen before.
Abruptly the patron rose, closed the satchel, and handed it back to the supplicant. Turning her into the street, the patron chirped brightly, "Come back when you learn how to make art like we make it -- art that people understand, like nice pictures of flowers!"
The unimaginative artisan watched as the supplicant trudged away, her shoulders bent from the burden of an art never before beheld on earth.
Later that night, as the artisan lay in bed in the back of the store, again all too wide-awake, she thought, "I have succeeded not in spite of my lack of imagination, but because of my lack of imagination! And that young woman is failing not in spite of her creativity, but by the very dint of that creativity!"
The next morning, the sleepless artisan approached her patron and, with haggard eyes, asked her, "Why is the world made so, that they are punished who innovate?"
The patron glanced up from her account books.
"Most of us are, after all, creatures of habit, my dear girl. New things are to us quite unsettling, if sometimes necessary."
"Besides," she added, "we're jealous of others who do what we cannot, so we tell these 'innovators' that what they do is bad."
"It keeps society's progress a bit more manageable, don't you think?"
These calculated, chilling words lay heavily on the artisan's soul, and her sleep remained fleeting for many a day.
Thus, innovation is logical and necessary, but others' responses to it may be neither.
December 25, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the refusal of the pastor of Minneapolis' American-Indian parish Church of Gitchitwaa Kateri, and of the broader Catholic Church's leadership, to remediate the alcohol and wheat content of its communion wine and wafers to respectively accommodate for mass those catholic parishioners who suffer from alcoholism or wheat-gluten intolerance.
The Wealthy, The Poor
Hillside mansions towered over the valley shantytown.
Two men of great wealth stood in their mansions on the tallest hill, gazing down at the teeming shanties.
One had invented a mill to turn wind into energy. Once ignored, now he was admired.
The other had bilked investors in his business. Once lionized, now he was shunned.
Two men of menial poverty stood in their shanties, gazing up at the forested hills spotted with alabaster columns and red-clay tiled roofs.
One had peddled drugs to street children. Once loved, now he was despised.
The other had rallied protesters against injustice. Once tolerated, now he was revered.
Thus, neither wealth nor poverty is the exclusive domain of wisdom and morality.
December 18, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the honorable act of billionaire philanthropist Barbara Picower, who agreed to return $7.2 billion in early gains from the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme back to those investors who were defrauded by Madoff; and in admonishment of the dishonorable act of the anonymous thief of John Ilg's highly-regarded sculpture, a wire-mesh grid of 316 rolled-up dollars bills that spelled the word, "Honesty."
The Deluded, The Cognizant
Like manna, their inheritance fell from a winged angel, in the guise of a childless uncle.
One sister saw her mattress as the perfect place to stash her money -- a golden cornerstone in her fortress against the fear of coming dark days.
The second sister considered burying her gold under her live oak tree, but, reading papers and blogs about better job prospects, her suspicions wafted away.
She used the gold to buy a small foreclosed home nestled above a meandering creek, and rented it to vacationers.
Over five decades the first sister dug into her mattress to count and recount her gold, growing ever more dismayed that, without shrinking in coinage, it shrunk nonetheless. Her fears unabated, she one day gave up the ghost; and her mattress money paid for a splendid casket.
But the second sister's creekside home regained its former value, and more. After many years of collecting rents on it, she retired to it herself, and sat, an old and wealthy woman, in her rocking chair overlooking the wood ducks and mallards, while knitting brocaded quilts for her windowsill cats.
Thus, decide based on all the facts.
December 11, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the freedom of the press in even its modern incarnations, such as Wikileaks, in supplication that its great power be used wisely; and in admonishment of the choice of Anonymous to protect Wikileaks through cyberwar rather than through peaceful resistance in the form of economic boycott.
The Blind, The Sighted
Eternal midnight enshrouded a clan who dwelled in a deep cavern.
Grasping sleeping bats or albino fish or frogs by the green light of phosphorescent algae, cooking them on steaming rocks, and sleeping in warm volcanic pools, their eyes became an appendage ignored -- merely a way to find the dimly lit, sleepy faces of their mates after they'd gorged on a meal, and otherwise as useless and superfluous as their two little toes.
But then a young woman of the clan rediscovered an ancient, narrow crawlway leading up and out of the grotto in which they lived.
Slowly, allowing the pain in her closed eyes to adjust as she crept toward the day, she exited the vast labyrinth of caverns that had been her home since birth.
She felt a cool, soft cushion beneath her hands and knees, and opened her eyes.
Beneath her delicate, bone-white hands lay a mat of what looked like thick, bright green hair.
She then stood erect, and raised her head.
In wonderment she stared at feathered, sharp-nosed bats painted in hues she could not name, at a whimsically-colored cavern roof so high that she could not see any of its walls, but only huge wisps and balls of steam floating beneath.
Gasping for breath, she ran back into the depths -- following a trail of bat guano balls she'd dropped behind her while she'd climbed -- to tell her people of her wondrous visions.
She gathered them around a phosphorescent boulder, and, as their green-underlit faces chewed on bat wings and frog legs, she exclaimed to them -- her eyes, for the first time in her life, wide open in her face -- "I have seen visions!"
"Visions of a cave with a roof too high to see! Of bats that were not bats! Of colors that were not dim green or black! Of a land where a great phosphorescent boulder, too bright to even glance at, floats in the air!"
So did her clan roar with laughter, and ever after scoff at her wild stories and urgings.
Until, one day, she simply disappeared forever up her precious, unused crawlway -- while crouching, like the madwoman they all thought she was, to collect old balls of dried bat guano with each step.
Thus, vision provokes laughter from those who cannot see. -- via Plato
December 4, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. This Parable of the Year is dedicated, first, to Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon's and her NASA Astrobiology and U.S. Geological Survey colleagues' insightful search for and discovery of an "arsenic lifeform" -- a bacterium capable of thriving with arsenic atoms replacing nearly all those of the element phosphorus, which normally makes up the backbone of life's DNA double helix and the charger for life's intracellular battery, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Second, the Parable of the Year is dedicated in admonishment of the Governor of Kentucky's decision to invest state income tax money to support, not scientific discovery, but the construction of a religious "Noah's Ark" theme park that misstates science in the service of creationism and a Great Flood theory outdated since geologist James Hutton's 1788 discovery of slow geologic processes that proved the earth is far more ancient than 6000 years old.
The Seeker, The Maker
Sisters were birthed upon royal velvet.
In their land women donned the mantle of leadership, and the two sisters, who loved each other deeply, were destined to rule side by side after their mother, the queen, passed on the mantle of power.
The elder sister relished her role as a princess and heir, and learned all the tricks of politicking from her mother -- to gild her future throne, while setting it in laws and etiquette as rigid as stone.
But the younger sister, destined to advise the future queen, observed the people they ruled -- and saw poverty, misery, and unfairness. Yet when she asked her mother, the queen, why this was so, her mother always replied, "It's just the world we live in."
One day a prisoner was brought before the throne for judgment -- a man who'd stolen one loaf of bread to feed his sick child. When the queen sentenced the man's hand to be chopped off as their law dictated, her elder daughter stood by her side as the sentence was proclaimed, to learn how to administer justice. Yet the younger daughter could not bear to watch, thinking only of how, if the man had been given skills or a job, his thievery need never have occurred.
At sunset, as the axe fell upon the condemned man's wrist, she stole away from the palace and fled west into the darkness, in search of a better land.
But, over the years, no such land did she find.
Everywhere she traveled she saw injustice, misery and manipulation by rulers of those less fortunate.
Older now, and tired of her fruitless search, she returned to her homeland and rejoined her sister, who was now a powerful queen, and who welcomed her into the palace.
But instead of abandoning her dream, the younger sister encouraged the queen -- and later her eldest niece, the new heir -- to build schools and clinics instead of palaces, to hear representatives of the people, to abolish slavery and unjust punishment, and to make prisons places of redemption.
Over many years, her land indeed became that which she'd sought in her wanderings, and in her dreams, so long before.
Thus, be the change you seek in this world. -- via Mohandas Gandhi
November 27, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to CNN's Hero of the Year, Nepalese anti-slavery activist Anuradha Koirala, whose organization, Maiti Nepal, has rescued more than 12,000 Nepalese and Indian girls and women from sexual slavery.
The Pickpocket, The Tailor
Handy little man, he thought himself, believing the world owed him whatever it hadn't locked away or tied down.
His nimble fingers flew over women's purses and men's pockets alike, and flew with the speed of thought.
The Pickpocket took such pride in his craft -- but couldn't tell a single soul. At night, in lonely, dark taverns, he mumbled about greatness into his beer mug.
Also in the same city lived another handy little man, who believed that the world owed him only what he could barter for his handiwork.
His agile fingers flew over women's and men's garments alike, repairing rips and tears in them for pay.
The Tailor took great pride in his craft, and word spread throughout the city that he mended clothes so quickly and well, that no trace remained of their original tear.
Then, by the nimble hand of Fate, the Pickpocket and the Tailor were cross-stitched.
The Pickpocket's hands had flown into the Tailor's pocket -- and were impaled on the set of needles the Tailor kept there for his work. The Pickpocket yelled loud and long -- long enough for a constable to grab his collar and carry him off to jail.
But the Tailor had felt how light the Pickpocket's fingers were. He paid to have the Pickpocket released into his custody on probation -- and hired him to help his growing tailoring trade.
In the years that followed, the Pickpocket too became a tailor and full partner -- and by joining the society of people who traded good for good to live, became a well-respected and honored member of the community.
And, forever after, he plucked coins only from out the ears or noses of delightedly shrieking children.
Thus, the greatest civilizing force in the world is the handshake.
November 20, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of U.S. Congressional Republicans' choice to abandon America's renewal of Reagan's START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, shunning the goal of Russo-American comity to gamble on developing unilateral missile defense shields. The most powerful shield of all is friendship.
The Warrior King, The Car Salesman
Power once strode an ancient empire in the body of a warrior.
In merciless campaigns, he rode his steed over the steppes, wielding a bloody spear.
He conquered and pillaged the lands surrounding his ancestral birthplace -- and in time became king of all he surveyed.
The stories of his terrible exploits passed into history, then into legend -- and then into dust.
Millennia later, in a modern city, power again incarnated.
In the body of a man who, though dreaming of ancient adventure, was a car salesman.
When not kowtowing to prickly, disdainful customers -- who looked up and snickered at his tight necktie, and the bulging sports coat constraining huge muscles -- he imagined galloping down upon them bareback, his pony-tailed hair free in the wind and a curving sword in hand, lopping off their heads.
Customers complained about him -- although all they could say was that they felt a chill, whenever his brilliant-green eyes alighted upon them.
So, in time, was he fired from his job as a car salesman.
Yet he found a way to stride through his modern world.
Accepting that pillage and plunder were criminal and dishonorable, he became a soldier and peacekeeper.
Although he never became a warrior king, nor passed into legend ere into dust, he found his place in his time.
Thus, do not yearn for the best of times -- do your best in the time you are given. -- via The Lord of the Rings
November 13, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the Pentagon study group finding of only minimal risk in ending the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that has permitted institutional discrimination against U.S. soldiers who are gay or lesbian; and in supplication to the U.S. government and Commander-in-Chief Obama to act immediately on the Pentagon finding and ensure their soldiers' civil right to openly serve their country with honor and distinction.
The Leaves, The Compost
Far above the earth, a great tree arched over a mountaintop.
In a raging maelstrom of rain and light, the tree was riven. In a blast of green leaves and fire, it fell in twain.
Its broken wood was chewed by rats and grew wormy.
Great mushrooms sprouted from its broken heart, and ants chewed its leaves.
Woodpeckers tolled a staccato dirge on its greying bark, and bears stomped its roots into the mud.
As the flaking shroud of the great, fallen tree was pulverized and smashed into the earth, it began to compost.
Fermenting and darkening, it became the richest of soils upon the mountain.
And upon those loamy remnants of the great tree, the seed of a new tree alighted -- and grew great and tall.
Thus, from compost arises soil -- from decay of the old, will arise the new.
November 6, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the will of the American voters, who have demonstrated that they still can choose, for good or ill, their government; and in warning to the new government to never forget to be responsible representatives of the people's will.
The Historian, The History Maker
Students attended University in an ancient Republic.
One classmate sat in the library day and night, reading of great leaders from prior generations.
His knowledge of them grew until, one day, closing his final biography, he said, "I will teach the histories I've learned."
He joined the very same University at which he'd been taught.
And, in the march of decades, he became a historian of note.
The other classmate also sat in the library day and night, and too read of great leaders from prior generations.
Her knowledge of them also grew until, one day, closing her final biography, she said, "I will emulate the histories I've learned."
She became a leader.
And, in the march of decades, she was elected to her country's highest office.
Thus, study history or make history.
October 30, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the American Voter, who can choose on November second to study history in the making, or to make that history.
The Monkey, The Sloth
Rainforest carpeted the far horizons.
A monkey -- chattering, jumpy and impetuous -- oft made fun of a thoughtful and deliberate sloth.
"You are such a slowpoke!" the monkey yelled. "Can you do this?" And it back-flipped on a high branch over the shadowy abyss.
The sloth slowly turned one eye to the monkey and replied, "That looks fun; but you should also keep your tail wrapped around a side branch -- just in case."
The monkey laughed and hurled a dungball.
One morning a serpent slithered high into the tree where the monkey and sloth lived.
It coiled and tensed before the silent, watchful sloth.
As the monkey, on a lone branch beneath them, chattered for the sloth to run away, the serpent struck.
But the sloth let go of the branch on which it sat and fell away from the serpent's fangs, swinging down by one furry leg, which had been grasping a side branch.
The sloth's swing carried it back up behind the serpent and, reaching up with its heavy foreclaw, it simply snipped the serpent's stretched-out body in two.
As the fanged head of the dead serpent tumbled down toward the agog monkey, it startled and leapt high into the air -- but, not having considered the lone branch upon which it'd been hopping and prattling, the monkey grasped for another branch in vain.
Together, the dead serpent and the screaming monkey plummeted into the tenebrous mist far below.
Thus, thoughtlessness widens the hole through which the sands of our days pour -- let life pass as one considered grain after another.
October 23, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the reasoning, deliberative American voter -- its conservatives (who are not "fascists"), its liberals (who are not "commies"), its moderates (who are not "quislings"); and dedicated in admonishment of those who assume it is moral to use political manipulation: a lie or half-truth can never be a moral beacon -- because it blinds us to reality; the unquestioned can never be a moral backbone -- because it buckles under the weight of truth; and an insult can never be a moral barb -- because it bares others' emotions. This November 2nd, be sane - be VERY sane.
The Twins, The Individuals
Queerly identical were twin boys.
Their doting parents dressed them in matching clothes.
They finished each other's sentences.
Yet, with the passing of years, one twin chose to be a teacher, the other a lawyer.
Over the decades, the first twin inspired many students, while the second twin defended many unfortunates against the corrupt and powerful.
Yet seeing them eating the same menu choices at lunch, or walking side by side on the street -- each sporting tweed coats, bow ties and small round sunglasses -- caused many a craned neck and wiped pair of spectacles.
And when they were old men, their hearts both finally stopped, one cold winter.
Yet the throng of people who marched through the snow to the teacher's funeral cared not that he'd had a twin who'd been a lawyer, but that long ago he'd been their inspiration.
And the throng of people who marched through the snow to the lawyer's funeral cared not that he'd had a twin who'd been a teacher, but that long ago he'd been their protector.
Thus, what makes you different makes you important.
October 16, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to Fort Worth, Texas Councilman Joel Burns' message to all GLBT teens considering suicide due to being bullied by ignorant teen peers while being shunned or ignored by adult teachers unwilling or incapable of validating their sexual orientation as normal and moral: "Give yourself a chance to see how much better life will get -- and it will get better." And dedicated in admonishment of the schoolteachers and administrators who seek to suppress merely the symptoms, but not the disease, of naive intolerance.
The Beholden, The Free
Freedom was Law.
But over generations of the Great Republic electing its representatives, the power they wielded enticed those with wealth -- both the wealth of money, and the wealth of membership -- to pour riches into their pockets.
What once was self-determining became beholden.
Over a span of but two centuries did the brilliant republic tarnish beneath the patina of rusted liberty -- its people and the best of their representatives sick with helpless caring, impotent to change, as shackled as cattle for milking.
On its border resided another republic, whose citizens saw their neighbors' long, slow fall -- and did not repeat their mistake.
Its people voted to limit their representatives' campaigns to debates, and publicly fund all campaigns, as they had long funded education and medical care.
Within but a few years, the tightening shackles on their representatives' freedom to vote their consciences unlocked and fell away -- and the people of the republic were once more in charge of its destiny.
Over the span of centuries, the republic became a beacon -- its people and representatives strong in caring, capable of change, and ranging far in the world.
Thus, tyranny can be gross -- or subtle.
October 9, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the "secret cash" now being used, after the 2009 Supreme Court ruling that corporations may now directly and secretly fund political ads, to fund over two-thirds of all political ads in the U.S. 2010 elections -- some of which is from foreign citizens, businesses and countries attempting to stymie political progress in the U.S. toward stimulating a green economy; and in supplication to the American voters, to use their rational faculty to always question the veracity and intent of the political screeds they shall now be forced to see and hear.
The Shortcut, The Straight Road
Anonymous and uncertain were the sisters' destinies.
The younger was a sharp beauty, who loved fine things. As men flocked to her, with casual dismissal she took shortcuts through their purses and hearts.
She married a corporate man -- then divorced him to marry his boss.
In middle age, her beauty faded and her husband leased a younger wife.
Now wealthy, but alone, she walked the terrazzo and parquet floors of her hollow mansion, seeing only inward.
She found in her life only what she'd brought to it -- baseness, and unremitting, upwelling regret for her expedient acts, and the injuries they caused to herself and others.
The elder sister was of softer mien, who loved fine people. As thoughtful friends, colleagues and loved ones orbited about her, with considerate deliberation she walked toward her desires straightly.
She married a thoughtful man -- and supported him with all her heart and mind.
In middle age, her career and family flowered to full bouquet.
Now wealthy in body and soul, she walked the garden paths surrounding her family home, a small grandchild's hand in hers -- and paused to look within, through the reflection of her granddaughter's lucid eyes.
She found in her life what she'd brought to it -- exaltation, and unceasing, upwelling gratitude and pride for the longer road taken, and the extra acts of kindness that healed herself and others.
Thus, your path in life will mirror your spine.
October 2, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the latest attempt to pass falsehoods off as reality by the "conservative documentarian," James O'Keefe -- who has now added to his record of framing the community-support group ACORN with a fabricated "pimp consultation" and to his attempt to secretly bug the Congressional Office of Senator Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, with a misogynistic attempt to smear the personal reputation of an award-winning CNN investigative reporter, Abbie Boudreau, by planning a staged videotaped sexual come-on; and dedicated in support of O'Keefe's former (now fired) co-worker, Izzy Santa, who, by choosing to warn the CNN reporter, embodied both political and personal honesty.
The Laggard, The Lapper
Broadcast on every television in every land, the race would crown the fastest miler in the world.
The contestants lined up on the track.
The stadium roared.
The starting pistol fired, and instantly the racers leapt into motion.
But then, in all the homes, pubs, and sports bars across the globe, the images and sounds of the race winked out -- and roars of frustration bellowed from those places that day, mingled with a faint announcer's voice, "Due to a technical difficulty..."
For agonizing minutes, none except those in attendance at the very event knew what was happening in the race.
Then the satellite image was restored, still without audio.
Back to the world's eyes appeared the silent vista of a tight pack of runners -- with one lone runner loping far, far behind.
As the camera zoomed in on the laggard, laughter filled the homes, pubs and sports bars -- with yells of, "How did that pathetic runner get in this race?!"
The crowds jeered even more as the laggard fell further and further behind the pack of world-class runners straining for dominance -- and jeered most of all when the laggard simply threw up his hands, stopped and walked off the track, instead of following the others into their final lap.
Only at that moment did the audio come back on.
And only when they heard the laggard runner sob and wave to an insanely cheering crowd, did the now hushed peoples of the world understand.
The "laggard" had nearly lapped all the others.
Thus, running behind others means you are much slower -- or much faster.
September 25, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in supplication to CNN, to reclaim the mantle of the world's most objective and respected international news organization, rather than chase the quick prestige of higher ratings as commentary TV merely cloaked as news.
The False Calling, The True Calling
Her steel-trap mind, wide streak of humor, and mellifluous voice defused and swayed any angry person who had the great good fortune to hear even her smallest utterance.
Yet she had since childhood dreamed of being a ballerina.
Although she was short and stocky, she tried for years to perfect her dance.
But her efforts, though admirable for their perseverance, were ultimately to no avail.
Miserable, she retreated behind her bedroom door, spooning pistachio ice cream into her sad mouth with piston-like regularity, while halfheartedly listening to the goings on of the world funneled into a squeaking, mouse-sized AM radio.
But, one day, when war in her country seemed just around the corner, and when all voices on the radio screamed for blood, she called a radio show on her phone -- to argue for peace.
Her steel-trap mind, wide streak of humor, and mellifluous voice, useless to her as a dancer, won over all who listened to her.
And amidst growing agreement with her call for diplomacy, the producer of the broadcast -- who'd sat entranced by her suasion -- invited her to host a late-night call-in show in the nation's capital.
So was the beginning of peace in her country.
Thus, where your greatest ability meets a great need, therein lies your greatness. -- via Parker Palmer
September 18, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart's call to "Take it down a notch for America," while announcing his planned October 30, Washington D.C. "Rally to Restore Sanity" -- but also dedicated in supplication to The Comedy Channel staff of "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" to not solely play up their counter-rallies as comedy for the purpose of TV ratings, but also as valid satire of irrational political discourse.
The Barker, The Talker
None know the fount of the angelic and the feral.
One man blurted out everything on his mind.
No matter that among his thoughts, circling like ravens' feathers in his soul, were insults, slanders and blame -- the unwise, the inaccurate, the unnecessary, and the unkind.
No matter -- all blew out of his head, on the first breeze from his mouth.
To many, this man seemed more a barking dog than a human being.
Another man only tithed what was on his mind.
No matter that among his thoughts, growing like gemstones in his soul, were compliments, accolades and advice.
No matter -- only the wise, the accurate, the necessary, and the kind were quarried, like veins of opal, from the deep well of his voice.
To many, this man seemed more an angel than a human being.
Thus, tithe your thoughts.
September 11, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to Pastor Terry Jones' reconsideration and rejection of his prior plan to burn copies of the Quran as a means to combat radical fundamentalism within Islam, in lieu of adopting interfaith dialogue.
The Astrologer, The Astronomer
Stardust speaks, if one but listens.
The Royal Astrologer, known throughout the realm, sat at the king's right hand. He stared at the sky, plucking from its patterns portents of import to the royal court - or at least of import about the royal court. For his premonitions about the court's goings on, its subtle politics and its romantic intrigues, the Royal Astrologer had the king's ear and was made a rich man.
However, the king's eldest advisors also kept in their employ, in small palace eyrie, an Astronomer. Sometimes confused for the Royal Astrologer by carriers of missives and by new court pages, the Astronomer predicted things of interest less to the royal court than to the realm's farmers, hunters and tradesmen. Oft his pronouncements were droll, like, "The sun will rise earlier in the day starting in two weeks." Or, "The harvest should be planted 107 days from now, not 104 -- our calendar is drifting." The Astronomer was, in fact, boring. The king kept him on only because he so much trusted his eldest advisors -- who weren't very popular at the royal court either.
But then, one terrible year, into the eastern edge of the kingdom rode a great barbarian horde, and there they pillaged and waged war on the border villages. So large was the horde that all in the kingdom -- now filling to the brim with starving refugees from the border -- feared a full invasion.
Hence did the king call every advisor and courtier, and, before all the royal court, asked his favorite, "What, O great Royal Astrologer, will be our fate should we send excursions to harass the horde before they fully assemble to invade us?"
The Royal Astrologer, sweat popping from his brow, breathed heavily as he peered into the sky and pushed around the scrolls and charts scattered on his escritoire. Then he cleared his throat and, in a tremulous voice, said, "Uhmm, you may, O Great King, be victorious by decisive attack! But! But! Beware too precipitous an action, for it, too, is risky!"
"What is this?" the king spat. "Your advice, 'tis none at all!"
Then, from the back of the throne room, a measured voice penetrated the silence.
"You need not attack at all, Sire."
All in the royal court turned to see the Astronomer, who was looking up from charts filled with intricate swirls, curlicues and numbers, and also staring into the sky, but with an ironic smile.
"Why say you so, sir?" demanded the king.
"Sire, I never have much of interest to say to you, it seems -- but this time, I do."
The Astronomer pointed toward the east.
"In five days, falling stars shall streak the eastern sky, as they have done on the same night every year since time out of memory. But these barbarians don't study the timing of the skies as I do. Send a messenger to their Chief, two days from now, telling them that the gods will send a sign to them in three nights -- a sign of their army's downfall in battle."
The astronomer paused and calmly gazed across the entire assembled court.
"You will probably turn the barbarians away without a single blow of a sword."
That summer, a horde turned home, and a Royal Astrologer was demoted in place of a Royal Astronomer.
Thus, predict from fact, not fantasy.
September 4, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's rejection of full federal funding for comprehensive teen sex-education programs proven to increase sexual abstinence, reduce teen pregnancy, and reduce sexual transmission of HIV and other venereal diseases, in favor of partial federal funding of abstinence-only sex-education programs proven to be ineffective.
The Riverbank, The Flood
Fertile delta meandered beneath the feet of two young farmers.
One bought a farm on the green banks of the river, and profited enormously from its cheap cost.
The other visited his friend's sprawling farm. Bare feet on green grass, he walked to the banks of the mighty river, pondering its iron, foam-crested turbulence. Then, lacing on his shoes, he hiked south closer to the city, where the river was channeled through the verdant plains by levees and canals -- and there he bought a small farm, where he barely scraped by due to the farm's expense.
The first farmer chided the second about his expensive, tiny farm.
But then the rains came unceasingly -- and the mighty, life-giving river swelled in its banks. To no avail the first farmer tried to protect his farm and his family from the torrent of rushing, blue-grey water, as it billowed over the low green banks -- and all was swept away to ruin.
So did the first farmer come to fear the river and its surges.
But where the swollen river had been leveed and channeled, the second farmer's land and family remained safe on its banks, and his small farm thrived.
So did the second farmer come to appreciate the river and its levees.
Thus, let joy flow, but not flood.
August 28, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's rejection of the state Department of Natural Resources' updated shoreline construction standards designed to protect both the state's lakes and rivers and the property values of its shoreland homes.
The Rabble, The Legion
Like the two-chambered hearts of its fresh fish, the marketplace was the pump whose lifeblood bridged the border cities.
There the people congregated to shop and compare their politics of the day.
Word spread that one city's mayor had levied a market tax to garnish his dwindling coffers.
A small school of angry protesters swirled -- fishermen, grocers and buyers all.
Marching to the mayor's office with picket signs, they lobbed cobblestones at the cement walls of City Hall.
But the rabble eventually dispersed, returning to the marketplace, and paid pence.
The following year, word spread that the bordering city's penurious chief alderman had proposed his city entirely annex the marketplace.
A tide of angry protesters from both cities poured into the marketplace and swelled with each passing hour, swamping the storefronts, offices, buses, highways and homes.
What had been rabble now was legion.
So did the people save their marketplace.
Thus, a mission shared will move a mountain.
August 21, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the victims of the Great Flood of Pakistan, and in admonishment of the lack of worldwide aid donations to relieve their plight.
The Coal, The Flame
Lumps of rich, black coal lay in each hand.
One lump of coal was placed in a fire, and so grew red-hot, feeding the fire.
Yet no air was blown onto the coal, and the fire began to smother.
Slowly the coal darkened, until it was clothed in ash, with only a small ember of flame buried in its deepest crevice.
The other lump of coal was also placed in a fire, and also grew red-hot, feeding the fire.
Yet a gentle breath of air was blown over the coal, when needed, stoking its heat higher and higher.
From the coal's heart burst a brilliant gout of sparks and flame, igniting tinder that had tenderly been placed by its side.
Slowly the entire coal turned searing orange, the shimmering fruit of a burning bush.
Thus, tend your flame, or it shall grow cold.
August 14, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of calls by Christian conservatives in the U.S. to block the construction both of a liberal Islamic Cultural Center two blocks from the World Trade Center site, and of all new mosques in cities throughout the U.S. -- contradicting the principle of religious freedom that led the Pilgrims to immigrate to America and that was enshrined in The Bill of Rights as the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Dog, The Wolf
Orphaned, an infant wolf was raised by a kindly farmer in a ramshackle barn akimbo with dogs.
The wolf cub roamed and tussled with svelte wiener dogs, fluffy huskies, long-nosed collies and elegant greyhounds.
But inside the wolf's breast, an ancient yearning also roamed, unsated -- especially on those darkest nights, when the Milky Way was a sparkling road in the zenith of the sky, and during the full moon, when distant howls rose from the ghostly grey forested peaks surrounding their river valley.
And so, one spring day, as the sun fell to orange dusk and the dogs trotted home from the fields, the wolf -- now a young, strong adult -- stopped in his tracks and stared one last time at the kindly farmer.
The farmer, glancing back, saw the wolf's face -- then walked back alone to him, petted his head, bent down near his backward-pointed ear, and whispered gently.
"Go on, now. It's time."
The wolf looked deep into the man's eyes, then turned and ran into the gloaming.
Years afterward, on moonlit nights, the farmer heard his passionate howling, and felt his own breast overflow.
Thus, follow your truest calling, to be at home in your own skin. -- via Parker Palmer
August 7, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to U.S. Federal Judge Vaughn Walker's findings, in striking down (as an infraction of the Constitution's 14th [Civil Rights] Amendment guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law) California's ban on the right of marriage for gay and lesbian couples, that the ban "fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license," and, according to the evidence, "does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples."
The Liar, The Truthteller
Liar, one called himself with a smirk.
He did not lie only when compelled to. He lied when it was convenient. He even lied for his own amusement.
The sign by which people came to know him was the sideways slip of his eyes, whenever he spoke.
Over the years, he gained some by his lying, but lost far more -- and what he could have been in life, he never became.
For he was not a man of his word.
Truthteller, the other called himself with a resolute gaze.
He told the truth except when compelled not to. He told the truth even when it was inconvenient. He even told the truth though it amused others at his expense.
The sign by which people came to know him was the straight gaze of his eyes, whenever he spoke.
Over the years, he lost some by his truthtelling, but gained far more -- and what he could have been in life, he indeed became.
For he was a man of his word.
Thus, be your word.
July 31, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of Target Corporation's political ad buys for the anti-gay marriage Minnesota governor candidate, Tom Emmer, in contradiction to its public support of gay rights and provision of same-sex partner benefits for its own corporate workers.
The Prima Donna, The Cast Member
Villagers poured into the square to greet the acting troupe.
Elated to have a show in their tiny village, the villagers happily agreed to feed and pay the actors.
The lead actress, however, demanded the finest room in the mayor's house in which to sleep.
The mayor, choking off some choice words, moved into the guestroom.
The townsfolk brought heaping plates of roast duck and stuffing, and a cask of red wine for the actors' tables.
But the lead actress said nary a word to them except to remark, "This meat is rotted, and the wine sour!" -- even though the fowl had been freshly slaughtered and the wine their best-aged and tight-corked.
She demanded the largest tent, and all the townswomens' silvered mirrors, to furbish her backstage dressing room in the village square.
And, for all that, when she finally took the stage on opening night, she barged in front of the other cast members and stomped around with eyes bugging, waving her arms as if they carried two hams.
And so did the prima donna get a rotten tomato in her face -- which pleased the crowd mightily.
Another actress, however, who had only a supporting role in the cast, had graciously accepted a small room in an old farmhouse, and had thanked the villagers for their gifts of food and wine. She had eaten with them heartily, regaling them with stories of the long road and distant lands. She had thanked the village women for the small hand mirror she'd been loaned to apply her stage make-up.
And, whenever she appeared on stage, careful not to step in front of other cast members when they spoke, and when the villagers gazed upon her subtle beauty and drank in the cool and burbling stream of her voice, their careworn, jagged faces melted.
And so did the cast member get bouquets of field daisies thrown at her dainty feet.
Thus, consider others, to be considered.
July 24, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to Ira Hackner's "Kids Good Manners" DVD, teaching children -- in game-show style -- good manners, self-discipline, sportsmanship, kindness and honesty.
The Paper Dolls, The Sisters
Saleswomen attended their customers.
The first saleswoman's eyes often drifted away from her customers' faces, to the dreary cavalcade of wanderers behind their shoulders.
She listened only to her customer's orders to retrieve this or that clothing item for them -- and cared nothing for their motivations and needs.
Her customers seemed, to her, paper dolls.
So as a paper doll did her customers in turn treat her.
The second saleswoman's eyes gazed straight into her customers' faces, to regard the cavalcade of wandering thoughts in their minds.
She listened with care, hearing beneath their spoken words the emotions and needs that drove them -- and retrieved not just those items that they thought they desired, but those items she knew they would desire.
Her customers seemed, to her, sisters.
So as a sister did her customers in turn treat her.
Thus, empathy and callousness magnify themselves.
July 17, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the Egyptian Sharia law group, Lawyers Without Shackles, which seeks to "purify" -- by deleting all salacious carnal passages and poetry from -- the classic of ancient Arab literature, "The Arabian Nights."
The Perfect, The Imperfect
Beauteous were the birds of paradise.
The first bird of paradise preened for his harem of sycophants, who cooed and cried up to him from the grass below, as he strutted on a gilded branch above them.
The second bird of paradise, once identical to the first, had long since lost in a storm a single feather, leaving a tiny notch in his otherwise perfect golden plume. He sat on a separate branch, admired by none -- except for his agreeableness, upon which all the court did remark.
Then one day another storm fell upon them, and the first bird of paradise, his cascading golden tail caught in the wind, also lost a feather -- but a single feather -- and became in his own mind no longer perfect, although he was still as beautiful as the other bird of paradise.
Yet so saddened was he that he closed his golden eyes, flew high into the air on his now notched plumage, and murmuring, "Let it all end!" folded his rainbow wings and plummeted into the roiling sea.
So did the second bird of paradise become the most beautiful and admired bird alive -- not perfect, but enough, as always, to take one's breath away. "And," murmured his followers, "much nicer a bird, at that!"
Thus, to be perfect is to be an illusion.
July 10, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the U.S. Obama Administration's and Secretary of Veteran Affairs General Eric Shinseki's new policy allowing veterans to no longer have to provide historical combat evidence of particular traumatic events, in addition to their medical diagnosis, to qualify for VA healthcare for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. And dedicated to all U.S. veterans afflicted by PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, who rather than being shunned into dark isolation, must be welcomed back into the light of community.
The Drain, The Fountain
Children dove into a swimming pool.
At the shallow end of the pool they found a hole, from which gushed a fountain of fresh, clear water.
One child stuck his head into the fountain, pressed his hand on its spout to make jets of water that he could shoot at his playmate, and pressed his back to the fountain so that his body flew forward across the pool.
So it was that the fountain became his favorite place to play.
But the second child had found another hole, in the very bottom of the far, deepest end of the pool -- so deep it lay below blue-green water.
He swam in circles far above this second hole, trying to get a better look at it.
"Why is it so deep and so quiet?" he wondered.
Finally, his curiosity irresistible, the second boy took a deep breath and dove, flailing his arms, to the bottom.
And once he touched bottom, he placed his hand over the hole.
It sucked in his whole arm, to his very shoulder.
Only with the strength borne of panic was he able to pull out his arm from the drain and swim away, to barely keep his life.
So it was that the fountain, too, became his favorite place to play.
Thus, life flows between us -- and you are either a fountain, or a drain.
July 3, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the U.S. Natural Gas drilling industry's proprietary hydrocarbon "Fracing Compound" - which, due to its high-pressure subterranean injection into the water table to fracture immersed shale deposits trapping natural gas, causes exploding water faucets, flaming creeks, and black, waxy poisonous well water, as well as evaporative air pollution with benzene, toluene, glycol ether, aromatic pyridine, HCL, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, & heavy metals; and dedicated to the Congressional "Frac Bill," which seeks to reverse the Bush/Cheney-era exemption of the Natural Gas industry from having to abide by any provisions of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, or the Clean Air act.
The Animal, The Person
Night and day were how the boys were raised.
The first boy was twisted by an angry hand, and in adulthood lived as an animal.
When this predator ultimately destroyed another, he was executed by the state.
Yet in the moment before his heart was stopped by the hands of others, he lifted his head, looked into the eyes of his victim's family, and apologized.
So did the animal invoke the person within.
The second boy was cradled by a loving hand, and in adulthood lived as a person.
When this person ultimately saved others, he was lauded by the state for the remainder of his life.
Yet in the moment before his heart was stopped by the hands of time, he lifted his head, looked into the eyes of his family, and confessed the small, daily acts of destruction he'd committed or wished for in his life.
So did the person invoke the animal within.
Thus, person and animal coexist in us, never one entirely substituted for the other.
June 26, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated, on the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, to the 25th anniversary of the Minneapolis-based international Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) -- and to all civic and educational dialogues whose goal is the prevention of the mindset that leads to torture.
The Mediocre, The Great
Neighbors lived in adjacent row houses.
The first neighbor hopped the subway each dawn for a very small job at a very large company. At work he kept his head down, and escaped from the office at every chance.
His dream in life was to stop working.
The second neighbor stayed at home and started a small business in his basement.
His dream in life was to double his workload.
For several years the first neighbor needled the second for not going to a "real" job.
But then the next year his neighbor brought his start-up company renown, and the beginnings of great wealth.
So jealous and enraged did the first neighbor become, that, during the dark of the moon, he stole to his neighbor's basement and set it on fire.
And danced in the street as the flames rose.
Thus, mediocrity is often mendacious.
June 19, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the destructive actions of the Minneapolis "Paint Bomber" -- who has splashed Metro Transit bus stops, a Nice Ride bicycle Rental kiosk, highways, park structures, and walls of local businesses with paint-filled balloons.
The Reminder, The Remembrance
War's regimentals are retired -- but not war's remembrances.
Ex-sergeants from a long-ago war met in a hospital for military veterans, where one was a wheelchair-bound patient, and the other a volunteer.
"I carry these on my chest every day," the patient said, pointing with his trembling, gnarled hand to the rows of ribbons and medals on the left breast of his carefully tended uniform." They remind me of honor and service, and comrades long dead."
He then reached up and plucked at the old volunteer's sleeve, drew him closer, and whispered, "I have nothing in my life now, but memories of when I was a hero."
The other sergeant nodded, but replied carefully, "I too have my medals, framed and resting on the mantelpiece back home. Whenever I feel nostalgic for the days when I was a hero, I go to that case and pick through the remembrances of my past."
And then he leaned down closer.
"And, comrade, I remember that, heroes or not, it was a terrible time of loss and killing. When I look upon my medals, and recall the faces of all those who died for me to receive them, I commit my life anew -- to never permit warmongering again!"
Thus, remember your past -- but do not live in it.
June 12, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director, The Circle of Reason, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Finger, The Pistol
War was afoot.
Garbed in mud-spattered camouflage ponchos, running down the alleys behind their homes, springing out of bushes and culverts, squatting in tree branches, would they oft hunt each other -- finger and thumb cocked in the shape of a gun.
"POW!" yelled the first boy, one sunny day, after he took aim against the back of the second boy, who'd been crouched behind a bush. "You're dead!" he cried, blowing away the whiff of imaginary smoke rising from his finger.
The second boy startled, then ducked and rolled, whipping around his hand.
And in it, the pistol he'd found under his father's mattress.
Never realizing it was loaded -- nor thinking much about it at all, in the childish ecstasy of War -- the second boy pointed its barrel square at his friend's chest and clicked the trigger.
So did he learn the difference between imagination and reality.
Thus, reality, if not accepted, will destroy you.
June 5, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the "Raw Milk" movement, which claims untreated milk bas unique immune-boosting properties and rejects pasteurized milk as "dead milk" devoid of nutrients -- in contradiction of data from the CDC and FDA that raw milk is the cause of more than 70% of dairy-associated enteric diarrheal hospitalizations while comprising only 1% of all consumed dairy products, and that pasteurization has no detrimental effect on milk's nutritional value.
The Insincere, The Sincere
Warrens of cubicles pigeonholed the dreams of better futures.
One worker, desirous of being a boss, decided to sabotage his coworkers.
Always friendly, he soon became his coworkers' trusted adviser.
One asked him, "Do you think our boss will mind if I approve this deal without him?"
"No! Go ahead and approve the deal," he replied. "Don't bosses like initiative?"
Another asked him, "Do you think my coat looks too threadbare?"
"No!" he reassured the man. "Doesn't a threadbare coat show you care more about your work than your appearance?"
When these workers were demoted, they didn't blame him -- only wistfully envied his unsullied optimism.
When he became boss, he ran his office to ruin -- for his insincerity was emulated by those under him, and office warfare became the rule.
A second worker, also desirous of being a boss, decided that spurring achievement within himself and his coworkers was the only fair way to reach that goal.
Always friendly, he, too, soon became his coworkers' trusted adviser.
One asked him, "Do you think our boss will mind if I change this policy?"
He replied, "Let's ask the boss if he'd prefer we run such policy changes by him, shall we?"
Another asked him, "Do you think my dress is too casual?"
He gently recommended, "Our dress is best regarded when it matches our professionalism."
When these workers were asked with whom they could best work as their new boss, they all named him.
When he became boss, he guided his office to new heights -- for his sincerity was emulated by those under him, and office collaboration became the rule.
Thus, insincerity is a form of murder.
May 29, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of McNeil Consumer Healthcare's secret "phantom recall" -- the attempted secret repurchasing -- of bacteria- and chromium- contaminated, and active ingredient overdosage-containing, bottles of the over-the-counter medications Motrin, Benadryl, Zyrtec and children's Tylenol.
The Bonfire, The Library
Libertines gamboled and romped into the yoke.
Their elders gathered militias, which marched from library to library, tossing books into the street -- any book by those who did not believe as they.
The bonfire of knowledge buttressed a pillar of flame that cast the night red, while refugees -- poets, authors and playwrights all -- streamed away, in search anew for the freedom to speak their written voice.
So did the minds of the people dwindle, with naught but slogans and pamphlets to ponder.
After war befell them -- a war of burning and choice -- all their libraries were ash.
In the winter of their defeat, the elders, now adjudged criminals, were sentenced to live in the charred hulls of their mansions.
With the greening returned the exiled poets, authors, and playwrights -- carrying books, both their own and others', to rebuild freedom of voice and thought.
Thus, as knowledge is locked away or free, so is the mind.
May 22, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the Texas State Board of Education, which chose to instruct American History textbook publishers to rename America's former "Transatlantic Slave Trade" as the "Atlantic Triangular Trade."
The Thrasher, The Swimmer
Home was on stilts on the riverbank.
The brothers, sandy feet perched against the porch screen, broke their placid gaze across the far banks on sight of an ice-cream truck tootling down to the small public beach among the distant reeds.
Using safety pins to clip dollar bills to their swim trunks, they dashed to the shoreline. The first-born waded in to swim directly to the far side of the river, but, behind him, his younger brother hesitated.
"Wait!" he cried, "what about the current?"
"Just swim hard!" the elder yelled back, then dove into the river, thrashing his arms toward the far beach.
But the younger brother saw how his sibling kept drifting downstream, and how he had to fight harder and harder to swim upstream just to keep traversing the river toward the far, sandy beachhead.
Turning, the younger brother ran fifty meters upstream.
Then he dove into the river and swam straight across, allowing the current to carry him downstream.
Splashing out of the water on the far side, he hailed the ice-cream truck driver and paid for two cones -- one for himself, and one for his waterlogged older brother, who only now was crawling on all fours, exhausted, onto the shore; and who, but for the bucktoothed stubbornness of youth, would surely have drowned.
Thus, don't swim against currents -- including currents of the mind.
May 15, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the Internet surfers of China, who seek freedom of ideas and knowledge; and in admonishment of their repressive government's "Great Firewall of China."
The Subhuman, The Superhuman
Semitic met Germanic.
One was jeered by jackboots as a "subhuman," and forced into ghettos and camps where many kin were murdered.
Yet this "subhuman" survived the bitterest winter, and, when freedom at last came to his country, swallowed his vengefulness and thrived, replenishing his proud and ancient race.
The other was revered by the same jackboots as a "superhuman," and enlisted in their military to fight for their cause.
Yet this "superhuman" tasted defeat in the bitterest winter, at the hands of those they considered lesser men. And, when freedom at last came to his country, he swallowed his shame and resolved to never again allow militancy and intolerance to hold sway over his proud and ancient race.
Thus, "subhuman" or "superhuman," human still.
May 8, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to Germany's Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, whose DNA sequence this week of the genome of Neanderthal Man proves that racist prejudice considering blacks to be "subhuman" must now be turned on its head -- with the scientists' finding that only people of African ancestry are totally free of Neanderthal genes; but also dedicated to the proposition that all other races of humans, hominids and even primates are, and always have been, no less deserving of respect as thinking beings who have blossomed on the cross-pollinating branches of the tree of sapient life.
The Charm Bracelet, The Callus
During coffee break at the clothes factory, one's well-manicured fingers stroked the charms dangling from her bracelet -- the other's fingers rubbed a callus.
"My lucky bracelet will get me a promotion, and someday I'll run my own factory!" the first woman boasted.
The second woman had no money for even a manicure, let alone a charm bracelet. She'd saved her cash and invested it. She considered her lucky charm the callus acquired on her sewing hand from years of working overtime and over lunch breaks to make more money.
The woman with the charm bracelet often gossiped about the second woman.
"She's crude, with no charm! And look at her hand!"
But, since the second woman never spent much time on her coffee break or at the water cooler listening to idle gossip, she heard little of these insults, nor cared to.
Instead, she taught other industrious workers how to maximize their pay by sewing clothes in less time.
One day the foreman halted shop production and assembled the workers.
He turned to the woman with the callused hand, and said, "I am retiring, but I've watched your hard work, and the way you train the others. You will be our new shop foreman."
Then the retiring foreman turned to the first woman and said, "I've also seen your work, and heard your gossip and insults about those who've worked harder and saved their money."
He glanced down at the charm bracelet tinkling above her now sweaty, wringing hands.
"I hope your lucky charm is worth some cash. You're fired."
Thus, effort is rewarded more than luck.
May 1, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of British Petroleum's and the U.S. Oil Industry's refusal to install $500,000 automatic acoustic shut off valves on all its U.S. offshore oil platforms; and in admonishment of the U.S. Congress' submission to "Big Oil" lobbyists in refusing to legally require this simple protection -- which every other offshore oil-producing nation requires.
The Ostrich, The Prairie Dog
Faraway lands sometimes have far and away the strangest of friends -- like the Ostrich and the Prairie Dog.
One day, a dust storm that raged from horizon to horizon raced from the Western Lands toward their small nesting area.
The Prairie Dog stood, yellow paws at attention by his side, and barked.
"Head's up! A storm is coming! A big one!"
As the air swirled brown with flying grit, the Prairie Dog scuttled to a shallow hole and stuck his little body in it, with his head peeking out to keep a wary eye on the storm passing overhead.
"Hunker down and head's up, Ostrich!" he cried over the howling of earth become air.
But the Ostrich did not hunker down with his head up. Instead, he stood up on his huge, grey-pink legs, spread his wings for balance, and then bent over and jammed his head straight down into the hole where the Prairie Dog crouched.
"What are you doing?" the Prairie Dog cried, pushing back at the bird's big head.
"I'm keeping my head down, aren't I?" cried the Ostrich. "Why do I have to look at such a frightening thing as that storm?"
"No, No!" the Prairie Dog cried to his friend. "Body down, head up! Head's up!!"
But it was too late. The Ostrich squawked as the blasting wind caught his wings and swept him away, never to be seen by the Prairie Dog again.
Thus, it is better to keep your head up than your head down, when storms brew -- and when do they not?
April 24, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of Arizona's immigration law permitting and requiring local peace officers to detain, question and demand documentation papers from any person (including visitors, legal residents and American citizens) whom they "reasonably suspect" might be in the country illegally; and that allows appearance and race to factor into establishing such suspicion. On September 12, 1938, Yale Divinity School Professor Halford E. Luccock warned, "When and if fascism comes to America, it will be called, of course, 'Americanism.'"
The Blue Ceiling, The Blue Sky
Grey clouds ushered the new employee into the bank.
His boss welcomed him, saying, "Innovate and you'll get ahead in the world!"
"The sky's the limit!" he exclaimed.
Saying this, the boss gestured up -- at the vaulted, white cloud-painted blue dome above the main lobby.
The employee wracked his brain for weeks to come up with an idea to save the bank money. But when he presented his idea to his coworkers and boss, they frowned and told him that the idea was unworkable.
And that he was a show-off.
He grew sullen, as his best ideas were ignored while the same poor planning that had kept the bank small was all that was permitted.
On his last day at the job, after packing his personal belongings, he overheard the boss tell a young, new worker, "The sky's the limit!"
While the bank guard, dressed in grey, ushered him out the door, cardboard box under one arm, he passed the new guy --who was staring up at the cloud-painted vaulted dome.
He paused and whispered in the new guy's ear.
"It's a ceiling."
Then he walked out into a true blue day.
Thus, make sure your blue sky isn't a blue ceiling.
April 17, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to U.S. President Obama's executive order requiring hospitals to no longer bar same-sex partners from the bedsides of patients; but also in admonishment of his delay in eliminating "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and permitting honorable, uncloseted participation in the Armed Forces by our homosexual servicemen and servicewomen.
The Trap, The Latch
Silver cavorted amidst the fallen trunks of an aspen forest -- two minks, who lived as mates.
As they scampered and rolled in sodden leaves and pinecones, they chanced upon a strange, hollow bush.
It was made not of leaf and bark, but of hard metal wire - and inside it sat a pile of fresh, smelly minnows!
Circling the wire bush, they found a hole in it, and dashed in to feast.
But as they entered, the hole snapped shut behind them -- and they knew they were caged.
In despair, one of the minks gulped down all the minnows and paced for hours, then chewed on its own silver fur in frustration and fear, until its jaws slacked limply open.
But the other mink merely sat, sniffing and gently pawing the lip of the cage's closed door.
Then it began pulling and pushing at it -- and, finally, lifted the tiniest of latches, and so too the door.
The mink squirmed under the raised door to freedom -- with its mate's gleefully chittering head jammed so tight under the first's hindquarters that, in escaping, their two bodies looked like nothing so much as a big, furry snake.
Thus, free your mind. -- via The Matrix
April 10, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the efforts by these new neighborhood groups to encourage or sponsor reasoning dialogue and fellowship between those of otherwise antagonistic beliefs and backgrounds:
The Secular Bible Study Group
First Minneapolis Circle of Reason
Believers and Nonbelievers in Dialogue (BAND)
Cirkel van Rede
The Word, The Deed
Like a dark umbrella, the company cast its penumbra over the city -- and all lived in its shadow.
To his colleagues the young worker was cordially spoken, musing aloud on how fairness should rule in their promotions.
Yet, when talking to his superiors, lies dripped like venom from his salivating lips. Charging his colleagues of incompetence, he claimed their ideas as his own.
So did he live a life completely separate from the words he spoke.
But there was also a second young worker, one of the first man's colleagues. Always was he cordial and truthful, to both his colleagues and his superiors in the company.
So did he live a life inseparable from the words he spoke.
He became the target of wrath from the lying worker, who was threatened by honest word and deed. When, inevitably, their superiors confronted the honest worker about his alleged incompetence and credit-stealing, he simply replied, "I have been a good and true worker. If you promote my accuser, I wish you luck -- I think you may need it from now on."
So did the man who lived his life inseparably from the words he spoke leave the company in the hands of a liar -- who, once promoted, stampeded the company over the brink of disunity and ruin.
The honest man began his own small company, setting up measures to objectively assess and reward the productivity of his own workers.
His company grew as large as his former one, but remained strong and productive -- filled to the very brim with people whose deeds matched their words.
Thus, keep your deeds inseparable from your words. -- via Paul Wellstone
April 3, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the alleged 12-year delay in defrocking a "satanically" pedophile Arizona priest, Michael Teta, by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), who, in a signed letter as Head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, formally took control of the case of Teta's confessional-booth molestations of boys during their First Communions; and in admonishment of the alleged tolerance, authorization, incitement or performance of severe emotional abuse and physical beatings of Church of Scientology leadership (Sea Org) staff by the Head of the Church, David Miscavige. Voicing the words of God does not absolve the deeds of a criminal.
The Bully, The Friend
Ahead lie many paths -- and but two paths.
Two schoolmates so closely resembled the other they appeared as twin sisters.
Yet with one gaze into their eyes, none could ever confuse the two.
One schoolmate insulted and pushed others to the ground whenever they won a game at recess.
She cursed and hit others in the arm whenever they contradicted her, or told her something she hadn't known.
And she robbed from lunchboxes whatever treats others' parents had made that were tastier than hers.
The other schoolmate congratulated and lifted others into the air whenever they won a game at recess.
She laughed and patted others on the back whenever they contradicted her, or told her something she hadn't known.
And she shared from her lunchbox whatever treats her parents had made that were tastier than others'.
So did one schoolmate become reviled, and the other revered -- ultimately even by themselves.
Thus, the bully fears being irrelevant -- the friend acts on that fear.
March 27, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the screamed racial, homophobic and ideological slurs, the voice-mailed death threats, and the vandalism of tossed bricks, fired bullets, fake-anthrax letters, and cut gas lines, by self-proclaimed "Americans"; and of the political cover given to them by conservative leaders' overblown ad hominem invective and slogans like, "It's time to reload!" and "We're not the Party of 'No,' we're the Party of 'Hell, No!'" It is time for all Americans to realize: Ad hominem is BAD hominem.
The Terns, The Turn
Flocks of arctic terns took southerly wing with snowflake's fall.
Onward the terns flew into warmer days without cease, over the great Midwestern shield of the continent.
But then, with the dawn of a high sun, a flock scattered in twain as, right through their midst, dashed a young tern -- flying north!
The leader of the tern flock swerved about, and soon they caught up to the young tern.
"Hola, young one!" the lead tern yelled above the flutter of their beating wings. "Why fly you north?"
"Does a tern not migrate north?" the younger tern barked.
"Indeed, we do," the lead tern replied, glancing back at his flock to see them all still riding his tail. "But, young one, we think your season is turned around! T'would be safer -- and more fun, I assure you! -- to head back south this season."
"But it was way too hot down South! I almost died of thirst!" the young tern cried.
"Ah, so you've been on this path a long while, then. But trust us now, young one. The South will become cooler and wetter with the coming season. To the north you will find only death."
The young tern looked over at the lead tern, with mild panic in its eyes. "But I've been on my path so long! How can I just turn around and abandon it?"
The lead tern skeewed a friendly laugh, and replied, "Just follow me, young one -- follow us all!"
And the lead tern wheeled about in the sky, heading once more toward the noon sun -- and, among his flock, followed at his right wing a once misguided but brave young tern.
Thus, the life you lead now can yet lead elsewhere.
March 20, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the Democratic Caucus of the 2010 U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, for crafting and passing, after nearly one century of legislative delay, bipartisan-input, "middle-of-the-road," universal private healthcare legislation for all Americans.
The Unkind, The Kind
Charity workers gave food and clothes to those with none.
The first charity worker, a devout man, instructed the beggars who came for a meal or shirt to first pray with him -- where he intoned, "Let us give thanks to the Lord, your provider and your soul's salvation."
Then his icy eyes, cracking open above his tightly clasped hands, glinted coldly at each beggar, as he sternly demanded, "Have you asked the Lord to save your soul?"
And only if the beggar said yes would he receive a meal or a shirt for his back.
The few who balked, or said they believed in no God, the worker sent to the back of the line to "think it over."
So did this worker's charity line slow to a trickle -- until few beggars even approached his table, heaped with food and clothing, where he stood like a crab poised for an approaching minnow.
The second charity worker was also a devout man, but felt it was not his place to demand anything from those with nothing -- and felt that all who came to him in need were kindred souls, no matter their beliefs.
He passed out meals and shirts -- and a quiet ear -- to all who approached him.
He asked from them nothing at all.
All of the beggars blessed this worker, either with their thanks, their prayers, or even their own volunteering.
So did this worker's charity line magnify, soon splitting into tributaries.
And at their headwaters stood his former beggars.
Thus, kindness flows from recognizing kindredness.
March 13, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the discrimination piled, like stones, on the backs of infants by the "charitable" Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School of Boulder, Colorado, for expelling the kindergarten-age children of lesbian parents. In the words of Jesus, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 18:10); and, in the words of Judas, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." (Matthew 27:4).
The Denier, The Confessor
Parishioners and priest dwelled, in sight, yet unseen.
One year a parishioner defrauded his business partner. Misery corded his heart like a snake.
On a Sunday he confessed to his priest.
"If you truly repent of your transgression, you must confess and make amends to your colleague," said the priest.
Aghast, the man scurried from the confessional booth, and never again looked the priest in the eye, nor took communion.
In time, his obsession with hiding his fraud entwined through his soul like a fungus, until the memory of his transgression unceasingly relived itself, and he abandoned his business partner, his wife and his children -- none knowing why he could no longer look them in the eye.
Another year a second parishioner also defrauded his business partner, and likewise confessed his transgression to the priest.
Once again, his priest replied, "If you truly repent of your transgression, confess and make amends to your colleague."
The second man slowly departed the confessional and pulled from his jacket pocket a cell phone.
His hands shook as he pressed the keys to ring his partner.
"I have a confession to make to you. Meet me at the office."
After a long moment staring at its tiny, illuminated keys, the man snapped the phone shut. He turned to shake his priest's hand.
"Pray for me, father."
"I will," replied the priest, as the man departed to meet his future head on.
The following Sunday, the man returned for mass with his wife and children.
The priest took him aside after the mass, stared into his face -- and saw peace.
"Father," the man said, "my partner forgave me, and I'm making restitution."
And a smile, gone now many months, broke upon his face.
"And, father, I can look my wife and children in the eyes again!"
Thus, confess your error -- or become your error.
March 6, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the Toyota Motor Corporation for reportedly withholding or even turning off its cars' "black box" event data recorder (EDR) measurements of the crash position of its accelerator and brake pedals that could confirm or refute that an overpowering, electronic throttle defect underlies its cars' sudden, brake-resistant acceleration -- which has caused numerous owner accidents, 52 deaths, and the conviction and eight-year imprisonment for "criminal vehicular homicide" of one such Toyota driver: Koua Fong Lee, whose 1996 Camry, while conveying him and his wife and children home from church on a Sunday afternoon, suddenly wildly accelerated from 55 mph to 90 mph up their freeway off-ramp, killing three members of another family, in spite of Lee and his family's pleas to police that he was frantically pumping the brakes while screaming, "The brakes don't work! The brakes don't work!"
The Fretter, The Solver
Laid off, two men trudged to the pub to nurse their ales.
The younger worker, looking down at his coal-blackened hands sadly, said to the other, "I've nae use for these anymore, except to lift a pint! What am I to do?"
The other, wiping the foam off his grey mustache, twirled its tips with his fingers, belched, and said, "Do anything you damn well want to! We've our freedom, laddie. It's not like we lost our hands, or our heads -- we only lost our jobs!"
Then the older worker stood up, threw a shilling onto the bar, hitched his overalls and cocked his cap.
"So, mate, better than worryin' it 'til we're six under, what say we start the rest o' our lives, eh?"
Thus, fretting is not solving.
February 27, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to The Coffee Party USA, an ad hoc citizen movement promoting truthful, civil and inclusive political dialogue.
The Sandbag, The Levee
Mighty was the river that spanned the world, and all of history.
Two men set out to change the course of the world's river.
One man stood at the river's shore, and hefted into the air the biggest sandbag that he'd ever filled.
"Thus do I change the course of the world!" he yelled, and tossed it into the river.
The sandbag sank quietly beneath the rushing water with no trace, and the man was humbled and fled into the wilderness.
The other man stood by the river, his hands empty.
Every rainy season he returned to the river, to gauge its course and height. Through the passages of spring he bent into a twig, and the passages of fall he frosted hoary grey.
But, in ripe time, a monsoon came -- and the river churned.
Others ran to its banks with sandbags, piling them high to keep the river on a straight course, as it strained to break free to carve a new channel.
When, in roiling rain, all had long since fled to high country, the now old man walked along the levee to the place where the world's river brimmed highest against the foundering effort of men to hold it at bay.
"Thus do I change the course of the world," he whispered, and lifted away a single, small sandbag.
And so was the mighty flow of the river of the world released, and nothing was ever the same again.
Thus, it is easier to deliver what is ready to be born.
February 20, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the zero-emissions, 100 mile-range Lithium-Electric Automobile for Five, the Nissan LEAF; and to the zero-to-low emissions, indefinite-range lithium-electric automobile with gasoline/E85-generator backup after 40 miles, the General Motors Volt.
The Rabbit, The Squirrel
Born beneath the first blossoms of spring were a Rabbit and a Squirrel.
The Rabbit scampered about the forest glen and ate of the tall grass and ferns.
He consumed as if there were no tomorrows.
In time he grew quite round, graduating from hopping to loping, and then to billowing about like a cloud. But as the days grew short and cold, the Rabbit had neither grass nor fern to feast upon.
As Mother Earth's sleepy head lolled back into winter, the Rabbit grew bored -- and a bit hungry -- sitting in his burrow with icicles freezing on his fur and fat melting under it.
When spring dawned again, he crawled out with muscles as thin as the icicles of deep December.
The Squirrel, born on the same nose-tip of spring, also scampered about the glen and ate of the grass and ferns. As summer turned to fall, however, the Squirrel began to gather, bury and hide in his burrow the nuts that fell from the trees.
He saved as if there were only tomorrows.
In time he grew well muscled and strong, graduating from scampering to leaping and climbing, and then to digging like a miner. As the days grew short and cold, the Squirrel too retreated to his burrow for winter.
But over the frigid blue-white season, he stayed busy, excavating and munching his stores of nuts.
When spring dawned again, he sprung out full of life -- with muscles as rippling as the oaks of high summer.
Thus, spend for no tomorrows -- or save for many.
February 13, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the Chinese nouveau riche, whose irrational appetite for tiger skins and bone may this Sunday indeed usher in the Last Year of the Tiger -- with the gun blasts of poachers poised to kill but 20 remaining tigers in China, and less than 3,200 in the world, before this great animal is extinct. May shame shrivel that which the pelts and powdered bones were purchased, so dearly, to swell.
The Powerless, The Powerful
A "right to vote" was enshrined in the Constitution of both neighboring peoples -- but immersed within a tortuous, dark palimpsest of corrupt laws.
In the first country, public officials, even the Presidency itself, were bought. Incumbency of the largest political parties was guaranteed by television ads -- which, through misdirection, calmed the people's concerns. Power, and immense, ill-gotten riches, were held in the grasp of a very few -- while many were poor, cheated of a day's pay for a day's work, and lived on acrid, despoiled land.
Its people stayed home and cursed, come voting day.
The second country, too, had been bought; its people, too, saw the poverty of their hardest workers, tasted acrid air and oily water, and saw the politicians and pundits shun all but the wealthy and a few token poor.
But its people fought back -- writing editorials, publishing alternative newspapers, talking on public television, and blogging on the Internet.
And come voting day all of them -- every one of them -- left their homes to vote.
The people, realizing they had suffered from a mass illusion of powerlessness, never again cursed the government they had themselves permitted all along -- but threw it out and elected true representatives.
Thus, your vote is absolute power incarnated -- or absolute power abdicated.
February 6, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the decades-long contamination of Vieques, Puerto Rico, by the U.S. Navy Bombing Test Range's unexploded munitions and toxic wastes including the heavy metals cadmium and mercury, Agent Orange, and enriched uranium; and of the U.S. government's ironic claim of "Sovereign Immunity" from lawsuits by cancer-afflicted Puerto Rican U.S. citizens who, by living in a U.S. "Territory," have been disenfranchised without voting rights -- with no voice in the government that controls them; and dedicated to the citizens of Vieques and Puerto Rico, who should demand either the right to reparation from their so-called "Sovereign" government, the right to vote as full citizens of that government, or the right to be an independent nation.
The Bullseye, The Darts
Stout was to him as clear as dewy mist.
The owner of the village pub was blind as a bat.
One day an uncouth young lout -- several sheets into the wind from pub-crawling -- rose, stood on his bar table, belched loudly and yelled, "A blind man's only 'alf a man!"
The crowd rose in anger, but the owner raised his stick and said, "Let the boy be -- methinks he's never played me at darts."
As the crowd murmured, a few breaking out in broad grins, the young lout retorted, "Darts? Ye must be daft! Are ye a cretin as well as blind?!"
"I hear ye mouth, boy, but feel no money," the owner replied, slapping the bar. To cheers, the young boy brandished a 100 Euro note and slapped it down.
"Come on, ye purblind git! Best three darts wins an 'undred!"
The young boy walked to the dartboard and grabbed the darts.
"Quiet now!" yelled the blind owner to the crowd, as he followed the youth to the dartboard line, his walking stick waving back and forth.
The youth raised his hands thrice, thrice slowly aimed, and thrice let sail darts into the board.
Thunk. "One in the second ring, old fool!"
Thunk! "One in the first ring!"
Thunk!! "And the last," the youth yelled to rising murmurs and tossing heads, "a bullseye!"
As the crowd slowly quieted, the blind man turned to the youth. "Lad, aim me at the dartboard, would ye?"
Laughter rang out as the youth led the blind man by the arm to the line.
"And place me legs on the line, too, my boy?" The youth laughed, bent over and nudged the blind man's feet forward, until they touched the small line of tape. The owner bent over, took off his sandals, and wiggled his bare toes on the tape's edge -- fitting his big toes into two worn semicircles in the tape.
"And just one more wee favor, lad -- could ye tap on the bullseye, so's I can hear where it be?"
Bowing deeply, the loutish youth mugged to the crowd, and, shushing them with this finger on his lip, trotted over to the dartboard and tapped on its center.
The blind man faced to the windows.
"Nay, over here," the boy said, "not over there!" The blind owner swiveled his head to him, nodded, then looked back toward the windows, his ear cocked toward the youth's tapping finger on the dartboard.
"Thanks, laddie," the blind man said, and then, before the young lout had barely dropped his hand and taken a step back, let loose with all three darts in the space of an instant -- Thunk. Thunk! Thunk!!
The youth whipped his head around.
Thus, you can hit bullseyes -- if you keep tossing the darts.
January 30, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in supplication to the U.S. Democratic and Republican congressional Representatives and Senators, and President Obama, to practice politics as "the art of the possible," so that they may better perfect the American union; and dedicated in admonishment to those who toss darts not at the bullseye of good policy, but only at their honorable opponents.
The Tabloids, The News, The Facts
Bombed and invaded by a large country, the small country's hapless army and civilians were obliterated before the full moon scarcely turned crescent.
The people of the large country flocked to the newsstands.
And at one of these, three citizens purchased three different periodicals.
The first citizen bought a large tabloid with the headline, "To Conquer Evil!" emblazoned in red letters across images of carnage. As he read homilies in the margins of scenes of destruction, his heart swelled with pride, and he thought, "Let the tanks keep rolling!"
The second citizen bought a daily newspaper with the headline, "Leaders Say Bombs Drop To Stop Terror" printed above the faces of politicians and army generals. As he read of his public servants his heart swelled with gratitude, and he thought, "These men reluctantly donned the mantle of leadership, and protected my family and my home!"
The third citizen bought a magazine with an article entitled, "Why Did We Go To War?" containing different discussions and perspectives. One of them began, "We bombed that country in an impulsive gesture of supreme and casual arrogance." As this citizen pondered the magazine's articles, then glanced back at the newsstand's tabloids' screaming headlines, and its newspapers' regurgitated official releases, her heart swelled with judgment and determination, and she thought, "From now on I vote for leaders who will stand on the rock of objectivity, not the quicksand of feelings."
Thus, to accept reality you must first discern reality.
January 23, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the U.S. Supreme Court's blanket nullification of nearly 100 years of prior legal precedents by past U.S. and state Supreme Courts, to now allow corporations -- creations of the state whose sole legal purpose is to make money -- unlimited power to buy political ads, and hence unlimited power to buy the U.S. government; and dedicated in watchful warning to the American people, who may now, more than ever, have to devote themselves to picking out the factual gemstones from mountains of fiction -- to reading reality in the margins of reams of propaganda.
The Dead, The Alive
Devastated, they stared into the raging torrent.
One had lost her husband.
The other, her only child.
The ravaged widow cried to the grieving mother, "I have nothing in the world! I am dead!"
She turned from life and threw herself into the torrent, and was lost.
The grieving mother stood by the banks of the river, and said to herself, "I, too, have nothing in the world. Except I am not dead. I still live!"
She turned from the torrent and threw herself into life, and was found.
Thus, you still live! -- via Edgar Rice Burroughs
January 16, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the courageous Haitians who struggle to rescue their fellow citizens from the wreckage of their great earthquake; and in admonishment of The 700 Club's "Christian" evangelist, Pat Robertson, who claims the earthquake was God's curse on the Haitians from a supposed past "pact with the Devil" to obtain their freedom from enslavement.
The Wastrel, The Thrifty
Voices merged into the roar of a city.
A young man was enticed by the sights and sounds of the street.
Each day he toiled, but after dipping into the shower at dusk and rubbing scented oil into his hair, he roamed the night -- his pockets full of his day's coin.
He tossed down his coin for new sensations. He tossed down his coin for new friends. He tossed down his coin for new women.
He tossed it with abandon.
But, so soon, the first frost of grey condensed on his verdant hair. The profligacy of youth emerged in the palimpsest of a wrinkled face.
Even more coin he tossed at the feet of others - for, now, when he did not, they averted their eyes.
In his final day, his coin had scattered with those he'd called friend.
A second young man was likewise enticed by the sights and sounds of the street.
Each day he too toiled -- but after dipping into the shower at dusk and scenting his hair, he paused, sat down in his study and tithed but a fraction of his coin to his pocket. Then into the night he went.
He picked only the most desired of new sensations to buy. He noted those friends and women who flocked to the glint of silver and gold, and turned from them.
His measured ways repulsed those whose glances dance about one's purse.
But there are men and women who are less embroidered, but of finer weave. Valuing rich laughter over rich wine, they flocked to him.
Soon the first dusting of grey too settled upon his hair. But his measured life reflected from a smooth, serene face.
And in his many days he found not simply wealth, but a wealth of friends who would toss down, for him, not their coin -- but their lives.
Thus, coins are not meant to be tossed.
January 9, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of those who have perpetrated the multitude of secular and religious-group affiliated Ponzi, investment, or real-estate frauds only now coming to light after the Great Recession. Frauds not only wear a mask -- but all masks.
The Slug, The Octopus
Deep blue was the gulf wherein dwelled two neighbors -- the Slug and the Octopus.
The Slug crawled blindly along the living coral and rocks, chewing algae, while fronds of its muscular, banana-yellow flesh waved gently in the warm currents, mimicking the waving sea plants.
Yet one day, down swooped a barracuda -- and with one huge gulp, the Slug was no more.
Then the barracuda turned its baleful mien toward the Octopus, which was crawling along the sea bottom on its eight brown tentacles, overturning rocks to look for crunchy shrimp.
Yet, having eyes to see, and good ones at that, the Octopus watched the barracuda approach from above -- and quickly squirted a puff of ink, then turned its skin sandy-sea-bottom-colored, vanishing from the barracuda's sight.
Then, when the confused barracuda looked away, the Octopus quickly pulled itself with its powerful, muscular arms across the open rocks, squishing itself into a small hole beneath a boulder.
And with one calm eye the Octopus waited upon the exasperated barracuda until it gave up circling and swam away -- to find a prey much less smart.
Thus, muscle is useful when mindful -- and useless when mindless.
January 2, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2010 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the attempt by religious extremists to murder Danish political cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, in retaliation for his depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad; and in admonishment of the urge to use the legitimate refuge of "free speech" to publish emotive depictions and words designed to enrage.
The Closed Mind, The Opened Mind
Burnished steppes were etched with an ancient route twixt East and West.
Two farmers lived on a small desert oasis, a way station, in the deepest traverse of the route.
The first farmer was a close-minded soul. He latched his porch door to any travelers who passed by on their journey.
But the second farmer was an open-minded soul. He opened his door and his hearth to every traveler, and draped their dusty fezzes and chapeaus, their skullcaps and mitres and kaffiyehs, their topis and turbans and tams all, on his wall.
So did the second farmer hear of wondrous and terrible deeds, of adventure and misadventure -- and shared his travelers' stories.
Years rushed by with the constant desert wind.
With these years, the first farmer found the duramen of his life grown narrow and unbranched -- and in the fullness of time he died, a lone, suspicious and ignorant misanthrope.
Yet with the same rush of years, the second farmer found his heartwood ramifying to the farthest horizon and the zenith of the skies -- his conversations, his imparted wisdom, his lessons to his family, yea, even his dreams, as richly branched as the melange of travelers whom he'd long befriended.
On the day of this man's death, and for long years afterward, all who passed by doffed their headwear at his family's old farmhouse door -- and sat before his hearth for a draught and a story.
Thus, knowledge knocks at your door, but you must open it.
December 26, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the lapse into close-mindedness by the alleged Christmas Day Bomber of Flight 253, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab -- who reportedly was initially radicalized while a student in Britain; and dedicated in thanks to the steadfast open-mindedness of his now-despondent father, Nigerian banker Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, who went so far as to warn U.S. authorities of his own son's increasing radicalization. To defeat terrorism, one must prevent the hijacking of one's cherished beliefs by those whose minds are shut.
The Disbeliever, The Believer
The young woman's ideas had never before existed.
Yet her teachers and peers ignored her genius. They refused her professorial and research jobs, precisely because her ideas were so completely unlike any they'd ever seen before.
The young genius, underemployed as a small college instructor, slowly grew to disbelieve her own ideas. Every day she told herself, "My ideas couldn't have been right, or my peers would have recognized them as so!"
So one day she put away her papers and experimental notes, in her bottom desk drawer.
A few years later, one of her brightest students asked her for a research project, as he too wanted to someday be a scientist as well as teacher. With a pang of recognition, envy and fear for the young man, who was so much like she'd been, the instructor let her student riffle through her old notes from her dusty bottom drawer. The next day, the student ran up to her, excitement pouring out of his eyes. "Teacher!" he cried, "This work is magnificent! We must confirm it! Let me help you!"
The instructor suddenly felt her eyes brim with tears, and had to blink them back. In all her years on earth, she had never heard validation. Yet all she'd needed was that one word, from just one who had eyes to see. She knew that her work was genius and had always been so, even when none, including she, believed it.
That day, the teacher and her student together began to finish her work -- and, in the fullness of time, its genius was one day recognized by all.
Thus, the future will belong to those who believe in the rightness of their dreams. - via Eleanor Roosevelt and Paul Wellstone
December 19, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the U.S. District of Columbia's vote today to legalize marriage for homosexual couples. The human right to marry shall no longer be suppressed in the nation's capital and five states wherein dwell our third-millennium human rights pioneers: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.
The Sheep, The Shepherds
Bearing a little girl's name, she washed their homes out to sea.
Wandering before a flat beach where once had stood their homes, the people wailed through dry, salt-caked lips.
In time, bottled water slaked their thirst -- but there was no draught for the thirst of the soul.
Men in suits came, pockets and suitcases stuffed with cash, and bought the aldermen of what remained of their town council.
Blueprints were drawn to carpet the beachfront in a fortress wall of 20-story condominiums and hotels -- where the townspeople would see only massive, 300-foot high grey walls, and smell only garbage tinged with sea-salt, when they turned to the muffled sound of the surf.
The people sat in the sand and, crying, sold their empty plots of land for a pittance.
But one man spat in disgust, and gathered all their signatures to place his name, and those of two other honest residents, on the alderman election ballot.
"Fight for your homes and your beach!" they cried.
They were elected as new aldermen of the town council.
They turned aside every stack of dollars passed toward them under the table.
They publicized every bribe of their fellow aldermen.
They argued in every council meeting and public hearing.
They voted as a bloc to hold up the corrupt high-rise developers.
They fought to rebuild their townspeople's family homes and beachfront parks.
Four years later, the three aldermen stood, shoes in hand, bare toes digging into the white sand, at the beachfront.They gazed at the new bike paths and parkways, the restored, broad public waterfronts and robin's-egg-blue gulf waves, the family beachfront stilt-homes and the low-rise, three-story condos and hotels -- and at the joy on their people's faces.
They set down their shoes, again and again, to shake the hands of the townspeople who flocked to them.
Then they picked up their shoes, looked at each other, nodded, and walked down the beach, home.
Thus, the mantle of power must sometimes be grasped by those of good intent.
December 12, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the post-Katrina aldermen of Long Beach, Mississippi, who fought moneyed interests and high-rise developers to ensure responsible, balanced residential and commercial beachfront redevelopment after the 2005 destruction by Hurricane Katrina.
The Final War, The Final Peace
The two Peoples were descendants of the same father and mother.
Over many generations, to neither People did God appear from the Heavens.
So did each People come to believe God to be different -- and that their belief was truer.
And each People converted, cowed and exterminated the other.
Proudly they marched into the future, their eyes firmly planted on their own feet.
It was a future of annihilation.
That day befell both Peoples when, in the ruin of their civilizations, just two combatants yet lived -- a young man and a young woman.
When they espied each other in the burned-out shell of a grocery, they stared hard at the other, then leapt into the other's arms -- stabbing each other through the heart with their knives.
As they lay down to die, so died their conflict -- and so died their two Peoples, and their beliefs.
In another land there also lived two other Peoples, with two beliefs, likewise warring to the precipice of annihilation.
In the ruin of the last city of their land, once again its last two combatants, a young man and woman, espied one another.
They stared hard at the other, then leapt into the other's arms -- tossing their knives away.
As they lay down to console one another, so died their conflict -- and so was born one People, of many beliefs.
Thus, people must make beliefs, but beliefs must not make a people. -- via Rod Serling
December 5, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in shared admonishment of Switzerland's newly-voted ban on the building of minarets on mosques -- and on Saudi Arabia's long-enforced ban on the building of churches, synagogues, or other houses of worship for non-Muslims. Nationalism and Theocracy are but faces stamped on the coinage of Intolerance.
The End of Days, The Beginning of Days
People believed, in this land, that Truths were whatever they wished to be true -- if wished fervently enough.
They lashed the backs of their neighbors who didn't wish fervently enough or, even more maddeningly, didn't even agree with them about what was true.
As more and more people wished more and more Truths, neighbor fought against neighbor.
Throughout this land Truths spread like a stain of multi-colored oil on clear water. And the people extended to one another their right hands -- but hatred, war and destruction lay hidden in their left hands.
So approached the End of Days.
But in those End Days, a few people stayed their falling lash.
Lifting up their neighbors, they cried, "Truth is not whatever we fervently wish -- Truth is what it is, even if we wish it otherwise."
"Are not our 'Truths' really opinions, opinions we beat into others who reasonably could believe otherwise? Is not real Truth accepting this fact?"
More and more people encouraged the search for Truth, rather than the belief in wishes.
Throughout this land Truth spread as a wellspring of cleansing water. And people extended to one another both hands -- one in salutation, the other in understanding.
So did the End of Days become, in Truth, the Beginning of Days.
Thus, Truth always offers a new beginning.
November 28, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the non-profit environmental think-tank, Ecotrust -- which found, contrary to popular thinking, that buying "fresh" unfrozen fish, which must be imported as air cargo, is twice as bad for the global environment as buying frozen fish, which is imported as less-polluting sea and land cargo.
The Old Wound, The Bandage
Shipped home from war, the soldier bore a crusted wound.
When his thoughts drifted back to the red mud and copper stink of distant battlefields, his hand drifted to his side -- and picked at his wound.
And it bled anew.
One day, as he rocked back and forth in a wooden chair, staring up from his front porch into the hazy blue Appalachian Mountains, he felt wetness on his fingers and stopped picking at his old wound.
He glanced down and saw a bright red freshet of blood spreading on his cotton shirt.
Blood dribbled from his clenched fist as he cried, "Enough!"
He tore off his shirt, went inside and dug through his medicine cabinet, and pulled open a bandage.
Although it was the wrong shape and size, he nonetheless fastened the bandage tight on his old wound.
"I shall not so much as touch it -- if just for a single week!"
During that week, he caught himself, again and again, reaching toward his old wound. But each time the bandage restrained his fingers, when they felt the tight compress on his skin. At night he slept, fitfully, on his right arm, so that he could not pick at his old wound when half asleep.
And in the passing of that single week, his wound partly healed.
On the seventh day, he removed the bandage.
Although it itched and although he still rubbed it, the wound had sealed -- and never bled again.
Thus, your wound will never heal until you stop picking at it.
November 21, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the efforts of HAI Watch and similar private and public efforts to inform and educate hospital workers of a critical, yet needless, healthcare issue: That their own willfully irrational habits (from wearing long ties, wristwatches and monogrammed white-coats to neglecting stethoscope- and hand-washing during rounds) murder people -- from healthcare-associated infections.
The Safe Player, The Risk Taker
Money was victory.
Playing by that rule alone, one sister strove for personal success. But cocooned in her golden chrysalis, she left the world unchanged, a near unsolvable enigma.
Fulfillment lay beyond her, like nectar deep within the long-necked flower.
The second sister strove not for money, but the momentous. Yet, having aimed high, she fell woefully short, her attempts unremembered. In her drab chrysalis of failure and poverty, she, too, saw the world unchanged and insurmountable.
She, too, could not drink of fulfillment.
Yet both sisters knew one thing -- they had lived the best way they knew how.
They were comforted in that thought -- the first sister among the army that keeps the good and draws it from the world, and the second sister among the cadre that creates the good and redraws the world.
So each sister accepted the consequences of her choice -- one failing to dare, the other daring to fail.
Thus, the greatness of an attempt is entwined with the greatness of its risk -- you must dare to fail, or fail to dare.
November 14, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the NASA LCROSS Mission's discovery yesterday of water on the Moon in quantities (1 litre per ton of moon soil) sufficient for mining to permanently support a human lunar colony. All that remains is for us to choose the Great Attempt -- to leave forever the womb of Earth.
The Wallflower, The Rose
Beauty and plainness held hands.
The breathtaking sister snared the eyes of others with only her shy regard -- but feared loving without reservation.
The one she most thought she could love wooed her for her hand in marriage. But love so frightened her that she hung back -- until love walked away.
Over the years, she hid under a fetching smile, and many wooed her -- but their love too decayed like unplucked blooms.
The more withered she grew, the further apart she held the bodies of others. After the passing of fifty springs, bereft, she lay dying alone -- her sadness consummated with mourning for a stillborn heart.
This memory of solitude she bore to her end.
The plain sister snared the eyes of others only with her wit -- but flowered into loving without reservation.
She wooed the one she most loved into marrying her. Over the years, their love, though childless, perennially bloomed.
The more withered she and her spouse grew, the closer their bodies held each other. After the passing of fifty summers, with a kiss on her forehead and his hand in hers, her beloved died. Bereft, and without children, she lay dying alone -- but her sadness was tinged with joy in remembrance of vibrant hearts.
This memory of love carried her to her end.
Thus, never fear love.
November 7, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of each majority citizen of Maine -- you blocked the right of your own openly or secretly gay parent, son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, friend or colleague to marry the one they love. Your prejudiced oppression of their most simple of human rights will be remembered by your own children with shame. Also dedicated in supplication, to those in Maine who've kept their love secret, to come out and tell your family and friends how their vote has stolen your right to live as a human being.
The Seed, The Blossom
Small and exquisite, the Japanese garden was tended daily by a master gardener.
One spring day, as the master gardener was feeding his albino carp in the pond, a street urchin spied on him from behind a boulder.
The master gardener yelled over his shoulder, "If you plan to stare at me all day, help me work!"
So did the boy become the master gardener's apprentice.
Over the next week, the boy dutifully planted all different sorts of seeds wherever the master gardener instructed him to. But he saw only the soft dark earth covering the dormant seeds, and not a single plant. Red-faced with frustration, the apprentice eventually blurted out to the master gardener, "Sensei, how can I learn gardening? All I see is dirt!"
The master gardener looked long at the boy, and then said, "Very well. I will teach you the most important lesson of all."
The gardener opened two small pouches strung from his belt, and gestured to the boy.
"Come here and open both your hands."
As the boy approached with his hands outstretched, into one palm the old gardener poured a small pile of perfect, gem-like black seeds, and into the other palm he dropped a clump of rough, dirty-brown seeds.
"Plant these seeds, over behind that boulder where you first popped up! That will be your garden!"
"In what order or arrangement should I plant them, Sensei?" the boy asked.
"How should I know? It's your garden!" And the old man returned to stroking the heads of his carp, who rose like cream from the tea-brown depths of the pond to greet him.
The boy stared down at his palms, and, seeing the lustrous beauty of the small, black, pearl-like seeds, decided to plant those in a broad circle -- to surround the ugly brown seeds.
Later that month, the rains fell, and the Japanese garden burst with life.
But as the boy raced one morning to his garden to see his circle of blossoms bloom, he skidded to a halt -- in horror.Before him rose a monstrous, stinking thatch of rotting black petals, coated in buzzing flies.
With a cry frozen on his lips, he turned in utter dismay to the gardener, who had been sitting on the boulder, waiting for him.
The gardener took one deep look into the boy's heart, and smiled gently. Then, reaching for his walking cane, with a swift whack he lopped off the festering blossoms -- to reveal a small patch of the most beautiful blue blossoms the boy had ever seen, sitting long forgotten in the center, where he had buried and forgotten the ugly brown seeds.
"Oh, Sensei, what have I done?" the boy sighed.
"You've learned the most important lesson of all, my son," the old man said, placing a hand on his apprentice's head. "And I'm not just talking about gardening."
Thus, learn what it is that you sow -- for you shall reap it.
October 31, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of Iran's tentative rejection of the U.N.'s offer to supply nuclear reactor fuel in exchange for Iran's nuclear weapons-potential uranium. To reject a win-win deal is to betray to all that you never intended to deal.
The Outward Eye, The Inward Eye
The functionary administered a small group of government workers.
But he ruled his office as if it were a fiefdom -- and he its lowest serf.
All who worked for him were lauded when they voiced new ideas -- even poor or unoriginal ones.
All who worked for him were paid for time spent with their families -- even company time.
All who worked for him were promoted for planning with each other -- even when their plans excluded him.
And so inevitably came the day when all who worked for him mourned when he, and they, were all fired -- to be replaced by a supervisor who cared to supervise and workers who cared to work.
Thus, the eye bent only outward sees but half of reality -- the world, but not the self.
October 24, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of the U.S. Democratic Party's and Executive Office's docile political compromise in health reform legislation, in opposition to the desires of the majority of Americans for a public option to increase private medical insurer competition and outcomes-rewarded healthcare. In seeking to please all, leaders should not abandon what they believe is right.
The Inward Eye, The Outward Eye
The functionary administered a small group of government workers.
But he ruled his office as if it were a fiefdom -- and he its overlord.
All who worked for him were berated when they voiced new ideas -- for those ideas weren't his.
All who worked for him were docked pay for time spent with their families -- for those times weren't his.
All who worked for him were demoted for planning with each other -- for those plans weren't his.
And so inevitably came the day when all who worked for him rejoiced when he was fired -- to be replaced by a supervisor who cared about their ideas, their time and their plans.
Thus, the eye bent only inward sees but half of reality -- the self, but not the world.
October 17, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of television's new "news": The Fox and MSNBC News channels -- which have veered toward editorializing disguised as informing. In a truly free press, the news pages are segregated and distinguished from the opinion pages.
The Frog, The Salamander
Bubbly brook was pub to brilliant mates -- a shamrock Frog and a rose Salamander.
The Frog was quite the bounder, hopping high over rock and rivulet, while the Salamander sedately crawled over slick stone and swam beneath the frothing water.
One day the Salamander chanced upon a small, still pool full of young mosquito larvae, wriggling beneath the water. He joyfully called for his friend, who, hearing his burbling call, hopped toward the sound of his voice.
They feasted on the mosquito larvae until round-bellied, and yet the pool was barely depleted.
"We must come back 'ere tomorrow, and the day after -- and the day after that!" chuffed the Frog. The Salamander agreed heartily, and burbled, "We must remember where this pool is!"
"Aye, mate!" yelled the Frog, as he leapt far and high away toward the woods. The Salamander faintly heard the Frog's receding words, "Oh, I'll remember this watering hole, sure enough!"
But the Salamander sat and pondered, and burbled to himself, "This is indeed a very small pool."
So the Salamander, crawling slowly away from the pool toward his nest, marked the rocks and sod with his own skin slime, to ensure he would find the pool tomorrow.
The next day, the Salamander retraced his path to the pool of tasty larvae - and halfway there he saw in the distance the tiny green body of the Frog bouncing high in the air this way and that, and heard his friend's curses. "Where in the sod is that damnable pool!? I've hopped everywhere!"
Chuckling, the Salamander finished sussing out his slime trail, lifted his crimson face to the wind and called his exasperated, hopping-mad mate over to feast.
Thus, to know where you're going, know where you've been and where you are.
October 10, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, whose 2009 Peace Prize Award to Barack Obama was bestowed in recognition, albeit unspoken, of his having dynamically returned the Office of President of the United States to a foreign and climate-change policy based on subordinating emotional wishes to vetted facts.
The Open Door, The Closed Door
Ruins of a temple to gods now lost stood before the brash explorer.
Therein lay a great hall, ending in two doors.
One of the doors, small and plain, was wide open.
The other, a large and ornately gilded door, was barred shut.
The explorer bent over and glanced beyond the small, wooden-slat door and saw but an empty chamber in which lay overturned a shabby straw basket.
"Bah!" his disgust echoed, in a procession of ghostly catcalls, through the cavernous cathedral.
He turned to the ornate, barred door with his crowbar.
Levering the heavy bar upright on its stony hinge, he quickly pulled the gilded door open, and ran into a large, dark chamber.
And promptly fell into a deep pit, to his death.
Slowly, the heavy bar tipped back and gradually pushed the gilded door closed, once more.
So did the temple's greatest treasure -- a yellow diamond as large as an owl's unblinking eye -- lie undiscovered in the bottom of the small, shabby straw basket, lying beyond a plain, wide-open door.
Thus, wise direction comes not just from open doors, but closed doors.
October 3, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the U.S. and state governments' efforts to ban cell phone conversation, e-mailing and text messaging during operation of any moving vehicle. When personal irrationality causes public hazard, the public must impose rational behavior.
The Bad Example, The Good Example
They taught in simple, thatch-roofed adobe classrooms in the sun-baked village.
The first teacher was dried to the dregs in the cracked cup of his soul.
He dragged into his classroom every morning.
He called his students and colleagues fools and wastrels.
Students dreaded his classes and his dismissive, demeaning tales of the distant world.
The second teacher brimmed to the rim of his soul.
He bounded into his classroom each morning.
He treated his students and colleagues with respect and compassion.
Students flocked to his classes, to learn from him about a distant world -- but one, due to him, seemingly close enough to embrace.
The students learned well from both teachers.
From the first, they learned the wrong way to live and to think.
And from the second, they learned the right way.
Thus, you cannot avoid being an example to others -- your choice is whether to be a good or bad one. -- via Harvey Mackay
September 26, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in admonishment of U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who stoked fears of giving census information as a potential prelude to federal internment camps. Words chosen to tie others into knots are as evil as a noose.
The Husk, The Fruit
Come autumn, the world was once a rainbow.
In this forest world lived bees, to pollinate the flowering trees; fruits, to dangle from their branches; and bobbing birds, to eat the fruits and scatter their seeds to beyond the horizon.
Here a bird chanced upon two fruits, both newly fallen between the feet of a great, gnarled baobab.
The bird cocked its head toward one fruit, then toward the other, and saw they were equally gilded with a shining velvet blush -- unlike the days-old fruits that lay wrinkled nearby.
So did the bird jab its beak into the first fruit with abandon.
But then the bird shrieked, as the fruit's beautiful husk fell in twain.
Revealing a riven and rotting core.
The fruit's black, stinking halves rocked side by side on the carpet of grass, then lay still.
The bird shook its head and flapped its wings to clear away the smell.
Then, with a tremulous peep, the bird slowly turned to the other fruit, picking only gingerly at its skin -- until it rewarded the bird with a dollop of ripe, rich fruit from its center.
So did the bird feast -- but always afterward with an eye for rot masked by the husk of beauty.
Thus, appear as what you are.
September 19, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to General Vang Pao and his fellow Laotian-American Hmong freedom-fighters, who since the Vietnam War have never forgotten the truth -- that the people of Laos still live under Communist diktat; and in admonishment of the U.S. federal court for its politically convenient rebranding of the Laotians' long fight for freedom as "terrorism."
The Evil, The Good
She sought the source of Evil and Good.
The Seeker traveled to houses of religion, and asked the pastors, priests, rabbis and imams, "What is the source of Evil and Good?" They replied, "Evil stems from not believing in our God, and Good from believing in Him."
The Seeker traveled to lawmakers and dictators, and asked them, "What is the source of Evil and Good?" They replied, "Evil stems from not obeying our laws, and Good from obeying them."
The Seeker traveled to communes, and asked those gathered there, "What is the source of Evil and Good?" They replied, "Evil stems from property and greed, while Good stems from sharing and self-sacrifice."
The Seeker traveled to gated communities, and asked their owners, "What is the source of Evil and Good?" They replied, "Evil stems from sharing and self-sacrifice, while Good stems from property and greed."
The Seeker grew confused, and wandered for days into the countryside. She squatted by the side of a dirt road, and told herself, "I will accept the opinion of the very next person to walk by!"
She looked up the road and saw, emerging from the thrumming waves of heat and cricket song, a gnarled old man in a dusty straw hat, shuffling with a cane. As he passed near, she plucked at his sleeve.
"Old man! Please tell me! What is the source of Evil and Good?!"
In the silence of the crickets' stillness, the old man stopped and looked at her face, his squinty eyes as impenetrable as dark trenches in the earth. His mouth broke into a harmonica-like grin. "The source of Evil...and Good? If you ask me...think for yourself!"
"But you didn't answer my question," the Seeker lamented.
"Oh, I did, young one. I did!" said the old man, who winked as he walked away.
Thus, Evil is the unreasoning, Good the reasoning.
September 12, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the rationalist citizenry of the U.S., who now are seeing that the preponderance of speech, though it must always remain "free," is oft neither "reasoned" nor "good"; and in supplication to the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh carefully our country's century-old legal precedent to protect the innocent, lazy or gullible among us from unlimited unreasoning speech pumped into their minds by the world's richest corporations and lobbies. The Media is our one "Book of The World" -- and you now weigh no less than whether The World shall devolve into Space For Rent.
The Scoffer, The Judger
Leather chairs squealed in unison as the team sat down in the boardroom.
"Speak your minds," prompted the Chairman, glancing at his watch and then turning his seat to gaze out at the blue sky.
The junior team member leapt into the breach. Ideas percolated and brimmed from him like mocha from a coffee machine, and his eyes began to sparkle.
Then a senior team member dismissively twisted off the spigot.
"You're really still quite naïve, aren't you? That notion is not only unoriginal, but unworkable."
Idea upon idea twisted in asphyxiation under his quick and murderous garrote.
Then the Chairman spun his leather seat back to the table, his eyes capturing the blue of the sky.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I like most of our youngest member's ideas -- they have merit, and potential."
The Chairman leaned forward and looked straight at the junior team member -- past the suddenly subdued critic -- and voiced the three most galvanizing words in the world.
"Tell me more."
Idea upon idea drew new breath under his steady and nurturing inspiration.
Thus, scoffing is not judgment, but destruction.
September 5, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the willingness of the U.S. political leadership to move "toward the center" for improved healthcare, economic and state policies to benefit the people; and in admonishment of those who've fled to the political poles to simply destroy such policies.
The Privileged, The Underprivileged
Opposite poles of the world were the birthplaces of two girls.
The first girl, bright of mind and heart, was born on a continent of wealth.
She attended a private school with individual tutors in the languages and sciences. Her parents smoothed the way, with money, for her matriculation at the best university in the world -- where she excelled. She relied on family connections to be placed in a major law firm upon graduation, with a starting salary one thousand-fold larger than those in lands on the opposite side of the world.
In time, she passed on the fruit of her many achievements to her children.
The second girl, equally bright of mind and heart, was born, in that distant pole of the world, on a continent of poverty.
She was barred from schooling because she was a girl -- so the languages and sciences remained to her only a fog of wonderment and confusion. Instead, her parents sold her into forced prostitution to ensure her brothers would prosper. From a small brothel waiting room, she quietly watched the television images of well-dressed students walking the halls of universities around the world. Once her body was used up by men and shriveled from AIDS, she was fortunate to be placed in a hospice so that she wouldn't die in a gutter. Lying in her sickbed, she overheard that women at the far end of the world made one thousand-fold more money -- for one person -- than the money her entire hospice made in a year. Irony briefly transformed her wan countenance.
In time, she passed on, the fruit of her many possible achievements plucked by not a single soul.
Thus, people can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps -- if they've been given boots. -- via Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 29, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the Kennedy clan's multigenerational work to aid the poor and forgotten among our citizens.
The Insulter, The Debater
Paragons of rhetoric, they were nonpareil.
One of the brothers wielded sarcasm like a rapier.
Oft he exclaimed, "Do plan on suing your lobotomist!" or, "Are you a traitor or just a fool, to spout such hogwash?"
Although his debate coach often interjected, "You've still not made any point," or, "You've proven nothing with an insult," the brother would simmer -- steam growing behind his eyes -- until, with a burst of abandon, his black wit exploded once again into the faces of his agog listeners.
So did this brother become a master of the razor-tongue -- and a widely disliked and distrusted man -- by demolishing his adversaries.
The second of the brothers wielded reason like a forceps.
Oft he proclaimed, "Your point is unfounded, for these reasons..." or, "These facts support the need for change."
When others called his arguments "ridiculous" he smoothly replied, with a clear, slightly condescending gaze, "They are not only not ridiculous, but they are correct." The ensuing burst of impotent steam that issued from his opponents was, to him, a refreshing sauna.
So did this brother become a master of the golden-tongue -- and a widely respected and trusted man -- by arguing against arguments, not against arguers.
Thus, ad hominem is against humanity.
Parable of the Year, August 22, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the delegates of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), who this week shunned the ploy of ad hominem attacks in lieu of reasoned moral debate (ultimately voting to permit non-celibate gay clergy); and in admonishment of the venom at town hall healthcare debates across the U.S., where "We The People" sadly relish in ad hominem attacks upon their elected representatives and fellow citizens. Solely emotive suasion shall in generations to come be unmasked for what it is -- immorality.
The Moneyed Politician, The Lone Candidate
Voting was the pride of the tribespeople.
They called their leaders "the People's servants."
A tribeswoman saw one day that the law allowing pig farms to dump their manure in the village's stream saved money for the farms' owners but sickened the small children, and would someday sicken the entire tribe.
"It is time for me to run for leader, to repeal this law and help my tribe," she announced.
As a lone candidate she met -- one by one -- as many tribespeople as she could before Election Day.
But her opponent was a moneyed politician.
As lawmaker he'd passed the very same law the lone candidate sought to repeal. The pig farmers, who'd profited greatly when no longer required to cart away and bury their manure, lavished him with gold coins.
With this gold the moneyed politician paid for rallies -- hiring poor people to attend and cheer. He passed out free food. He printed pamphlets proclaiming he was "A Leader for All the People."
And he paid others to stand in the Village Square and heckle the lone candidate for her "ignorant" rejection of support for the pig farmers.
Come Election Day, the lone candidate -- and her dream of a clean and healthy tribe -- was defeated. The People indeed had had the vote -- but one dictated by enticements and advertisements.
Over the next decade, the tribespeople watched numbly as illness decimated them. Even the pig farmers eventually went bankrupt as the people -- their own customers -- fled to distant unspoiled lands.
During all those years, the lone candidate's voice went unheard -- for lack of money.
Thus, principal can make your decision, but only principle can make your decision right.
August 15, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the men and women of Afghanistan -- who soon will choose their People's Servant, against the Taliban threat of death or dismemberment and against the machinations of religion, tribalism, corruption, drug markets, and politics. Choose thoughtfully, choose from principle, and choose for yourself.
The Spinning Cog, The Toothless Cog
Revolving makes one sad.
The Cog knew it.
The Machine spun the Cog around and around, and the Cog grew dizzy and disoriented.
It knew only that it hated its job, but saw nothing better for it -- because it was part of The Machine.
And The Machine was all that counted -- or so the Cog thought.
Then, one stuttering cycle, one of its teeth got knocked out.
The Cog had lost a tooth!
Once part of The Machine, it was cast into the dirt.
The broken Cog sat, rusting and still, facing the empty sky.
It knew the hopeless peace of utter uselessness.
But one day the Cog was picked up by a young gypsy, spit-scoured and oily hair-polished to a burnished silver sheen, and a leather string knotted over the gap in its teeth.
For the remainder of its days it dangled under her billowing shirt, to come out every night before the hearth and make the orange firelight dance in smoky tents.
Thus, new uses may replace, and even better, those lost.
August 8, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton.
The Pothole Filler, The Pathfinder
Hewn from the same oak as their pioneer settlement lived two men.
One man contentedly filled potholes in the ruts that the wagons and horses followed into the wilderness.
He dreamed of laying down cobblestones on the paths -- so that all could follow with ease those who went first.
The other man was content only to hew those first paths into the wild -- to go where none had gone before, to see what none had seen.
He dreamed of hewing a path to an undiscovered country never before trod by the foot of man.
The two men met one day in the town saloon.
"What do you, Sir?" the first asked.
"I'm a Pathfinder," said the other, proudly. "And what do you, Sir?"
"Ah! We are brothers! For I am a Pothole Filler!" said the first, his eyes shining just as brightly.
The two smiled and raised their glasses to toast one another -- for a new road needs both its maker and its paver.
Thus, new paths must be both carved and paved.
August 1, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the anonymous scientific pioneers who work among us; and in admonishment of the reported failure of the U.S. National Institutes of Health's peer-review system to approve innovative, rather than predictably "safe" scientific research proposals -- a short-sightedness that will turn science into a welfare program rather than the font of our future.
The Puppet, The Puppeteer
Clay glowed as if it were angelic flesh in the hands of the master ceramicist.
One day the artist created a puppet-doll of such lustrous form and beauty that even he himself was taken aback.
He considered destroying it, because all the men who saw it fell in love with it, and all the women who saw it cast themselves into bed, crying in envy.
But eventually, for need of money, the artist sold the puppet-doll to a baron -- who paid half his fortune to dangle it in his trembling hands.
And thus, over the years, did the wealthy baron -- now become a recluse whispered about in shame by his family, courtiers and servants -- sit alone every day to tea with his lovely puppet-doll.
And every night he lay alone in his sumptuous bed, holding once more his beauty's strings, to stir her clay body -- until one day, old and frail, he too collapsed into her cold arms, where their limbs lay akimbo, entwined.
Thus, you are your own person -- or another's puppet.
July 25, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the progressive politicians and imams of Iran, who seek to guide it from the brink of militarized dictatorship toward a restored republic; but with the caution that, without separation of Mosque and State, Iran's republic will forever be an illusion.
The Bowed Arrow, The Straight Arrow
Two arrows were fashioned by the greatest archery instructor of an ancient kingdom.
Both arrows he carved from the finest cedar, tipped with the sharpest stone, and fletched with the most perfect and brilliant of feathers.
Yet the master archer's students watched, in growing amusement, as he then heated the shaft of one arrow over a candle, bending it until it was deeply bowed.
Silently, he gave his finest, most confident student the bowed arrow -- and to his worst, most self-doubting student he gave the straight arrow.
"Shoot at the target!" he ordered his dumbfounded charges.
The finest student of the master archer stepped forward, but, no longer so confident, slowly nocked the bent arrow on his bow, and gingerly fired it at the distant target.
The bowed arrow spun crazily in the air and fell to the earth only a few feet away.
"Now you!" the master pointed toward the self-doubting student.
His worst student, now frankly relieved, nocked the straight arrow, carefully aimed at the distant target, and calmly released it to fly far, straight and true into the target.
The class turned to the master archer.
He stared at them all and answered, "Choose wisely which kind of arrow you shall carry in the quiver of your soul!"
Thus, do not warp what must be straight.
July 18, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the memory of Human Rights Watch researcher Natalya Estimirova, who, for publicizing the political murders, fire-bombings of homes, and mass extrajudicial executions apparently sanctioned by Chechnya's Kremlin-backed President, Ramzan Kadyrov, was herself abducted (in broad daylight by four strongmen) and murdered; and in admonishment of the failure of Chechen and Russian leaders to see that individual liberty, including freedom of speech, is the only straight path to a thriving society.
The Log Cabin, The Breadfruit Tree
Tropical breezes wafted the salt-encrusted beard of the castaway, who dwelled on his Lilliputian island with but one, sole companion.
A great, spreading breadfruit tree.
As the years passed, the man became restless. Idling under the shade of the vast tree and chewing on a breadfruit, he said to himself, "I am the master of this domain! I want to have a nice house to prove I am a landowner!"
These thoughts stewed in his mind, until, one day, he suddenly grabbed a sharp stone from the black sand and, raising it high above his head, split the breadfruit tree into lumber.
He built a log cabin from the tree's trunk and branches, and placed a carved tree-bark crest, with his name engraved on it, on the archway of his front door. He read his name aloud and then danced about his new house, taking care not to trip over the hoards of fallen breadfruits.
He then piled all the many fallen breadfruits into his new kitchen shelves, cupboards, tabletops and bins. And with an ache in his back, he finally sat down on his new, wooden bed with its soft mattress made of the breadfruit tree's broad leaves, and he was finally happy -- happier than he had ever been.
That is, until he finished all the breadfruit.
Thus, the world is infinite only in dreams. To live in the world, the world must live too.
July 11, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the G-8 Summit's agreement between rich and developing countries that, for the first time, set a goal of limiting the average world temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels; and in admonishment of the same summit's failure to agree on joint greenhouse-gas emission targets to attain that goal.
The Dreamer, The Doer
For "Discovery, fame and fortune!" toasted two scientists.
The first scientist filled reams of notebooks with new ideas -- some of which had never before been seen on earth.
But none knew it.
Because in pursuit of ever-newer ideas he'd never tested his old ones.
Over the years he grew old and unremarked, and on his deathbed handed over his notebooks to his few students.
"Learn from my error!" he said to them. "Your ideas and works don't exist until they are published -- so get started!"
Then, muttering, "Castles...castles in the air," he lay down his head, closed his eyes, and died.
The second scientist also wrote notebooks -- filled with somewhat fewer new ideas.
But he made time to pursue each idea with experiments.
Over the years he published his best few ideas with his research, and, as a result, one day attained some measure of fame and fortune. On his deathbed, he handed over his unfinished ideas to his many students.
"Emulate what I have done, and you too may attain what I have."
Then he smiled, lay down his head, closed his eyes, and dreamed the only dream in his life he'd ne'er pursue.
Thus, there's just one way to go from A to C. B.
July 4, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's choice to devote the remainder of his second term to serving the people of his state before choosing to seek national office; and in admonishment of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's choice to resign as state executive halfway through her first and only term.
The Peacock, The Bowerbird
In a wooded glen lived a Peacock and a Bowerbird.
The Peacock pranced to a clearing in the glen, fanned his brilliant tail-feathers of rainbow eyes, and shook them all about, yelling, "I am the greatest bird in the world! Come to me, maidens!"
Around and around he danced in the glen, shaking his beautiful feathers -- but so violently did he shake them, that several popped out of his behind, and fell to the ground. Yet so enamored was the Peacock at his own glory, that he cared not about the gaps in his plumage, even thinking them improvements -- and the maiden birds flew overhead, laughed, and winged on.
The Bowerbird, meanwhile, hardly noticeable in his nondescript, drab feathers, silently built a roomy nest with a smooth, curved arch of twigs overhead. He worked every day, and when his bower was done, stood silently to one side, and waited. Maidens flew down and stepped into his handiwork, and regarded the fine weave of the twigs in its arch. The most beautiful of all the maiden birds was very pleased -- and remained in his bower as his mate.
Yet the Bowerbird had crowed not one word of himself -- nor shaken about a single tail-feather.
Thus, obsession is never more dangerous than when its subject is oneself.
June 27, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton.
The Totalitarian, The Free
Twin countries nestled against each other in the womb.
The first country, at the insistence of its army, installed a charismatic dictator.
Garbed in green fatigues, he told the people what kind of work they must do, and who would benefit from it.
He was overthrown and replaced by another dictator, who, regaled in satin robes, told them what kind of belief they must have.
He, too, was overthrown, and replaced by yet a third dictator, who, cloaked in a white hood, told them what kind of color people they must marry.
The country teetered like a refugee dragged on his final, long march.
And in the dark of night, fearing the knock at their door, never did its people know peace in their beds.
But the second country, at the insistence of its own charismatic leader, installed a Constitution of individual, religious, racial, social, and environmental rights, protected by a representational government.
Then the leader hung up his pressed suit and retired to his farm.
This country did not teeter toward enslavement and persecution of its people for what work they did, what belief they held, or what color they were.
It grew innovative, strong and free.
And in the dark of night, fearing no knock at their door, always did its people know peace in their beds.
Thus, one can be chained in many ways, but it is all one chain -- upon reasoned choice.
June 20, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the Iranian protesters, young, old, conservative, and progressive, who share one ideal: that their voices be heard. Neda!
The Preacher, The Listener
Just married was the cosseted babe of the family.
Her heart thumped when thinking of married life, and she confessed so to her sisters in a small, empty room off the narthex of their church, where the wedding party had congregated.
"I worry so much about how my husband may treat me, and what he'll expect of me!" she cried, twisting her wedding ring.
Her eldest sister peered over her hymnal glasses archly, to see her little sister's face. Then, like a budgie tantalized by a peach, in a staring, wide-eyed sway she began to regale the new bride with horrifying tales of browbeaten wives that she'd overheard in her years (of which there'd been many).
The bride was not mollified -- indeed, she began to turn as white as her gown.
Then the middle sister intervened.
"Forget our eldest's tall tales! Remember, she doesn't know your husband as well as you do!"
Touching her sister's hand gently to calm her, she continued, "So tell me, what do you think your husband wants from your marriage? And what do you want yourself, dear sister?"
So with a sigh of relief, the young bride debated her own recollections, hopes and fears out loud to her sibling.
And with her sister's calm questioning, the bride's train of thought gently unfurled, and she knew anew what she had known, unbeknownst, all along.
Thus, sometimes you must preach with your ear.
June 13, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the youth of Iran, who yesterday voted for a new beginning in world relations, and to Pakistani cleric and non-violence proponent, Dr. Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi; and in admonishment of all those, like James von Brunn, Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad, Scott Roeder, and the Taliban assassins of Mufti Naeemi, who seek to silence rather than participate in reasoning dialogue.
The Bridge Burner, The Bridge Builder
Deep was the chasm that split in twain the land.
A calm and friendly man wondered what manner of people lived across the chasm -- and so he built a bridge to span it.
For weeks he toiled, hammering pitons and hurling grapplers and ropes across the ravine, then slowly knotting boards into the suspended cords -- for the feet of the would-be travelers who eagerly gathered to watch him build.
Yet a second man, who lived in a lean-to on the opposite side of the ravine, had picked his small parcel of land to be as far from humanity as he could get. Only facing the abyss did he feel comfortable.
Never had he cared to know what manner of people lived across the chasm -- nor even, for that matter, what kind lived in his own land.
As he scrutinized the builder's bridge taking shape, and the eager prospective travelers climbing the hills to the ravine's edge to watch, he grew eager himself -- toward a darker purpose.
One black night he stole to the edge of the ravine with a single candle.
With a curse spit from bitter lips, he torched the ropes of the bridge. Although the cords could suspend a dozen oxen in the air, they could not withstand the flame of malice.
So were the long days of bridge-building undone by one moment of bridge-burning.
Thus, calmness, like wood, undergirds all -- while anger, like flame, strews from all but ashes.
June 6, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama's Cairo Address to the Muslim World, and in admonishment of Osama Bin Laden's address to the same. We need but a mustard seed of faith to create a new, peaceful world -- but it must be faith in each other.
The One Side, The Other Side
Bestriding the fence bordering two men's lands grew a spreading pecan tree.
Great heaps of nuts fell onto the sward beneath its branches.
One of the men saw the other gathering pecans that had fallen on the far side of the fence. He ran to the fence, breathlessly shouting, "Stop! Those are my tree's nuts!"
Fulminating red, the other man grasped the fence, leaned over it and yelled back, "These pecans fell on my side of the fence, so they're mine!"
As the two men raged, their wives hurried over and whispered to each other, hand in hand.
Then they turned to their husbands and, plucking their sleeves, shushed them, saying, "It's one's tree, but the other's land! If you can't bring yourselves to share your nuts, you will do whatever the local ordinances say is the legal resolution -- so call City Hall and ask them what it is!"
Thus, there are usually two sides to an argument -- and you must consider both.
May 31, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the memory of Kansas family-planning doctor and abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, who was gunned down today, at church, by a radical religious-fundamentalist anti-abortionist, yet who never wavered in serving women's reproductive rights in spite of anti-abortionists' petitioning a baseless grand jury investigation into his medical practice, burning down his medical clinic, and even previously shooting him in an earlier assassination attempt; and in admonishment of Prayer and Action News and its publisher Dave Leach, who calls for "justifiable homicide" of abortion providers, and of Operation Rescue and its founder, Randall Terry -- who said he was less concerned about Dr. Tiller's assassination than that it would be used to "intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions." By respectively calling abortion providers "mass murderers" in blatant disregard of legal, ethical and religious-freedom exceptions for non-viable fetuses and embryos, and inciting the homicide of these health-care providers, Randall Terry's Operation Rescue and Dave Leach's Prayer and Action News are morally responsible, and should be held legally liable, for every murderous and terroristic act by the radical acolytes their sophistry has gestated.
The Bigoted Parent, The Friendly Child
Hating all who had different-colored skin than he, a man believed without question that they were impulsive, murderous, unthinking fools.
All these things he tried to teach his only daughter.
But his daughter was quiet and thoughtful.
She tried, but could not see what her father was talking about.
Instead, she saw that her differently colored classmates at school were just as thoughtful, kind and smart as anyone, and perhaps even saintlier, given how shabbily they were treated by some of the teachers and other grownups who thought like her father.
So the daughter decided to befriend all of her classmates, regardless of their skin color or ability, or even their attitudes about her.
As she grew in years, so too did she grow in the esteem of all who crossed her path in life.
All but in her father's.
He rejected her for her friendship with others of different colors. Never did he see or speak to his own grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who, over the generations, became a happy mix of all different hues, beliefs and creeds, tied together by the strongest of cords -- tolerance of uniqueness.
Thus, to truly see a person you must open your eyes.
May 23, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the citizens of Philadelphia, Mississippi, who this week elected their first African-American Mayor, James Young; and to the memory of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman -- who believed, 45 years ago, that "change is gonna come!"
The Tragic, The Comic
Marriage to a widower with seven children was Fate's blessing.
But the young wife's husband died, leaving her alone to raise all seven.
She boiled in anger and fear, grew bitter at her responsibility, and proclaimed the tragedy of her life to all her neighbors.
Her friends deserted her, and her stepchildren feared her, soon leaving for lives of their own.
She shriveled into an old, angry spinster, cheated of her youth and beauty.
Fate being wedded to Irony, in a neighboring village a young woman received the same blessing.
Her new husband likewise died soon thereafter, leaving her alone to raise all seven stepchildren.
She gazed at them often, but, instead of growing angry, fearful and bitter, as she sometimes was tempted to do in moments of doubt and difficulty, she decided instead to chuckle at what Fate had cast her way.
She committed to being their mother, and to love all seven fiercely, proclaiming to all her neighbors that her husband had left her seven great gifts.
Her friends remained at her side, and her stepchildren grew tall, happy and strong, staying close to her all their lives.
She became a revered family head, radiating happiness at the miraculous cloth she'd spun from the loose threads of Fate.
Thus, fate is spun by emotion into cobwebs, and by reason into silk.
May 16, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in sympathy but cautionary exhortation to the parents of Daniel Hauser, Sleepy Eye, Minnesota's 13-year-old Hodgkin's lymphoma patient and potential future Nemenhah leader -- and to the parents of all ill children who wish to believe, contrary to all evidence, that "alternative medicine" is a true alternative.
The Boulder, The Dodger
Peaking a large hill sat a rotund boulder.
Below, on the slope of the hill, perched neighboring shanties wherein lived two old men.
Every day, as the men put out folding chairs to sit in the sun and watch the day pass by, the first old man pointed his chair downhill toward the passing cars and bicyclists below.
But the second old man pointed his chair sideways, to keep one eye on the peak of the hill.
The first old man needled him. "Old coot, why do you always stare up at that boulder?"
"I can't help myself!" the second old man cried, "I just know it will crush me someday!"
The first old man laughed over his shoulder. "You'll hear it coming early enough to dodge it! And it has hundreds of paths to take down this hill. Why are you so worried it'll aim straight for your old bones?"
But the second old man could never stop staring back at it, and could never quit trembling at even the faintest noise from above.
And so, one day he himself toppled over and rolled, dead, down the hill.
Many years later the boulder did indeed dislodge, rolling backwards a few feet out of sight behind the top of the hill -- all while the first old man remained sound asleep, undisturbed, in his bed.
Thus, the most terrible things in our lives usually never happen. -- via Montaigne
May 9, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton.
The Car, The Steering Wheel
Exit the autobahn by the pine grove, and on the right is the blanched, empty shell of an auto repair shop.
Walking down the exit ramp and through the pines, a man of little means once approached the shop mechanic and offered half his meager savings to repair his decrepit car, broken down on the autobahn.
The mechanic straightly aided the poor man.
Zooming into the shop, gunning his engine and spinning his wheels on the gravel, a rich man also once approached the mechanic for a minor repair.
But the rich man taunted and insulted the mechanic -- offering him only a pittance to repair his luxury car, refusing to pay fair price, and calling his shop a "pig sty."
The mechanic's red face became deadly quiet and white, and his fists lowered to his side.
He murmured to the rich man, "Whatever you say," then turned to repair the problem -- but also detached the steering wheel from its linkage.
So did the mechanic lie to the car owner's face, "You're all fixed," then stand back and brim with vengeful glee.
The rich man snatched up his keys, hopped behind the wheel, raced the engine, jammed the clutch, and smashed his luxury car straight into the pine grove.
Thus, a lie is the gift of a hurtling engine with no steering.
May 2, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the honest politicians who speak the truth -- and in admonishment of U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), whose casual lies about "Democrat" Swine Flu epidemics (the last was during the Republican Ford Presidency); FDR passing the Smoot-Hawley Tariff (it was Republican President Hoover); "radical Muslims" congregating to celebrate the election of Keith Ellison as the first Muslim U.S. Representative (they were religious leaders attending a national conference, at which Rep. Ellison, D-MN, was invited to speak); and the "anti-American" views of opposition leaders (not simply "Democratic" or "liberal" views) seek to nurture the dark changeling of American civil life.
The Kite, The Plane
Central Park made the metropolis great.
There two children played -- a boy with a kite, and a girl with a toy plane.
The boy ran into the breeze, unspooling the string tethering his kite, which sailed high into the grey sky, gliding on the wind above him.
"Look!" the boy yelled. "Look how high my kite can go!"
But suddenly the churning wind switched direction, and his kite plummeted like a stone, and was dashed into pieces at the boy's feet.
He plopped down in the grass, and cried.
The girl stood still against the wind, holding her small plane with its long, sturdy wings and battery-powered propeller, then placed her plane on the ground and stepped back.
Reaching into her pocket, she withdrew a small remote control, and pressed its button.
The plane's propeller erupted, buzzing, into life -- and the plane rolled down the grass on its undercarriage.
Then the girl pulled back a lever on the remote control, and the plane, too, sailed high into the grey sky, gliding on the wind.
But when the turbulent breezes shifted direction, so did the little girl shift her rudder.
The plane channeled the crosswinds, and flew on.
Thus, emotion is the wind you must channel to fly.
April 25, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the first responders' battle to prevent a swine flu pandemic -- and to the people's battle against fear of it.
The Chain, The Leash
Wooden slats were the boundary of his green universe.
All his life, the dog had lived and played in the large backyard of an urban home nestled in the center of busy streets.
Day and night, the dog's ears perked up at the mysterious and exciting noises and scents around him.
Squeals preceded clouds of bitter rubber smell.
Hissing static, voices and rhythmic thumping blew acrid wafts of burnt leaf.
And always there was the great rushing and honking of unseen, oily metallic-smelling behemoths.
The dog often wondered why he was always kept tethered by his collar at night to a post buried in the middle of the yard.
He yearned to break free.
And so, one night, the dog pulled and bit his tether so hard that it tore -- and fell away.
Free from all restraint, the dog yelped in disbelieving joy.
He dashed around and around the yard. None called him to heel.
Then, smelling and hearing the night, he raced to the end of the universe and leaped.
Sailing over the high, backyard fence, he fell, breathlessly panting, into the heart of mystery.
A squeal of rubber tires and blinding lights rushed down upon him, and, in death, he took wing.
Thus, know when you are chained and when you are leashed.
April 18, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the U.S. Justice Department's repeal, and public release, of former CIA secret prison interrogation procedures -- and in admonishment of the Bush administration's unleashing, as U.S. policy, non-judicial detention and torture.
The Ant, The Cricket
In a small backyard dwelled an Ant and a Cricket.
The Ant's industry provided homes and well-stocked pantries for her large family -- while the Cricket's mellifluous song brought joy to all who heard it.
The Ant lived a long life of comfort, warmth, loved ones and many children.
The Cricket lived but a brief life. Yet in spite of his sad ending in hunger and cold, he gave to the Ant -- and to all who'd heard his song -- the memory of dulcet beauty and mystery in their lives.
Thus, industry and art both have value -- one to the body, the other to the spirit.
April 11, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton.
The Herbicide, The Fertilizer
Verdancy dwelt amidst banality.
Blooming within a seemingly endless suburban tract of clipped-grass lawns was a profuse garden, in the yard of an old curmudgeon.
Each day that remained to him, he carefully tended his ferns and flowers rare -- orchid, iris, bleeding heart, money plant, lamb's ear, impatiens, delphinium, artemisia, salvia, snapdragon and honeysuckle.
But one day, the old man rose not from bed -- and was laid to rest forever beneath his bed of flowers.
Two grandsons had he, who each inherited half of the verdant garden, to do with as each pleased.
One grandson stood before his half-garden, gazed upon the verdant profusion, and, a frown growing in his face, glanced beyond to the mowed grass lawns stretching to the horizon.
Looking down at his feet, he poked the toe of one polished black shoe at a knee-high plant with deeply hued, swollen blossoms -- and fell back startled, as the impatiens blossoms popped, exploding seeds all over his pants.
He angrily brushed off the seeds and stood, his fists clenching as he murmured at the garden, "Who did my grandfather dream he was, to grow such a thing here?"
The next day, the grandson returned -- with a bottle of herbicide in his hands.
With joyful malice he sprayed it on his half-garden -- with a final, extra helping of poison for the impatiens that had trumped his own impatience.
And so his garden withered -- its living rainbows become brittle, brown husks. The vacant earth that remained was later re-sodded with a mowed grass lawn.
Yet, so too did the other grandson come, to stand before his own half-garden.
He too gazed upon its verdant profusion. He squatted down and stared into the face of a snapdragon blossom, and lightly pinched its cheeks. It opened its toothy mouth and spoke to him, in a language too faint to hear.
Yet a calmness and purpose such as he had never known draped itself upon his shoulders.
He laid his open hand flat onto the green moss and black soil. "Grandfather," he said, "I see your dream."
And the next day, the grandson returned with a tin of water and fertilizer, to protect and nurture this garden, this dream.
Thus, be not a reaver but a tiller of souls.
April 4, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton.
The Principled, The Implemented
Voting was their fix.
Whenever the neighbors attended rallies, the two women found they'd voted for the same candidates.
But one terrible day, the city was flooded with refugees from a distant country sundered by revolution.
The refugees spoke another language, lived a different culture, and practiced an alien religion -- and many of the locals refused them jobs, cursing them in the streets.
Both women agreed it was shameful, the poor reception the refugees had received.
Yet as one woman talked about it, the other acted.
The first woman proclaimed noble principles -- but was frightened by the refugees' unabated misery. She hid behind her locked front door when they came to her house begging for food, and stared at their backs through the blinds of her windows as they trudged away.
When locals called on her to serve at the schoolhouse, she profusely apologized, but claimed she was too busy to volunteer -- then sat on the couch in her empty home, staring into the fireplace.
The second woman lived her principles rather than merely proclaimed them.
She too was frightened by the misery she saw -- but when the refugees came to her home for food, she took a deep breath, opened the door, welcomed them into her home, and fed them what she could spare.
She walked one night every week to the schoolhouse, to teach the refugees how to read, write and speak her language.
Both women held the same principles, as glorious as a butterfly -- yet, in one, as lifeless as an insect abandoned in a jar.
Thus, principles cannot live behind glass.
March 28, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the "Sandbaggers," the over 20,000 Midwest volunteers from every corner of North Dakota and Minnesota, and from states as far away as Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma and West Virginia, who converged on Fargo and Moorhead to fill over 3 million sandbags and hold the levees against the highest Red River flood in recorded history.
The Physicians, The Antiseptic
Once the health of the body was entrusted to experts of the "physick."
Black bags brimming with grimy, bloody instruments, these physicians and midwives hauled babies into the world with unclean hands -- leaving the mothers fever-ridden with sepsis, Death stroking their clammy faces.
Yet the physicians knew not of bacteria, and thought nothing of touching the mothers with unwashed hands and instruments.
Into this resigned fraternity came one doctor who insisted on strict cleanliness.
"Before the merest touch upon mother or child, you must wash your hands in hot water and lye soap! And touch not your own nose, or face, or clothes! Nor any surfaces!"
"Impossible!" the physicians cried. "How can we open doors to the wards or sickrooms? How can we pull back the sheets on the sickbeds? What if my nose or beard itches?!"
"Have a midwife scratch your beak," the physician replied, "but never shall they be permitted to touch the mother or her birth canal, without the same clean hands!"
"Absurd!" the physicians cried, and returned to their traditional ways.
But, over the months, they could not help but hear the gossip about how this young, fanatical doctor never once lost a patient to the clammy fever -- how both mother and child always remained healthy -- while their own patients oft succumbed mere days after childbirth.
Soon, every expectant mother in the land demanded the services of this one doctor -- and the other physicians were turned away from their doors.
Slowly, one after another, grumbling all the while, they all began to wash their hands.
Thus, the world doesn't want your genius, but it needs it.
March 21, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to Michelle Obama, who, for this week's Women's History Month celebrations, told a class of high-school students that other people's doubting her "never stopped me. That always made me push harder."
The Rapids, The Rower
Blindly they approached a roar like the voice of Legion, or the hoof-beats of a Diluvian stampede risen from a plain of fossils.
The explorers broke through the misty, orchid-draped green canopy and set down their portaged canoes by the shore of a torrential river.
Staring at the rushing water, hulking stones and sunken whirlpools, trepidation hammered their hearts.
Yet both skimmed out into the churn and chum.
One rower, overwhelmed by the tossing currents, froze -- his hands gripping the edges of his canoe.
It spun around and around, and as, at the last, he screamed in fright, it capsized and was dashed into pieces upon a boulder, then sucked into the depths of a whirlpool.
Two pieces of his canoe still were clutched in his hands, as he sank beneath the spiral of water.
The other rower, almost as overwhelmed, nevertheless resolved to keep rowing, no matter what.
As his canoe was tossed about on the rapids, he narrowly avoided certain destruction, time and again.
Eventually, his strength spent and his aim abandoned, he too was broken by the rapids and lost to the swirling currents.
Yet in his last moment of awareness, he felt no fear, but only the thought, "Oh, what a thrilling ride it was!"
Thus, you are in the rapids, and you must row -- or capsize.
March 14, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton.
The Negated, The Affirmed
It was her caste, in this ancient land.
But she believed -- believed more than anything in her young life -- that she was the true equal of any who trod the soil of their land carrying the red spot of the highborn.
Slavishly working into the night, she saved money to enroll in private school, because she was forbidden to attend a public one.
On the first day she boarded a trolley for school, the trolley soon filled with highborn.
Frowning faces with red dots glared down at her where she sat, and voices called a gendarme.
She sat still and calm, looking into all their faces, and then saw, peeking out from behind a saffron sari, the small, red-dotted face of a little girl. She smiled at the little one.
Then a gendarme pushed up to her, and yelled, "Untouchable, leave the trolley to make way for the highborn, who cannot sit next to you!"
The untouchable woman then looked the little girl straight in the face, and, instead of silently bowing and backing off the trolley, as she'd done countless times before, she straightened her back and said, "No. It is my right to sit here, as it is theirs to sit beside me."
Shock and anger erupted.
As two gendarmes hauled her off the trolley by her legs and arms like a sack of grain, she caught the troubled glance of the little girl, saw her pluck at her mother's shawl, and heard, "Mama, it's wrong to hurt the nice lady!"
And, as she sat in the dirt and looked up to see the little girl stare sadly back at her through a window of the receding trolley, she knew, knew, that she'd won a victory that day.
Thus, don't contradict who you are. -- via Parker Palmer
March 7, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated, on the 54th anniversary of her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to whites, to teenage civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin; and to her fellow historical predecessors of Rosa Parks: Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Irene Morgan, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith. Ride on!
The Sunflower, The Barrenwort
The Sunflower dwelt in a small, tree-lined garden.
It grew tall, sinuous and broad of leaf in the fulsome light of warm days, and seeded many children.
But some fell into shade, and the Sunflower's face turned away as those children withered and died -- from lack of a soupçon of the sun's brilliant tang on their yearning leaves.
The Barrenwort dwelt in the same garden, beneath the dark crook of a tree.
It too grew broad, ruddy red and majestic, its crimson bloom bathed in the cool light of the moon, and it too seeded many children.
But some fell into light, and the Barrenwort held dark vigil as those children were stillborn -- from searing sunrays on their tender leaves.
Thus, seek the soil in which you can grow.
February 28, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to those with autism and Asperger's Syndrome, who daily effectively integrate into society -- and in admonishment of the "Mr. Spock Defense" of the accused Craigslist Killer, Michael John Anderson, whose alleged claims that he shot babysitter Katherine Ann Olson "because it would be funny," and that "I didn't kill her, the bullet did," led his lawyers to assert that only emotional sensitivity, not thoughtful logic, can lead to morality.
The Lemming, The Eagle
Eaglets, their parents lost to a hunter's rifle, hatched in a nest at the top of a tall cliff.
They hatched into loneliness, their cries unheard -- save for the ears of a small lemming.
This mother lemming had co-opted and fur-lined the nest for her own brood - but, as all good mothers do, brought the eaglets half-chewed worms that boiled from the rain-soaked earth.
She and her growing brood cared for the chicks as if they were their own. But they did not know how to teach their brother eaglets to fly, not knowing themselves. So the eaglets clumsily hopped along the top of the cliff behind their adopted lemming family.
Sometimes the eaglets sat and gazed at seabirds wheeling above them in the sky.
"See how feathery and long their arms are!" one would say, "just like ours!" -- and both brothers knew something was wrong, but not quite what.
Then one day a great, inland wind blew over the cliffs to the sea, and the lemmings hunkered down in a thicket. But the two eaglets, now nearly full-grown, were too large to hunker in the thicket with them.
The wind caught in their feathers, and blew them over the cliff.
One of the brother eaglets curled into a small, still ball, like a lemming, and plummeted into the sea.
But his brother eaglet cast his fears, and himself, into the face of the winds, and opened wide his arms. As his wings unfurled to their full, majestic span, they caught the currents of the sky.
And, become an eagle at last, he soared over land and sea, soon to master all.
Thus, when pushed off a cliff, try to fly. -- via Babylon 5
February 21, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the optimism of the U.S. stock market investor, huddling in the deepest trench (to date) of the Millennial Recession.
The Falsifier, The Truthsayer
King for the all the seasons of a man's life, the ruler kept two advisors.
One advisor, panicking as drought, famine and invasion drew nigh, could only utter when standing before the king, "Milord, I see, uh... a time of rainfall, plenty and peace!"
The other advisor, seeing the same coming drought, famine and invasion, spoke truth to power, saying, "Milord! I, too, fervently wish for rainfall, plenty and peace -- but our wishing for it will not make it one whit likelier to happen."
"We must plan for drought, famine and war, my King -- for if we do not, we will all surely starve, or have our throats slit open for our last crumbs of bread!"
So did the king build a reservoir for the receding river waters.
So did he fill his granaries for both his own people and for their neighboring peoples.
And so, when drought did come, there was water and food for all until the rains came again -- and peace for all in his kingdom and beyond.
Except, of course, for one wandering ex-advisor.
Thus, a lie is murder, by killing another's reality -- and suicide, by killing your own.
February 14, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the memory of those killed by Peanut Corporation of America president Stewart Parnell -- whose alleged burial of salmonella-positive tests buried not only his victims, but himself.
The Door, The World
Swooning in adoration of a beautiful girl from his village, a boy abandoned his father's house.
Loitering by the front door of the girl's villa, the boy bowed to her father at the entryway, and, seeing through it the girl smile radiantly at him from an atrium balcony, asked permission of her father to court her.
The girl's father scoffed, replying, "Boy, you have no family, no money, nor even yet hair on your face!"
Then the girl's father stepped out onto the front stoop of his villa, and, reaching back, slammed the entry door shut behind him.
The boy's last glimpse of the object of his infatuation was of wide eyes and a red mouth -- shaped, just like his, into a large, surprised "O."
Disconsolate, the boy hung his head, and pleaded to her father, "Now what do I have, sir, without her?"
The father laughed uproariously, and, reaching out to clap the small lad on the shoulder, turned him about-face, picked him up into the air, and tossed him into the street.
As the boy thumped to earth in a billowing cloud of dust, he heard a merry voice reply, "You've the rest of the world, lad!"
Thus, when one door closes, the rest of the world remains. -- via Parker Palmer
February 7, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton.
The Blindered, The Open-Eyed
Bestriding golden wheat and gnarled olive trees sojourned a man and his pair of mares.
Both horses were spirited, and difficult to break to the chore of pulling his carts to the village market.
One mare, however, allowed him to strap blinders on her great, brown head. The vision only of the road ahead pacified the huge horse, and she would settle down and pull the man's cart all day long and into the night.
"With those blinders and a feedbag strapped to her neck, she's hardly any trouble at all anymore!" the man crowed to his neighbors.
But oh, the other horse! She tossed her yellow-starred head and golden mane to and fro, whenever the man came near her with the blinders.
She refused to wear them at all.
When yoked to the man's cart, she panned her head back and forth, and her great body immediately followed, veering off the rutted road to explore, disappearing over the hill to see what was beyond -- all the while dragging his bushels of wheat and jars of olives.
Finally one day, as the man loitered, foot in creek, with his friends, the mare reared high, snapped her harness, and bolted straight off -- to far-distant green mountain pastures and streams.
"Damn her hide," the man always intoned to his friends in his later years, staring angrily off to the distant mountains.
"If that mare had just kept her eyes glued to her own hooves, she'd still be hauling my goods even today."
Thus, eyes open! -- via Star Trek: Voyager
January 31, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to Minnesota State Representative and Catholic politician Paul Thissen, whose courageous refusal to enforce Catholic doctrine upon the general public, and whose recognition that morality is compatible with prochoice policy, led to his being stripped of his Hall of Fame Alumnus Award by his former high school, the Academy of Holy Angels, under the advisement of the local archdiocese and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for Catholics in Public Life -- which asserts that any Catholic politicians who do not work to "correct" abortion laws are "guilty of cooperating in evil and sinning against the common good"; and which instructs the Catholic community to refrain from giving any awards or honors to those who defy the church's fundamental "moral" principles. To paraphrase a local commentator (Shawn Gilbert), no Christian community should expect its politicians to force religious doctrine upon the general public any more than should a Muslim politician force non-Muslim women to wear a veil.
The Hopping Roo, The Leaping Roo
In the eons of the island continent's dreamtime, before the arrival of Man, the Kangaroo rose from the earth to rule it.
More than any other, the Roo leapt high and far above the land, with its massive, stump-sized legs and feet.
Yet the dreamtime, in its unconscious wisdom, had fashioned not one, but two such Roos -- with equal ability, but different hearts.
The first Roo was called by the Parliament of Dingoes and Koalas to the edge of a great chasm carved into the earth by a river.
"You are to rule us, but to prove yourself, you must leap this chasm!" they challenged.
The Roo stared, quivering, at the far side of the plateau, then down at the rushing river, and then at her own two huge feet.
The feet stepped back.
"No!" she cried.
"Even for one such as I, it is much too great a leap. An impossible leap!"
And the Roo hopped away, trembling, into the Outback -- to dwell among the lizards and underbrush the rest of her barren days, jealous of a spirit she knew had never been hers.
The second Roo was summoned by the Parliament of Dingoes and Koalas.
"You are to rule us, but to prove yourself, you must leap this chasm!" they once again challenged.
This Roo glanced down, not at the depths, but at the cliff edge's hard, compact soil -- and then slowly raised her head to gaze at the other side, an impossible distance away.
Her feet stepped back.
"So be it!" she cried, then leaped forward, as far as her heart and feet could carry her, into the chasm.
In that instant she became their ruler.
Thus, do not fear trying the impossible -- the alternative is to fear that others will.
January 24, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the first 100 days of the Obama Presidency -- and its emphasis on impossible leaps forward.
The Immortal, The Mortal
Called by some Zeus, the "God of Thunder," his job was to hurl bolts of lightning at trees -- or at human heads grown tall with pride.
Zeus was an Immortal, a being who could neither age nor die. But over millennia of hurling bolts of lightning to the earth, only once -- for a few, fleeting hundreds of years -- when a clan of robed and sandaled humans chose to call him the Father of the Gods, did he take pleasure in it.
But after awhile, none any longer worshipped him, and every man -- and woman too -- began to stand so tall, it seemed, that he ran out of thunderbolts before even making a dent in their population.
Then finally, one day his former worshippers invented a metal pole that just sucked his bolts straight into the earth, harmlessly.
His hair stood on end.
In his rage, Zeus snatched up an old, frail woman from her backyard gardening, to finally confront a human with his complaints.
Depositing the old woman onto a terraced atrium garden atop Mount Olympus, he took human form and approached her.
"I am Zeus!" he cried in a thundering voice.
The old woman barely looked at him -- she was staring at his garden.
She turned to him and said, "Your garden is full of weeds!"
As the old woman bent over and began to pluck the overgrown ivy and mint from a porcelain-inlaid path in the garden, Zeus found himself sputtering, "Well, gods don't have time for gardening!"
"Because of all that time you spend abducting old crones?" the woman murmured, laughing, as she plucked.
"Stop your plucking! I deign to tell you that, after all these years of being ignored, I want people to fear and worship me again!"
The woman did stop plucking, dropped her pile of weeds, ivy and mint on the walkway, slowly straightened her crooked back with a groan, and looked straight up into Zeus's eyes.
"And why, exactly, do you deserve to be worshipped and feared?" she asked him.
His face turned as red as his beard.
"I can strike you dead!"
She thought for a moment, then replied, "We have lightning rods." Her glance turned impatient. "Try again."
Zeus mumbled, "Uh, I'm a God?"
The woman rolled her eyes.
"Why do you think you're worthy of worship just because you're a god?"
Zeus pondered. And pondered again. Then said nothing.
"You see," said the old woman, her glance softening slightly, "immortality does you no good, Zeus, if you have nothing to show for it."
The old woman patted him on the shoulder. "You want me to worship you?" She bent over, picked up the pile of weeds from his garden, and plopped them into his mighty hands. "Then here -- do something useful."
And so, under the all-too-brief but never forgotten tutelage of an old woman, did Zeus become Vertumnus, the God of Gardens.
Thus, do not hope for some immortality -- hope for something mortally important to do.
January 17, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to those who made real Abraham Lincoln's new birth of freedom, Martin Luther King's dream, and Barack Obama's change.
The Faith Healer, The Town Doctor
A rolling vista had long separated the faith healer from the town doctor.
But then the traveling tent rolled over it.
The faith healer filled his tent with worshippers every Sunday. Like storm-water eddying around a drain, throngs surged to touch his white, sequined jacket, and to see others cast off crutches and throw away eye patches -- although, oddly, the locals weren't acquainted with these who cried, "I'm healed!"
The town doctor -- cotton jacket frayed but washed bone-white and carefully ironed -- was a gruff man and a poor talker. But he'd delivered most of the townsfolk into this world, and saved more lives than most men ever get around to.
One Sunday, a middle-aged woman from the next town, who'd tumbled down her mossy porch stairs and cracked her leg, hobbled on a makeshift crutch to the faith healer, and begged him to heal her.
The healer, after quickly double-checking a list he was palming, ignored her plea, moving on toward a man on crutches beside her. But the woman clutched the hem of his jacket, sobbing, "Please, healer, don't abandon me!"
The healer turned back to her, brushing her hand from his jacket. He placed his palm on the top of her head, closed his eyes, and, after a short pause, withdrew his hand and uttered in a stern voice, "Ye have little faith, woman! Come back when you have more!"
Demolished, the woman hobbled out of the tent into the street, and wept.
The doctor, out walking his rounds, saw her crutch and approached her. Ignoring her tears, he squatted down and took one measured glance of her purple and black shinbone.
He stood and turned toward the tent, and what had been grim in his face became baleful.
Then he looked at her sternly - just like, she remembered, her long-dead father, hoisting her underarm as she dawdled on their walk home from the river.
"Ma'am, that leg of yours is bent -- you need to have that break reset, and soon, or it'll heal wrong." And he led her to his office, sedated her, straightened her leg and set it in a cast.
In time she was healed.
Thus, reality is not the only path -- but it is the only path forward.
January 10, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton.
The Fawn, The Otter
By the bayou lived a Fawn and an Otter.
The Fawn perked up her ears and froze at the smallest crack of a twig.
Her heart leapt about inside her like a mouse in a cage, and her legs trembled.
She hid in the lap of the cypress trees whenever the sun burst from behind a cloud.
So did the Fawn burn the candle of her life -- until a hunter's rifle puffed out her tremulous flame.
The Otter cavorted and dove in the black marsh.
Floating on her back, she cracked open pecans on a stone perched on her belly.
She barked and loped to sniff out the cracking of a twig or the crashing of a tree branch.
She rolled in the dirt whenever the sun burst from behind a cloud.
So did the Otter savor the story of her life -- until a gator's maw snapped closed her final chapter.
Thus, be miserable and die, or be happy and die. Pick one!
January 3, 2009, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2009 by Frank H. Burton.
The Plan, The Act
He was a man with plans.
Plans spun dizzily through his mind every day.
He talked constantly of how special his plans were -- of how important his plans would be, for his people, for the world, for the future.
And he talked of how he hoped to find time to write down and start his plans soon, or someday.
But one day -- a planning day, like all the rest -- his heart stopped, and he fell to the ground.
Silently, he took his plans with him into forever.
There was another man with plans.
They too spun crazily through his mind every day.
But this man saw that talking wasn't doing -- so he didn't boast about his plans, or claim them special.
Instead, he wrote all his plans down.
Then he took a deep breath every morning after awakening, and put his plans, starting with the most important, into action.
Some of his plans failed soon after taking wing, which he mourned.
Some he had no time to nurture, and passed on to others, whom he blessed with his best wishes.
Some of his plans never took wing at all -- for a star flies higher than any wing can reach.
But a few of his plans flew into action.
And they remade the world, better.
The day came that this man's heart, too, stopped, and he too fell to the ground, silent.
But his acts lived forever.
Thus, your plans die with you, but your acts live on.
December 27, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated, for the coming New Year, to those who shall make their resolutions real.
The Anglerfish, The Rattlesnake
Fiery dunes subsided into the cool waves of the sea.
There, where desert sand meets water, met a snake and a fish.
"Hola!" yelled the fish from the foamy surf.
"Hola," murmured the snake from a tall dune, in return.
"You sound dejected, my scaly compatriot," said the fish.
"Indeed," hissed the snake. "I am hated and feared, even though I'm shy and retiring!"
"How could that be?" asked the fish.
"Because of this!" cried the snake, whipping up into the air his tail -- upon which thrashed a rattle. A noise like spilling skulls and bones filled the air.
"Ah, life is indeed unfair," the fish agreed. "Hah! You are hated and feared -- by the very ones whose lives you and your rattle spare!"
And then the fish raised from his head a lure, and lowered it thrashing into the surf. In an instant, a shrimp pounced on the lure -- and in one snap of his huge jaws, the fish bit the shrimp in half.
Shrimp legs spewing from his maw, the anglerfish roared with laughter at the aghast rattlesnake.
"While I, I leave none alive to hate or fear!"
Thus, dishonesty lures to destruction -- as honesty wards from destruction.
December 20, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in celebration of the skeptical investor, and in admonishment of the charitable and personal fortunes lost to the golden lures of Tom Petters and Bernard Madoff.
The Dishonorable, The Honorable
Poverty and integrity was the cursed gift of their parents' fallible guidance and infallible love.
Yet the brothers' gift was soon broken.
A clumsy merchant on a high balcony spilled a pot of silver coins over their very heads.
One brother chased down most of the coins, battling off as many grabbing thieves as he could, and, hailing the frantic merchant from below, returned to him all that he'd collected.
The merchant gave him in return his effusive thanks, but no more.
Yet this brother's integrity remained of one piece that day.
What stood unbroken in him reflected the light of others who came his way, and so did his integrity spread forth among men.
Yet the other brother, on that fateful day, also saw the silver coins fall like rain from the balcony, and also dove to collect them, but returned not a single one.
Instead, with a muffled gasp of pain, he turned from the gathering crowd, from the merchant and from his own brother -- and slipped the pile of silver coins he had scooped up into his coat pocket. Then, with the quickest of the thieves, the second brother stole away, never glancing back into his brother's or the merchant's eyes.
This brother's integrity fractured in two that day.
Later, lying about the source of his new horses and saddles, then of his new young bull, then of his stocks of cured meats and fine wines, his integrity fractured into a thousand shards.
He found himself not one person whole, but become hundreds of persons -- each mirroring a false expectation, a fabricated past, a risen-again excuse, to each new traveler who'd heard and wondered about the source of his sudden wealth.
So did the dishonest brother lose, with his integrity, his soul -- as its fragmented shards were ground to dust beneath the feet of all other men.
Thus, integrity is the soul's mirror of reality -- do not break it.
December 13, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in celebration of the honesty of U.S. Congressman Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Senator and President-Elect Barack Obama of Illinois -- and in admonishment of the alleged attempted sale of the U.S. Senatorial appointment by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
The Bacchanalian, The Stoic
In an ancient archipelago of city-states lived two philosophers.
One philosopher was a Bacchanalian, who encouraged all to follow their emotions wherever they led.
He proclaimed, "Your past and your future are a fiction! Yesterday is dust, and tomorrow may never come -- so revel today!"
Yet, one day, when an invading armada had the run of his city-state, he lost his head from his neck -- after he was found, by invading soldiers, passed out drunk and naked in his villa, wine dribbling from his slack lips.
The other philosopher was a Stoic, who encouraged all to govern their emotions so that only the mind led.
He proclaimed, "Your past and your future are a biography! Yesterday happened indeed, and tomorrow will certainly come -- so think today!"
And, on that day when the invading armada tried to overrun his city-state, they were repelled by a well-set ring of traps and fires, and by a well-trained group of young warriors from his villa -- while he stood in command of all.
Thus, be the master of your emotions -- or the master of ruins.
December 6, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the lives of the Good Samaritan Society-Albert Lea, Minnesota nursing home residents -- and in admonishment of the six female teenage aides reported to have physically and sexually abused them, for "laughs."
The Sand, The Stone
Two great cathedrals were built, one upon stone, the other upon sand.
The first cathedral stood for all time, a monument to its architects and masons, and to their indomitable spirit.
Yet the second cathedral, as beautiful and magnificent a monument to its builders as the first, began within a few short years to tilt, and then to settle into the sand.
As the decades and centuries flew by, it rocked back and forth, settling deeper and deeper, the sands slowly pouring against, shattering and running through its stained glass windows and arched doorways.
So did this cathedral subside under the bone-white sands of time, until, one day, the very tip of its tallest, most wondrous spire was all that still defied its sandy grave -- and none came to marvel, but only to regret.
Thus, even the most beautiful belief comes to naught if it stands not on solid earth.
November 29, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the victims of the Mumbai terrorist attack -- and in admonishment of theocratic fervor, a temple of slavery that stands upon a foundation of sand.
The Seminar, The Ovarium
Nailed to the portal of the imposing granite hall were flyers for two lectures.
Two speakers were scheduled for that day.
The first raised one eyebrow archly.
"I've long planned for this. I'm going to instruct the masses about the cultural and economic consequences of commercial over-fishing."
The second speaker, rubbing her hands together, blurted out, "Oh, yes, I've dreamed of this day, too! I'm going to host a conference on fly-fishing!"
As the two speakers shook hands and entered their respective auditoriums on opposite sides of the hallway, the second speaker's auditorium began filling to the rafters with fishing enthusiasts.
Hanging on every word of their host, they queried, debated and commended her in excitement, when she discussed the most attractive fishing lures and revealed images of the most beautiful spots around the world to hook the perfect fish.
After the conference, the joyful fly-fishers, imbued with plans for new lures and visions of unimagined vistas, filed past the other auditorium.
Glancing in, they heard the droning voice of the first speaker -- accented only by reverberating echoes of fitful coughs from the few academicians who'd chosen to remain, and who sat almost alone in the cavernous auditorium.
Thus, eloquence may set fire to reason. -- via Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
November 22, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Mirror of Sadness, The Mirror of Joy
It reflected the images of a soul's buried sadnesses and joys.
Many came to the mirror to see what hid within. A few, so very few, saw secret joy in the mirror, and went away with lightness in their steps and their smiles.
But most who stared into the mirror were horrified to see only sadnesses deep within it. These lost souls, staring at a rotted void, stumbled away from the mirror, many never to return to look at their true reflection again.
But a few, a very few, of the lost souls came back -- again and again -- to see exactly what the mirror revealed.
Gradually, with each disappointment, each horror, each agony debrided and chiseled away, they began to feel an indifference to sadness, and to feel in its place a yearning for hope.
With each visit to the mirror, they saw buried, then more revealed, the stanchions of happiness within the rotted catacombs of their soul.
Over the years did these brave ones, lost but for their single-minded refusal to shut their eyes, weld joy from incarnations of sadness.
Thus, you are the incarnation of emotion and mind -- but only one shall rule you wisely.
November 15, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the Schoolgirls of Kandahar, upon whom acid was thrown by Taliban "men."
The Ignorant, The Aware
Libraries were as rare as unicorns, in the tiniest of villages where two young men lived.
But one of the young men was brash.
He oft bragged of many travels -- though he had ne'er set foot beyond the valley.
He oft proclaimed his wisdom concerning far-off happenings -- happenings about which he knew nothing and assumed that nobody else knew a whit more.
Over the years this young man grew to become a fatuous, pontificating fool.
The other young man was quiet.
He oft was reluctant to pontificate on things he readily admitted he knew little about.
He oft wished he could read, to better learn about far-distant lands and their happenings, but, as there was neither library nor books -- nor even so much as a teacher -- in their hamlet, he contented himself with learning lessons from life.
In time, he learned much about honesty -- and grew aware that ignorance was no sin, to be hidden in silence; nor a trait to pretend one had surpassed.
Ignorance was the place from which to ask all questions.
Over the years this young man grew to become an ever-wiser man -- who spoke little, but rightly when done.
Thus, strive for awareness, even if only of one's own ignorance.
November 8, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in celebration of the innate right to marry -- and in warning to those voters who passed California's Proposition Eight, whose ignorance about gender attraction may lead to the forcible state annulment of marriages between their own citizens.
The Effort, The Work
Fallow, rebelliously denuded, the cornfield lounged underfoot.
As the farmer and her daughter steered the plow behind their mare, the blade clanged on a large, granite stone buried in the earth, heaved up by last winter's frost.
"Oh, dear!" said the farmer. "Daughter, I'm taking a milk break for a while. You're still fresh. Why don't you dig up and roll that stone over to the side of the field?"
The daughter, scraping away dirt from the stone with her foot, cringed and frowned. "It's huge! How am I supposed to move it?"
The farmer woman reached over to lightly pinch her girl's biceps. "With these, darling."
And off she rode the mare back to the farmhouse, for a tall, cold glass of milk, as her child glared at her sweat-stained back with exasperation.
Later that morning, the farmer returned to check on her daughter. As she approached the plow, she saw her child laid out flat on her back, hat perched over face, with pools of sweat long since spread through her shirt and shorts -- and the stone, sitting in the same spot as when she left.
"Why isn't the stone moved?" the farmer asked.
Her daughter looked out from beneath her hat, and said with quiet disdain, "Because it was too damn heavy, mother!"
She stood up on her spindly legs, now streaked with dirt.
"I worked as hard as I could on that rock! You can't blame me!"
But her mother smiled gently, and, caressing the disheveled strands of hair from her beloved child's face, told her one of the greatest, and most unpleasant, truths of life.
"Daughter, great effort or no, it wasn't work -- here the stone still sits."
Thus, it isn't work unless the stone moves.
November 1, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the young U.S. citizens who have registered, in larger numbers than ever before, to vote. Now go do it.
The Red Ground, The Black Ground
Red clay entombed the land.
Upon this red ground only the thinnest weeds grew, and the land was as a desert.
There, animals scratched out meager homes.
Those who walked this red ground were hard and fearful -- for only the hard and fearful survived.
But black, soft humus blanketed a neighboring land.
Upon this black ground all seeds that fell grew into majestic trees.
There, all the animals built warm, pungent homes.
Those who walked this black ground were gentle and confident -- for all there long flourished.
Thus, observe the ground upon which you stand.
October 25, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to those in the U.S. who have questioned the equating of liberalism with anti-Americanism, and of government with the surrender of liberty.
The Climber, The Precipice
Pride etched the stony face of a rock climber, who could scale the sheerest cliff or overhang using just her iron fingers and toes, and her iron stomach.
Cliffs from which most men turned away in fright she leapt upon -- her fingers digging into cracks too small to see from below.
Yet one day the climber chanced upon a precipice scoured by the breath of the underworld -- a sheer, volcanic glass wall so vertical and pristine, that she could see her own dismayed face reflected in its smooth black mien.
For days she camped beneath the black precipice, staring through binoculars for the slightest cracks and handholds, but saw none.
In desperation, she hammered spear-like pitons, but the wall merely sheared off clean facets at each hammer-blow. She made suction cups for her hands and feet, but even those could grip for no more than a few vertical meters the face of what seemed now to her a looming black obelisk -- her gravestone.
After many days sunk into depression, she awoke at dawn and saw the obelisk reflect the pink rays of the morning sun.
Suddenly she knew in her bones that this wall would remain, for all time, impregnable to her.
And in that moment the black wall suddenly transformed, behind her eyes, from a black gravestone into the shadow of her long-ago departed father, who loomed tall over her to shelter her from harm.
And so the climber walked away from certain destruction, standing safe on the ground.
Thus, a fall reveals a thing of value -- where solid ground lies. -- via Parker Palmer
October 18, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Surefooted, The Halt
Legs flailing, a child was born.
The child slowly learned to walk, his first steps halting and wavering.
As the child grew into a proud man, his steps became surefooted and straight. The man quickly pushed through all obstacles in every path he took.
But the ticking of years rushed forward like an accelerando metronome.
The man grew older and more infirm. He walked again as a child, his steps retreating and swerving as he maneuvered around the obstacles in his path.
After a spring morning's rainstorm, the old man haltingly walked to the store, avoiding puddles and fallen tree branches.
He asked himself sadly, "Does my gait differ, now, from that of the infant I once was?"
As a child he had lurched about like a baby bird, with little thought to what surrounded him. As an old man, he saw, his steps were similar, but with a hawk's awareness.
But then the old man realized something new.
Even as a powerful young man in the prime of his life, he had not possessed the wisdom of creaky bones.
He looked down at the puddles of slippery mud and the brittle, sharp branches at his feet.
"As a young man, I splashed through these puddles and crashed through these branches in my straight lines and unquestioned paths -- I never even considered their dangers as I barreled right through!"
The old man laughed.
"Even as a man, I was a child!"
Thus, the correct steps may well be halting and wavering -- not surefooted and straight.
October 11, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the diversified and lifecycle investors in the world markets.
The Small Soul, The Great Soul
Great Sky River flowed above two raven-haired women of a forest tribe, long ago.
One young woman lived her life back turned, instead of face on.
She combed her long, black hair to entice the young men, but cared nothing for what lay beyond the cypress forest, or the far shore of Great Sky River.
Over years spent neither exploring nor questioning, her spirit shrank into a hard little ball and died, long before the death of her body.
But the other young woman lived her life face on, instead of back turned.
She ignored her hair and the young men, at least long enough to ask, "What is beyond the edge of the cypress forest, and beyond the edge of the horizon?"
"Who lives on the far shore of Great Sky River, or at its headwaters, or its end?"
Over years spent exploring, questioning, and gaining in wisdom, her spirit swelled so, that it could no longer remain inside her body.
And she overflowed into her people -- living on as teachings long remembered, even after her body had long since died.
Thus, live on while your spirit is dead, or die while your spirit lives on.
October 4, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the life of Afghani female police captain and women's rights enforcer, Malalai Kakar, assassinated this week by the Taliban.
The Cobwebs, The Silk
Fearing either to die or live, he survived by default.
He dwelled in a small cabin by a flowing stream, and partook of its clear waters and leaping fish.
Birds sang in the Banyan trees that sheltered him.
Yet he ventured out only when driven by his growling stomach. The days of his life passed with him staring out his windows for possible intruders.
His companion was a small spider, who spun enormous cobwebs to catch flies.
The man could not touch the cobwebs -- he squatted, ducked and hunched over in his own home, to avoid getting them in his hair.
So did the spider become the master of the house.
In the fullness of years, the man grew stooped and old, and one day, falling dead into the stream as he lunged for a fish, he was swept away to the sea, unremembered.
One year later, a young wanderer chanced upon the abandoned cabin.
He saw the clear, cascading stream and the leaping fish, felt the cool shade of the Banyan tree above his head, and heard the calling of its plumed birds -- and renewed his life at that place.
He entered the cabin, and saw the massive cobwebs. He searched out the spider and said, "So, this is your home then, my tiny friend?"
"So be it! I will work with you and be your partner."
He opened the cabin's door and windows, to allow flies to enter for the spider to feed and multiply.
Then he harvested the baby spiders' great webs, spinning them into the finest silk kerchiefs -- to sell to travelers who came by the spiders' cabin and the inviting house he built nearby.
He and the spiders lived together as neighbors all his life, and grew rich and multiplied.
In the fullness of years, when the fabled "spider-man" grew as bent as his eight-limbed friends, and died, his body was tenderly buried by his great-grandchildren in a funeral cloth of the finest silk in the land.
Thus, fear is a silk web, reason a silk cloth.
September 27, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the new impetus toward bipartisanship in our democratic governments.
The Prevailing Wisdom, The True Wisdom
Autumn colored their debate.
The village historian stood, floppy wool hat on his head and back bent from many years hunched over old almanacs, and proclaimed in his loudest voice, "There is no risk tonight to our grapes! Not in fifty years have we had a freezing sleet this early in autumn. The prevailing wisdom says that this chill wind will pass with no harm!"
The crowd loudly applauded the old man -- for surely he knew best, having the longest memory of what had transpired in the village long years past.
Then a young vintner stood, his hat in his hand, and said, "Sirs, the prevailing wisdom is clear, but perhaps true wisdom would lie in us preparing the fires and fans tonight, to keep the sleet off our crus should it fall nonetheless."
The crowd hooted and catcalled, and he placed his hat on his head, yanked down its cap, and walked off toward his vineyard.
But a few other young men, all with new vineyards like him, followed him out of town, and said, "Maybe we are fools, but we shall do as you advise! Better a sleepless night and sore backs from making the fires to keep our grapes warm, than no money or wine for a year!"
That night, while the village slept, the sleet came suddenly upon the vineyards, and only the young vintners' fires and fans protected their harvests.
That year, the young vintners grew rich, as wine was rare.
Thus, prevailing wisdom is often not true wisdom.
September 20, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to those who've sought to live by true wisdom, rather than prevailing wisdom, through the U.S. mortgage credit crisis of 2008.
The Orchid, The Dandelion
Growing in a mountain rainforest was an Orchid and a Dandelion.
Both brilliant yellow, the Orchid meandered along a hedge, while the Dandelion bloomed from emerald grass.
But wounds torn in the land by the hand of Man caused a cold, dry wind to blow over the rainforest.
The Orchid dwindled and died, its dappled beauty lost to all sight.
But the Dandelion had dug a foot-root deep into the soil's groundwater, and sprouted puffballs to waft its seeds, each hanging from a tiny umbrella, toward the four corners of the Earth.
So it is that orchids are seen only in hothouses, protected from the elements -- while dandelions sprout in your yard.
Thus, tenacity, hardiness and flexibility make success likelier.
September 13, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the recovery efforts of the victims of Gulf Coast Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike, and the "River of Sorrow" -- the Kosi River Flood of Bihar, India.
The Rabbit, The Frog
Underneath a highway culvert lived a Rabbit and a Frog.
Every day cars rushed by overhead like the rush of the culvert's creek after a long rain. But at night the highway was often calm.
One such night, in black, starry quiet, the Rabbit and the Frog hopped up the gravel embankment to the middle of the blacktop, and sat watching falling stars.
The Frog croaked loud and long for a mate in the woods beyond the culvert, while the Rabbit nuzzled the air.
Suddenly a distant pair of stars low on the horizon loomed large and bore down on them with a deafening roar.
"Ruck...Truck!" erupted the Frog, and then, pushing off with his huge legs, leapt far through the air, a goggle-eyed green and white flash in the onrushing headlights of the 18-wheeler.
As he landed in the weeds and gravel beside the highway, the Frog looked back and saw his friend, ears rigid and staring into the headlights, frozen with fear and indecision.
"Ruckit...Buck it!" the Frog yelled.
But, unmoving to his end, the Rabbit was squashed under the wheels.
Thus, the first step is the easiest one not to take.
September 6, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Winner, The Loser
None remembered how they'd crossed an ocean to find their home, this band of contented islanders who fished for their livelihoods.
The king of the islanders grew bored one morning, and decided to hold a race. He invited all comers to contest who could most quickly run all the way round their large island.
One by one or in small groups, the youngest and strongest of the men and women walked up to the huge boulder, half-buried in beach sand, marking the race's start.
But then a fat woman waddled up and joined the starting line.
Amid howls of laughter, the king turned to her with a frown. "Why do you join the contest, woman?! You will most certainly lose -- indeed, you are likely to come in last!"
The fat woman replied, "My goal is to finish the run, my King, not to beat the younger and stronger ones."
The king harrumphed, but let her stay.
He climbed high onto the rock in a circling cloud of dislodged seagulls, then stood, plucked from his head his straw hat with its king's garland of feathers, held it high above the hushed throng, and dropped it into the sand.
In a burst of cheers, the racers broke off the line in a fast lope, and quickly disappeared around the eastern cliffs -- all but the fat woman, who bobbed slowly far behind them.
After three hours, the first of the runners rounded the palm trees to the south, and crossed the finish line with legs pumping to the cheers of the islanders. Very soon the other racers streamed in, and were welcomed by the crowds.
But instead of moving off to the award ceremony and festivities, all the islanders, and even the racers, wanted to stay -- to see if the fat woman could really finish.
They danced and sang songs on the beach all afternoon as they waited for her. As the sun began to set behind the island hills, she finally appeared rounding the palm trees, bobbing steadily toward them.
The islanders and racers screamed in delight.
Even the king found himself running excitedly with his people to greet her, to cheer her on to the finish line.
Thus, to win a contest, know what the contest is against.
August 30, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the U.S. Republican and Democratic parties -- who this year will give America either its first woman Vice-President or first African-American President.
The Civilian, The Footsoldier
Calamity befell a proud island people.
The volcano on whose shores for ages had they dwelled exploded.
Death alighted in flaming snow.
But, at the edges of the island, some survived. Local civilians scattered into boats and rafts, carrying their hastily wrapped gold and jewels in singed linens, and sailed away from the island to safety.
But one among them, shuffling toward a boat from his burning home, with his coat pockets brimming with gold coins, slowed as he espied a young footsoldier desperately carrying out ancient scrolls from the island's smoking library.
A scroll dropped unnoticed by the frantic footsoldier, and rolled to the civilian's feet.
The civilian stooped to pick it up, glanced at the inscription on its satin ribbon -- and saw it was a copy of the most ancient and revered philosophy of his people.
The man's eyes widened as he looked down at the scroll, then he looked up, dumbfounded, at other dropped scrolls scattering in the hot volcanic wind gusting behind the back of the lone footsoldier, as the young recruit ran to dump another pile of scrolls into a pontoon boat on the dock.
The civilian looked down at his huge coat and pants pockets brimming with gold coins.
Then he raised his head, closed his eyes, and groaned.
He dug into his pockets, then thrust his hands high in the air.
"A fistful of gold to any man who takes the time to help that soldier-boy and me move out these scrolls!"
As heads and fleeing steps slowed and turned his way, he ran toward the library -- and, alighting on his heart like ribboned medals, was a grateful footsoldier's glance, and the future pride of his people.
Thus, you are a footsoldier in the army of destiny.
August 23, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the volunteers who, even if disbelievingly, hold the true reins of power -- the voters.
The Flies, The Cowbird
Dappled black and white, the huge cow was the most prized of all a farmer's small herd for her rich milk and gentle ways.
Come summer, the monsoon rains swarmed, and with them came swarms of insects.
The poor heifer was tormented by biting flies, who sucked so much of her blood that her milk became thin, and her disposition angry and plaintive.
The farmer cried in his dismay.
But the flies still came.
Then, one afternoon, arrived a dull little bird.
It alighted in the meadow before the huge cow and stared up at the cow's pained face, while she stared back angrily at its tiny brown head and black eyes.
Then, to the cow's amazement, the bird hopped up onto the top of her nose!
The cow mooed in anger, but then the bird plucked away and gulped down a fly that had been itchily sucking on the cow's forehead, and then continued plucking off flies wherever they had alighted on the cow's hide.
In gratitude, the cow contentedly settled down, to days filled with healthy repasts of hay and grain -- while the cowbird settled down, on her back, to days filled with healthy repasts of flies.
Thus, seek symbiosis -- not parasitism.
August 16, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the newest bicyclists and bus riders among us -- the Neo-conservationists.
The Keeper, The Caged
Two men lived in cages.
The first man was grey and toothless. Years before, his jailers had given him a set of keys to his prison.
Yet he had so come to fear the world outside, that he kept his keys to freedom in the pocket of his prison garb, too afraid to even handle them.
Thus was the first man the keeper of his own cage.
The second man was as ancient as bones.
Yet since his youth he'd railed against his imprisonment, considered it unjust, and never ceased plotting ways to break out of his cage.
He sought, above all else, to carve a key to his prison, and dreamed of great embarkations, for that day when freedom alighted.
Thus was the second man less caged than the first -- for he did not fear freedom, and his cage was not of his own making.
Thus, fear of change is a prison. Break out.
August 9, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the memory of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and to the free people of Georgia.
The Engine, The Driver
Three race cars sat on the track.
The first race car was but a shell on wheels, its engine removed. The driver pushed the eviscerated car to the starting line, hopped into the seat, grabbed the wheel -- and bobbed back and forth behind the steering column like a wind-up toy. The eviscerated shell of the racer rocked gently on the asphalt.
The second race car was a Formula One racer, with a massive engine -- but no driver. The racer idled in neutral, its throbbing engine powerless to budge it even one inch.
The last race car was a small convertible with a four-cylinder engine, but a capable driver. As the green flag fell, he gunned his engine, shifted into first, and leapt down the racetrack, rubber burning behind him on the road.
In seconds he was gone -- riding a cloud of white, beyond the far turn.
Thus, emotion is our engine - but we must remain the driver.
August 2, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Bouquet, The Bonsai
A young woman was inexorably dying.
One uncle brought her a large bouquet of cut flowers. The woman placed them in a vase with water to keep them alive, and thought she would enjoy watching them over the next few days.
But she found herself noticing the growing signs of decay as the cut flowers slowly withered. She grew sad, and said to herself, "So, too, am I a cut flower."
But the next day her favorite uncle brought her another gift -- a small bonsai tree, growing intricately upon a clot of earth.
Other relatives chided this gift, saying, "That plant will outlive her! Why remind her of how limited her time is?!"
Yet the woman accepted the gift of the bonsai, and placed it in the sun on her windowsill.
For weeks, long after the cut flowers from all her other relatives had turned shrunken and brown and been thrown away, long after the relatives had gone home, the woman sat and watched the bonsai.
She thought she would be bothered by its steadfast little life, but she found herself noticing how minute and beautiful it was - how very beautiful, because of those very limitations and restrictions placed upon it.
As her last day arced across her life with the dawning and setting sun, and she saw the silhouette of the bonsai against the dimness of opium and velvet sky, she grew happy, and said to herself, "So, too, was I a bonsai."
Thus, acceptance of life's limits need not limit life's beauty.
July 26, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Chattel, The Wife
Husband and wife, they loved each other as equals.
He commuted to work, they both raised their beloved sons and daughters, and she chose to maintain their home until getting a job herself.
Next door there lived another husband and wife -- but which the husband insisted was "man and wife."
He proclaimed to all that his wife was his chattel -- his property.
Only he would decide what his family would do.
He forced his wife to abandon her interests to maintain his house and raise his children -- with whom he did not wish to be bothered except for his son. He instructed his wife to raise his daughters only to submit to their future husbands' wishes.
One day the first woman met her browbeaten neighbor while trimming the bushes between their houses.
"Leave that pompous fool!" she advised. "And take your children with you!"
But the second woman, unprepared for life alone, remained with her husband.
Over the years, the first family prospered in life, and in love, and their children returned every year to fill their beloved ancestral home with celebration.
But the second household grew confused and cold.
The daughters rebelled against their father's disdain and domination -- but knew no better than to flee into the arms of other abusive men. The son became, like his father, domineering.
All the children left home as soon as they could, and never returned.
So too, did the wife, in nameless yearning, eventually leave her husband, never to see him again.
The man spent his aged years as the unloved master of an empty house.
Thus, freedom is the well from which reason rises -- to think freely, one must be free to think.
July 19, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Untested, The Failed
Mother and daughter sang in their dreams.
When still a young, unmarried woman, the mother had practiced singing lessons until her voice was as beautiful as a songbird's.
Yet she so feared the scorn of others that, after sneaking into the back of the auditoriums during auditions, she stood mute, never stepping forward.
She took a husband and birthed her daughter -- who, baptized in lullabies, was the only audience to the gentle glory of her mother's voice.
The daughter, when still a young, unmarried woman, practiced singing lessons as had her mother, until her voice too was as a songbird's.
Yet she had heard so often of her mother's fear of scorn, and of her cowering in the dark recesses of audition halls, that on her own very first audition she marched to the stage, blurted out her name, and sang.
She was scorned.
But she sang before many audiences -- and scorn gradually transformed into grudging, then free, approbation.
She failed to scale that pinnacle of which both she and her mother had dreamed -- but still she was satisfied, for she had given her dream her very best.
Such satisfaction forever eluded her mother.
Thus, it is better to fail than to never have tried. -- via Theodore Roosevelt
July 12, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Moderates, The Radicals
Bordering a vast gulf dwelled the peoples of two continents.
On one continent the people lived under strict laws, set down thousands of years before, that forced them to dress, wear their hair, study, labor, congregate, and marry, in proscribed ways.
Those who did not were ostracized, ridiculed, beaten, burned, lynched or beheaded.
The people of this continent lived in constant hatred and fear, as their forebears had done for centuries.
Yet they called themselves moderates.
On the other continent the people lived under lenient laws, continually perfected by amendment, that prohibited force, allowing them to dress, wear their hair, study, labor, congregate, and marry, in any way.
Only those who sought to force others were punished, if first found guilty by their peers.
The people of this continent lived in constant empathy and optimism, as their forebears had done for centuries.
Yet they called themselves radicals.
Thus, liberty is radical.
July 4, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated on this 84,736th day of the United States of America to the foundational principles of its Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights -- which point toward a world where, one day, all shall claim their unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The Spattered Paint, The Mandala
From the West an artist visited an ancient monastery in the East.
The monastery's head monk asked him, "May we see an example of your art?"
The artist obliged. Opening his steamer trunk and unrolling a bare white canvas, he laid it out flat on the stone floor, and unscrewed tubes of different colored paints.
Then, dipping his brush into them, he closed his eyes tightly shut, flicked his wrists and spattered the paint all over the canvas.
The monks bent over and stared a long while at the random colors and shapes, murmuring and nodding their heads. Then the most aged among them smiled and said, "Lovely! We too, have a very similar form of art! Come see!"
The artist and monks all filed into a small temple room behind the aged monk, who stepped aside and pointed to another monk on the floor, putting the final touches on an intricate, multi-hued mandala, made of individual grains of colored sand.
The Western artist stared down at the mandala, a work of near unimaginable labor, complexity and rigorous geometric order, and looked up at the old monk with confusion in his face.
"Old man, this work is nothing like mine!"
The old monk exchanged glances with the monk on the floor, who, just having finished the mandala, bowed deeply to it, then to the artist, and then reached out his hand and scattered the sand image with swirling arcs of his arm and robe.
The wise old monk then turned, beaming, to the artist and said, "It is now!"
Thus, within seeming chaos, purpose can lie buried.
June 28, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Mud House, The Brick House
Returned from his honeymoon, a new husband sought to build a house for his bride and stepchildren.
On a sunny day he walked to the river flats and shoveled pile after pile of heavy, steaming mud into his wheelbarrow.
Yet, upon hauling it back to his new family's tent, so tired was he that he said to himself, "This mud is heavy and caked, and will work just fine as it is!"
So he shaped the mud into blocks, and he and his family piled them up into a house, and rejoiced at their new home.
But later came the monsoons, and, to their horror and his secret shame, their mud house melted into nothing, under the pelting of the unending rain.
Another newlywed likewise sought to build a house for his new family.
On that same steaming hot day, he too walked to the river flats, and also shoveled pile after pile of heavy mud into his wheelbarrow.
So exhausted was he, that he too was sorely tempted to just shape the mud into crude blocks and tell his family to pile them up.
Yet, looking into his new wife's and children's anxious eyes, he knew his obligation was to do more.
He rested that long day, but on the morrow walked through the fields, gathering straw -- which for many days he shaped with mud into solid bricks, while reassuring his wife and children, "This way is harder, and I can barely bring myself to do it, but it is the better way."
Eventually all the bricks were made, whereupon they piled them up into a home.
And their rejoicing was tenfold because their effort had been tenfold.
Later came the monsoons, and, to their joy and his secret pride, their house stood unharmed against the unending rainfall, which ran down the sides of their straw-reinforced mud bricks and flowed on to the sea.
Thus, to succeed you must do what success requires.
June 21, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated in honor of the Midwest Flood sandbaggers -- and in warning to the Army Corps of Engineer's policy of stuffing gaps in levees and floodwalls with newspaper.
The Ambition, The Achievement
Young boys in the Far Eastern steppes were school playmates.
As they sat in the playground's rusty pair of swings, scuffing their feet in the scrub grass and weeds, and blowing out fistfuls of dandelion candles in an imagined birthday cake, the first boy turned to his playmate.
"When I grow up, I want to be President!"
The second boy was duly impressed.
"And I want to be a cosmonaut!" he replied.
"Bozhe moi!" the first boy exclaimed.
And a gleam was shared in their eyes.
The boys grew into men.
The first ran for city council, lost twice, and then won. Later, he became mayor, and several times met -- and advised -- his country's Presidents.
The second applied for the cosmonaut program -- but his stomach was weak, and he was not accepted. Instead, he went to college and became a mission scientist, creating equipment for the first international space station.
The men grew old.
Years later, they met again on the playground outside their former grade school.
"I was a failure," murmured the former mayor, "because I never became President."
His former playmate was duly skeptical.
"Oh? I was a success," he retorted, "because, even if I never became a cosmonaut, I was a damn fine mission scientist."
And, after looking around at the renovated and bustling school, with its verdantly manicured, sparkling playground bursting with well-fed and educated kids, the second man added, "And, my 'all-or-nothing' friend, quit sighing! You were a damn fine mayor!"
Thus, "all-or-nothing" usually leads to nothing.
June 14, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Inchworm, The Grasshopper
Grassy hillocks undulated under clouds swept like great dust bunnies toward the edge of the earth.
The Inchworm crawled along and between blades of grass as if it had all the time in the world.
Slowly it waved about, then grabbed the glossy face of a nearby green blade with its first six feet (six of many!), bent its long torso up into the air to hoist its rear, and grasped the blade with its last six feet.
Then it stretched way out, and did it all over again.
So did the Inchworm inch along in life.
But the Grasshopper acted as if it had no time to dawdle.
It cocked the huge muscles on its back two legs, reared, and shot itself into the blue sky, clouds and green earth tumbling around its eyes.
Then it righted itself where it landed, once more cocked its legs and shot into the void all over again.
So did the Grasshopper leap along in life.
Thus, a leap cannot be earthbound.
June 7, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the California Supreme Court's ruling that marriage is so profound a "human" right that it must be allowed regardless of gender.
The Relic, The Tooth
Consternation roiled the village, which gathered at the local elder's for counsel.
The headsman begged the elder, "O Old One, we need your advice! A Shaman has finally come to our village, and he carries with him a finely woven basket. He says that those of us who reach inside it, and touch a secret Relic it carries within, will know good fortune and health!"
"But the Shaman asks us each for an ox! What should we do?"
The old man peered into their worried faces, and a contented smile ever so slightly curved his wrinkled lips.
"I can give you what you need! Over my many years, a boon for great good fortune fell into my hands -- and I've been saving it for just this need!"
He pointed with his reed-thin arm to a small, red-dyed soapstone box among his possessions.
"In that box is the boon I obtained at the feet of a Wise One! Those of you who touch it -- and forget about the traveling Shaman's fine woven basket and its secret Relic -- will be blessed with great good fortune and health this coming season!"
The people gathered around the old man, and peered inside the small red box.
Inside it lay a yellow tooth.
Some remarked that the tooth must be a great relic, while others, after muttering how dingy and carious it was, instead paid an ox to the traveling Shaman, whose Relic was much larger.
Soon thereafter came the harvest season, and those who had touched the Tooth of the Wise One bred their oxen, and had much milk and meat to eat. Those who had parted with their oxen for the privilege of touching the traveling Shaman's secret Relic grew a bit thin, and had to beg -- but proclaimed to all who'd listen that their great good fortune was coming with the next moon, or rounding the nearest hill.
The well fed amongst the townspeople later celebrated their harvest solstice, and, raising their elder on a wicker chair, carried the old man around the village in thanks for their prosperity and health.
As they brought him to the village square, cheering, he waved them silent, then paused.
And slowly broke into a huge yellow grin with one gap.
Thus, to find good fortune, don't throw your fortune away.
May 31, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Terrorists, The Diplomats
Lands of ancient beauty were torn between two peoples, bounded by barbed wire, concrete barricades and snipers -- but even more by the deepest chasm of hate.
Wherever a hand was raised in salutation, it was dismembered by the bombs of terrorists.
Whenever a peace treaty requiring disarmament and cessation of violence was signed, so too was it dismembered, by even one lone man's bitter or ecstatic instant of murder.
And, in response to murder, murder was returned ten-fold.
So did the chasm of hatred deepen, until there was no way to bridge it -- no way to stop the apotheosis of slaughter.
Yet, one day, two diplomats, haggardly shuffling through the jutting bones of their murdered peace accord as amongst the unburied dead, stood across the chasm of hatred, staring at one another.
And one called out, across the chasm.
"No more preconditions before we negotiate!"
And the other agreed, calling back, "We must divide our land between our peoples, and do it now! We must never again halt negotiation, even in the face of terrorism!"
"For that is terror's purpose -- to stop us from talking!"
And the chasm of hatred still loomed deep -- but thereafter none looked down.
Thus, to defeat terrorism, ignore it.
May 24, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated with hope to the emerging peace negotiations between Syria and Israel.
The Table, The Mensal Ideal
Commissioned to craft a table of exquisite richness and beauty was a carpenter.
As hours merged into days, the carpenter's young son watched him lathe the finest of his hardwoods, and trim intricate inlays.
So interested grew he, that the son soon asked, "Father, may I craft a table too?"
The carpenter agreed.
Leading his son to a corner of the workshop, the carpenter gave him carving tools and a handsaw, and the boy set to work.
In the eventide as they carved, the bare arms of father and son were burnished in the rays of the red sun.
The following Sunday they walked to the workshop, to see each other's craft.
Upside down, on velvet cloth, lay the father's table on his workbench. The boy ran up to it, running his tiny fingers along the polished skin of its smoothly inset legs.
"Oh, father, turn it over!"
When the carpenter turned over his table and set it upright and solid onto the floor, a maze of inlaid woods and patterns gleamed.
"Father! It's as sturdy as a turtle -- and prettier than one, too! It's the finest table in all Creation!"
His father laughed.
"Maybe so," he replied, "but let's see your table, my son."
The boy ran to his table, which sat upside down on the floor -- where he'd spent an hour alone the past night hammering in its legs, repeatedly.
"Look, father," he said, "my table is ready too!"
But when the boy picked up the table and stood it upright, it wobbled -- and when, agog with dismay, he pushed down on its heavy top, the table's spindly legs splayed out like a dead dog's and it toppled flat.
"Oh, father!" the boy wailed.
But the carpenter put his hand on his son's shoulder and bent down to face him.
"Now, now, it's just the joints weren't true -- I'll show you how to fit 'em proper."
And by Sunday lunch, the carpenter's son had made his first table -- and when he ate his porridge off it, it'd never tasted so good.
Thus, what is disjointed will not stand.
May 17, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the victims of the Sichuan Earthquake and of lax enforcement of earthquake-proof school construction standards.
The Stormy Day, The Sunny Day
Bent did their leaders become from the mantle of power.
They went before the people and proclaimed, "A great storm approaches! It threatens our lives and happiness!"
Pounding their lecterns and grasping their microphones, they cried, "We are mobilizing our army, to patrol the streets, suppress rioting, and protect the citizens of our land."
"We declare martial law!"
The people were stunned.
Many peered into the skies, but saw only a clear and calm horizon -- and newspaper forecasts had told only of bright, sunny skies, not storm-whipped devastation.
A few asked aloud, "Where are the storms?" But they were beaten and carried off in trucks by armed soldiers.
The newspapers and television channels at first declared no evidence for a storm. But the army poured money into the pockets of their owners, and pushed guns into the faces of others. Soon every news article and nightly broadcast proclaimed catastrophe was to rain from the sky.
Most of the people scuttled quickly from their homes to their cars, and from their cars to their workplaces, and stared upward at the clear blue skies, always searching.
But others -- a very few -- stared at the armed guards on the streets, and then stared upward at the televised faces of their great leaders, always searching.
Until these very few grew into a multitude...
And then, a storm.
Thus, black is not white -- no matter who says it is.
May 10, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the citizens of Burma, murdered in the many thousands by the hands of their Myanmar Regime, from the cyclone it proclaimed "nonexistent."
The Grey Squirrels, The Colored Squirrels
By a bubbling creek meandered a lush backyard garden.
In this garden dwelled not only birds, garden snakes, toads and worms, but also grey squirrels.
The biggest and most well-fed of the animals, they were lords of the yard -- where all but the angriest of crows fled from them, once they charged to hoard nuts and seeds. Their bright white bellies gleamed in the afternoon sun when they sat up to regard their domain.
But when they crouched back down, their grey tops were somewhat dreary to look upon.
Then one day a motley crew of new squirrels came to the garden. They scampered onto a branch and stood tall for all to see: A small red squirrel; a pure black squirrel; a fawn-colored squirrel; and a pure white squirrel.
Each was much smaller than the fat grey squirrels, and so were no match for them in hoarding nuts and seeds.
But they were fast, and so colorful!
When they scampered around the trees and grass, playing tag with the grey squirrels, in the garden a rainbow danced.
And the days were no longer as dreary to look upon.
Thus, sameness dulls the spirit's palate, while diversity and its combinations are the spice of life. -- via Star Trek
May 3, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The Begrudged, The Embraced
Death stood at the foot of their hospital beds -- a badly dressed physician prescribing only morphine.
In no great rush, He observed the two men.
Reminiscing, as the old and ill are wont to do, the first man said, "My life was filled with wasted moments. I avoided learning, because lessons seemed too much bother. I avoided travel, because I worried about drinking the water. And I avoided dating, because I worried how I'd break it off!"
The second man looked over at the first, and recalled, "I took those lessons -- and learned enough to see how foolish I am. I traveled to Paris -- and got sick. I loved a woman, and never left her -- but she left me."
The first man stared at the blank wall of the ward, and began to cry.
"Now it's too late for me to do anything but die!"
But then the second man gently replied, "Well, it's not really that late. Do you like chess?"
The first man wiped his eyes and turned to measure the face of his temporary savior.
And Death looked about for a seat.
Thus, embrace life, do not begrudge it.
April 26, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Flat World, The Round World
A voice in a faceless crowd proclaimed, "The World is flat!"
The people all chattered, "Of course he's right! We can see the edge of the World -- it's right over there!" And they pointed to the far horizon of the sea, where the red sun flashed green ere vanishing beneath the waters.
But a second man cried, "Wait! The edge looks so close! How can we sail for days upon days into the West, and lose sight of the mountains of our home, if the World is flat? Might not the World actually be round?"
And the people catcalled and hurled rotten fruits and cabbages at him.
"It's flat! Just look at the horizon!" they jeered.
Yet the second man believed that perhaps the World was round, but also very large -- and so just seemed flat, as his bald pate might seem to a tiny louse.
So he fashioned a telescope, using a long hearing-aid tube and two pieces of polished glass.
Then every morning he sat on the dock and stared at the horizon with his scope, pausing only to wipe its lenses free of salt-spray, and to gaze fiercely at passersby who cajoled him.
But then one afternoon, he startled and darted to his feet, one hand still holding the telescope to a gawking eye.
Through its lenses he could see a crow's nest - only a crow's nest -- rising slowly above the waters, its red and white flag flapping on the tall mast.
"Look!" he pointed to the horizon and cried to a small crowd of passersby, "Look! The mast of a galleon rises from the sea, but with no galleon yet seen beneath it! The World is not flat -- it is round! Round!"
A large rotten cabbage smashed into his beaming face, and his telescope dropped into the sea.
Thus, the whole world can still be wrong.
April 19, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Infallible, The Fallible
Proclaimed throughout the land was a prophet among men.
On the day of his investiture, he strode in his dark, flowing robes through a jubilant army of followers, to a granite knoll.
Turning to look down upon the crowd, he raised high a wooden staff in his right fist.
"I am the voice of God on earth!" he cried. "My edicts are to be obeyed, on pain of imprisonment!"
The people believed, and wailed -- some in ecstasy, others in fear. Ere the blooming tulips in the prophet's garden began to curl, did his edicts lead to the enslavement of women in the land, and the imprisonment and execution of all who did not believe in the prophet's god.
Once too proclaimed throughout another land, was a leader among men.
On the day of his inauguration, he strode in his dark, tailored suit through a jubilant throng of voters, to a granite podium.
Turning to look down upon the crowd, he raised his clenched right fist.
"I am now your leader!" he cried. "My edicts are to be obeyed, on pain of imprisonment!"
The people disbelieved, and wailed -- in anger. Ere the cut tulips in the leader's inaugural vase began to wilt, did his edicts lead to his own banishment.
Thus, your mind is the property of neither man nor god.
April 12, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the new democracies of Bhutan and Nepal, and the struggle for freedom in Tibet.
The Ember, The Fire
Rain hissed along the thatch roof of a hut on the moor.
Inside the hut, an old man and his grandchild sat staring into the fireplace, where burned a single log.
"Tend to the fire, grandson," said the old man, as he went outside to feed their mule.
But the grandson lay back, arms behind his head, and daydreamed. Soon he dozed off.
When the old man returned to the fire, nothing remained of it except a small pile of black ash with a single, glowing-red ember.
"I told you to tend the fire, child!" the old man chided the boy. Then he gathered fine, dried root and straw, dipped them into the ember, and gently blew on it.
And, once more, flames sprang into life, reflected as a dancing glow in the old man's eyeglasses.
As he hefted a new log to the fire, he turned again to his chastised grandson. "Remember, young one, any fire shall die when nothing burns within."
"Including," he added, poking his lazy grandchild's chest, "the fire in there!"
Thus, endeavor is the flame that must consume you.
April 5, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Chatterer, The Converser
Live with a chatterbox to learn how not to listen, the man thought.
His wife chattered all day long. No matter how hard he tried to concentrate on the monologue, all he heard was, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."
But then, one day, he heard, "Blah, blah, blah, blah...Darling, are you unhappy?"
His ears perked up. "What did you say?"
"I said," his wife repeated, "are you unhappy?"
"Well, no, but..."
"But what?" she asked.
"Well, we rarely talk," he confessed.
"What do you mean? We talk all the time!" she blurted, then paused. "Don't we?"
"Well, dear, no -- we don't. You talk, I listen -- or try to, at least. But not very well..."
"I am a bit of a chatterbox, aren't I?" she replied with rue.
Her husband rose from his newspaper, put his arms around her and hugged her gently.
"Not now, you aren't. Right now we are talking." He kissed her on the cheek, and then said, "Let's discuss the news, shall we?"
"Let's!" she exclaimed.
And together they sat down, at first tentatively, and then later without embarrassment, to a real discussion.
Thus, don't just broadcast your thoughts -- share them.
March 29, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Asleep, The Awake
Philosophy was the siren who lured two students to distant shores.
When they met upon their return, they clasped arms -- those of the first now as wan and frail as balsa, and of the second as thick as oak.
"I hiked through monsoon-swept plains and high mountains," the first student said, "and sat in the temples of many different beliefs, and so attained complete wisdom."
He then smiled and bowed his head.
"This life is but part of a dream, and living or dying matters not."
Hearing his frail compatriot say this, the second student frowned.
"I too have seen much," he replied. "I've trodden far island continents, and sat in outback campfires, listening to lyrics that were sung before recorded history began, and so attained new knowledge."
But then the second student gently tightened his grip on his frail friend's luminously thin arms, as if to hold him to the earth.
"My friend, what happens to us in life, and in dreams, all matters."
Yet the first student, now uncaring of his own life, refused to eat, grew skeletal and wasted away to death.
At his funeral, his compatriot picked up a handful of black dirt and dropped it on the bones of his friend.
Then he continued on, eating, living and dreaming -- and in listening to his dreams, found new paths to tread.
Thus, life does not awaken to a dream -- dreaming awakens life.
March 22, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Acorn, The Oak
An acorn lay rotting.
Carried far away from its mother-tree by an overly busy squirrel, it was abandoned in the black earth.
For the squirrel, being not so smart, forgot where he'd buried it -- and so the acorn was consigned to molder in its grave for all time, lost to memory or kindly regard.
Yet the following year, from the flesh of the acorn grew the smallest of shoots.
It fought for the light of the sun, pushed through dead leaves and blades of grass, and swelled into the tiniest of plants.
Over the years, the plant fought to live, persisting without cease or rest, and grew.
So, in the fullness of time, arose the mightiest Oak that ever existed -- from a forgotten and discarded shred of another's callous feast.
Thus, to transform into what will be, what is must pass away.
March 15, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Passenger, The Driver
The car wound its sinuous way along the backcountry.
Its driver, a wide grin on her face, craned her neck as she passed grazing Hereford cows and cantering white and fawn-colored horses.
She smelled violet-carpeted hillsides, topped with bales of hay curled up like cinnamon buns, through her half-lowered, dirt-streaked window as she drove beneath tall oak boughs.
She gazed off to the horizon -- at careening, distant blue vistas of mountainsides and river valleys -- as the car jounced on the rutted, golden-brown clay road.
She was so glad.
Then her passenger, snoring until the last bend in the road, suddenly awoke, glanced around under his disheveled bangs, then, trying to steady himself as the sky rolled up and down and side to side, turned to her and grumpily remarked, "Wha...what happened to the highway?"
His voice warbled like he was sitting on a two-bit vibrating bed in a cheap motel.
"And where are we going?!"
Brown hair bouncing around her face, she laughed as she answered.
"We're already there!"
Thus, drive or be the passenger in your life's journey.
March 8, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Act, The Consequence
In a shantytown held fast like a barnacle on the hull of a city sailing for a far horizon, two boys squatted on the stoop of a tin shack.
Dealers approached them offering hashish.
The first boy rose from the stoop, bought a bag of weed, placed it in his jacket pocket, and trotted home to smoke it.
His dealer counted his money, then ordered more hashish from his supplier -- who, in the crossfire of a gunfight with competing suppliers, shot a young student.
A young student who one day would have designed an economical solar water-purifier, saving millions from dysentery.
The second boy remained sitting on the stoop, and refused to buy hashish.
The second dealer, growing angry, slapped the boy and chased him through the teeming alleys -- but fell short on his sales that day, and ordered nothing from his supplier.
That supplier was ignored during a later turf battle -- and a girl on the street was saved from being shot.
A girl whose granddaughter would one day lead a continent to outlaw land mines.
Thus, the world can rise or fall with the lifting of one finger.
March 1, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Moon, The Sun
Under the parental gaze of the Sun and the Moon, the tribe lived bright days and starry nights.
In the tribe lived a wise Elder.
After a young tribeswoman had refused a suitor's overture to wed, and been shunned by the tribesmen for her refusal, she ran crying to the Elder -- who sat, walking stick by her side in the dirt, enjoying the shade of a large tree not quite as old as herself.
The young woman kneeled before the Elder, plucked at the hem of her shift, and confessed.
"Elder, I don't want to marry! If I marry, I must raise babies! But I want to start a business, and cultivate the fields and markets for my livelihood -- not be a husband's wife for it!"
The Elder grimaced, picked up her walking stick and slowly scratched sigils in the dirt.
Then, nodding to herself, she pointed her stick up into the skies, her long white hair blowing across her face in the breeze.
"Up there, what do you see?"
The young woman looked up and, squinting, said, "I see the Sun."
"And later, at dusk?"
"We will see the full Moon," the young woman replied.
"And why will it be full?" the Elder asked, with a wrinkled smile.
"Well," replied the young woman, "because it is facing the Sun and reflecting its light! But...but what does this have to do with my marriage?!"
The Elder laughed, then waved her stick between the far horizons.
"The Sun or the Moon! In their arms we dwell! Each brings us joy, each has value -- the Sun gives us life, and the Moon reminds us of the Sun's constancy."
"But it is your choice, not mine! It is up to you whether you will be the Sun or the Moon!"
Thus, radiate, or magnify the radiance of others -- but know the role you've chosen.
February 23, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Rabbit, The Mole
Venturing into the nest of a Rabbit was a tiny shrew.
The shrew raised its pointy nose -- and the two shiny black dots on its face that pass for eyes among shrews -- and shouted upward at the Rabbit and her nursing kits.
"My, your grass nest is so well woven, and lined so snugly with fur, I could live here myself! If I didn't have an urge to dig tunnels, that is!"
The mother Rabbit, complimented and somewhat amused, wiggled her nose at the talkative shrew, and returned her placid gaze to her young ones.
Strolling out of the Rabbit's nest, the shrew then chanced upon a large black hole in the grass -- the mouth of a long tunnel that hunched its back like a whale sounding the Sargasso Sea. The shrew took one look at the deep hole, and dove beneath the sea of grass.
Scampering madly downward through the dimly lit tunnel, he tripped over blades of half-chewed grass, chips of discarded twigs, and tufts of matted grey fuzz and empty bug armor. His nose even drew him to -- and skirting by -- small piles of that which we all make, but shouldn't leave sitting around.
"Stinky, stinky..." the shrew mumbled as his nose hairs blasted outward from nostrils big enough to engulf his tiny eyes.
And onward he dove.
Then, in the deepest, darkest bend of the tunnel, the shrew ran head on into the plush rear of the tunnel's maker -- a big grey Mole.
The shrew hopped over the Mole's bowed head, and once again lifted up its tiny face, nose-to-nose with the Mole's, which drooped like a fallen star.
Their two pairs of eye-specks pretended to scrutinize each other, while the shrew sniffed madly, and the Mole sniffed sadly.
And then the shrew shouted to the Mole.
"My, your tunnel is a real mess! Why, it even stinks! Can you concentrate on digging, and on finding a big, fat huggly female mole, when old, chewed-up bug legs poke you in your soft pink belly, my friend?"
The shrew grabbed a piece of fuzz and tucked it under a foreleg.
"Let's clean this place up, and I'll be happy to live here with you!"
And up the tunnel scampered the shrew, followed by the somewhat browbeaten but strangely relieved Mole, to clean up their home.
Thus, without order comes odor.
February 16, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Forceful, The Persuasive
Rulers of men oft rise at night.
Come into power upon the hastened death of his predecessor, he quickly cast off all whose ability threatened his supremacy. He declared himself king, and when he barked his imperial orders, those who disobeyed or hesitated were exiled or executed.
One day he was to receive in his royal court the Leader of a powerful neighboring country.
"This is a Leader?" the king asked, laughing, as his courtiers briefed him about the man he would soon meet. "He did not usurp power, but asked the people for it? He can be removed from power simply by a majority vote?"
He smirked. "And he has never held an Army commission, nor ever fired a gun! Hah!"
It shall be a simple matter to dominate this man in our trade negotiations, the king thought to himself.
As the Leader of the other country entered the throne room, the king ordered him, "Kneel!"
As the Leader kneeled, the king saw his face -- a face of complete calm and equanimity.
The king became angered. "Why aren't you afraid of me, little man! I could have you executed!"
The Leader replied, "So you could, but my people wish you to have this."
He passed a scroll to the king, who handed it on to his general and demanded it be read before the royal court.
Thus did the general read aloud the Leader's letter to the king -- who heard its words with growing incredulity and horror: "O King, we, the people of your neighboring country, have massed a great army and navy in support of our Leader, whom we love. Our economy is strong, and our armed forces are unified and at the ready in his support. We wish you well, but know that our Leader is to return unharmed, or your small military takeover will see this day its last day."
The Leader then said to the suddenly perspiring king, "It is my gift of persuasion that is my power. Using it I've led my people into prosperity. My might is their gratitude." Then the Leader gestured casually around him.
"Yet, look here, at the faces of all the men around you, O King. If gratitude resided there, indeed I would be afraid. But all I see is fear and hatred of you. In my country, these men would lay down their lives for their leader -- here, they will not."
The king, in his fear and rage, exploded.
"Kill him, and may war come!"
The king's general steeled himself, strode forward, unsheathed his sword, and, sinews steady, raised it high -- and brought it down not upon the Leader's neck, but upon his own king's.
After the thump of the head, the king's bejeweled body collapsed to the ground with the sound of dry leaves and tinkling chimes.
"Our King, the fool!" muttered the general, as he sheathed his bloody sword.
He turned to face the Leader. "If your people will agree to trade with us as peaceful neighbors, I will instate free elections for our people, too."
Thus, the power of muscle is weaker than the power of reason.
February 9, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to U.S. Super Tuesday's primaries and caucuses.
The Dreaming Woman, The Seeing Woman
Born on the same day in the same village, two women grew up as friends.
One was born into poverty, and saw early that work -- either hers or her poor father's -- supplied the money to buy food and goods.
The second woman was born into wealth, and never accepted that someone's work was needed for her to eat or have fine things at her whim.
Then war cast both women anew into poverty.
The first woman portaged vegetables to market to earn enough to feed herself, and planned to save a little each day to start a small weaving business.
But the second woman refused to believe her ill fortune. Crawling into a cardboard box in the burned out basement of her ruined mansion, she slowly succumbed to the elements.
As she lay dying, dreaming of the life she'd lost, her moans were heard by her friend -- who lay down her basket of vegetables and dug through the rubbish to her side, raising her up.
"Why do you not see the way things are now?" she scolded. "Get up and weave baskets with me, and live. Or else dream your life away."
She placed her hands on her destitute friend's face, turned it toward the unrelenting day, and opened her eyelids.
"Decide! For you have no time left to dream of what is no more."
Tears rose in the dark well of the eyes.
The destitute woman saw the truth in her friend's words, and knew her refusal to see "what is" would change the world not in the slightest, but would indeed change her into a dead woman.
She stood up from the rubbish of her past, and together they wove baskets in the hope of a better life.
Thus, it is better to see what is and dream of what may be, than to shut your eyes to what is and dream of what cannot be.
February 2, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to those who've fallen in the arena, yet who rise again.
The Dragon's Breath, The West Wind
Nigh on their 13th year, two boys became explorers.
With but small knapsacks thrown over their shoulders, the boys ran out of town and far into the mountain foothills -- chasing after a caravan of gypsies slowly rolling toward the Western Lands.
Seeing the boys run after them, the King of the Gypsies raised his gnarled hand from the forward wagon. The music and the caravan stilled.
"Please, Gypsy King, may we explore the world with you?" asked one of the boys, a tall, lithe lad, while the other, runty boy huffed for breath.
The King looked back at the distant plains town, and at the protruding ribs of the boys, and knew neither had family that would care enough to retrieve them. Then he stared at the boys with a piercing green eye, and said, "But do you, my children, have the guts to be true explorers?"
The boys looked at each other in confusion, then the runty, breathless one gasped, "Test us, King! I am not scared!"
"But you should be, boy. You should be!" said the King, glowering down at the ragged twosome while fingering his gold earring.
The Gypsy King then lifted his great oaken staff, and pointed toward a high cleft in the mountains ahead.
"There lies the only pass to the West!"
He looked down at them, and then yelled above the blowing wind, "But in the pass lies a Dragon, whose breath burns! I have spells to keep the Dragon in slumber, but they shall not avail you today!"
"All, all who seek to join my kingdom must pass by the Dragon on cat's feet, and awaken him not. If I find you whole, and not a little pile of ash, on the other side of the pass, you are a true adventurer -- and will be welcome to join my clan and sit by my fire, as my son, forever under the stars."
The King's tattooed and white-bearded face then loomed baleful. "But, if you retreat to this side of the pass, it is homeward and hearth-bound for you, such as your home may be!"
"Now go! The Dragon begins to awake!" The Gypsy King gestured with his staff toward the mountain pass, his hair blowing wildly in rising gusts of warm wind.
The two boys looked up at the pass, saw rippling waves of heat billow from its jagged maw, and their tongues swelled and their knees knocked.
But the runty boy then shook himself like a wet dog, and ran ahead, calling, "Quickly, let's go now!"
Catching up to the smaller boy at the foot of the pass, the taller boy pulled him back, yelling past the howling, hot breath streaming from its great, rocky gap. "Wait! You can feel the hot breath of the Dragon, and you can hear it rushing out of his jaws!"
He stared into the slitted eyes of the runty boy. "That Gypsy King is sending us to our death! Maybe he has no spell to quiet the Dragon -- maybe we're his sacrifice to it! I wanted adventure, but not this!"
The runty boy stared up into the sweaty pallor of his playmate's face, and in that moment knew they would be parted forever. "What did you expect adventure was? Maybe it is death to run by the Dragon -- but I wanted adventure, not home!"
"And now I've got it!" And the runty little boy turned and dashed into the blowing chasm, and disappeared.
Crying for his friend, and fearful of being caught and murdered by the Gypsy King, the taller boy skirted the oncoming caravan, catching one glimpse of the King's frowning face as he ran back down the foothills for his home and hearth -- to live a somewhat boring, but fear-free, life as a farmer.
The caravan of the Gypsy King rolled on, into the blowing mountain pass, and disappeared from the Eastern Lands.
As the caravan's lead wagon, where sat the Gypsy King, rounded the last bend of the pass, the hot wind of the Western Desert blew ferociously past him. And there, in the middle of the path, stood the little runty boy, staring down at the great desert, arms raised to the warm blast of air, his ragged clothes whipping madly about him.
The child turned to see his new father, the King, and yelled in joy.
Thus, explore your emotion -- for it also is your teacher.
January 26, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the explorers among us.
The Has-been, The Will-be
And these twin sisters were very youthful. What regard needed they for the world?
But, as young persons are wont to do, once they grew in size and experience so too did they grow in spirit and ambition.
Soon thereafter they strode into the world to refashion it in the image of what they thought it should be -- the first as a lawyer and judge, the second as a businesswoman.
Yet, as the years of their lives piled up like falling leaves, the sisters, once identical, became very different.
Walking in the city park, the judge, now advanced in years and just-retired from the bench, muttered to her sister, "I dreamed of one day being a political leader, and passing laws to help our city. But I never risked it, and it'll never happen now. I'm just an old has-been!"
She sagged with this confession, her face weighted down by each one of many years of regret.
Her twin sister's eyes glowed within the ashen kindling of her wrinkled brows.
"Sis, I just retired, too! The bums on my company's Board of Directors tossed me out on my wrinkled old butt!"
But she then spryly cackled, her face turning into the wind, white hair blowing from her lined face, and, raising her arms, yelled at the day.
"But I'm starting a new company! And this one will be a non-profit charity!"
She then poked her amazed sister in the ribs.
"And you, you old hag, isn't it time you put your name on the voters' ballot?"
Thus, you aren't a "has-been" until you surrender your final dream.
January 19, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Remora, The Ray
Fathomless was the ocean wherein lived a Remora and a Ray.
The Remora was a thin little fish, and, fearing to sound the depths of the ocean, it used a sucker on its forehead to hitch a ride -- upon the ghostly belly of a fearsome, great white shark, to whom it was way too small to bother eating.
Wherever the shark roamed, there too dangled the Remora.
Whatever the shark ate, underneath it was the Remora -- to scoop up its leavings, pick off its skin parasites, or swallow the glistening krill that billowed up from undersea rivers with each great thrust of the shark's tailfin.
So did the Remora live a long and somewhat comfortable life, stuck to the belly of another.
But sometimes, the Remora confessed to itself, it despaired of the view above.
In those same salty seas swam the Ray -- a thin fish from one view, but quite wide from another.
It swam free and sounded the blackest depths of the ocean, gliding along the silty bottom as if a wing in air -- using its strength, and its stinger, to postpone that sudden fate which befalls us all.
So did the Ray, in its equally long life, travel only where it pleased and eat only what it pleased.
And, most satisfying of all, the view above was vast and endless.
Thus, you are responsible for your own happiness.
January 12, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton.
The Bettor, The Player
Jovial little towns spackle the Deep South, but one was more spackled than most - for there was held a spitting contest.
Men and women swilled up black coffee or, if they could stand the stink, tobacco spit, placed two fingers to their mouths as if they held an invisible cigarette, and jetted streams of black fluid into the air -- to splat, they prayed, a far piece down a long sheet of virgin white newspaper roll.
Two old men sat nearby in green-and-white checkered lawn chairs during the team play, betting on which team would pull off a win.
"Yer team ain't got no chance," one yelled to the other, "'cuz they all little boys an' girls!"
"Yeahup," agreed the second old man, resigned. He then shrugged his shoulders, slowly stood up with his crooked old back and bowed old legs, and shuffled off.
Only later, when the first old man saw the second old-timer shuffle up to a new paper roll, with a team number safety-pinned on his sunken chest, right below his scrawny chicken-neck -- and when he saw that old, bent twig of a man arch back at his knees and spew a chaw so far off the chart that the crowd screamed in delight -- did the first old man realize that he'd lost his bet.
And that it was time for him, too, to get off his old butt -- and put his mouth where his money was.
Thus, do one thing, and you've done something.
January 5, 2008, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2008 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to you who do a new thing this new year.
The Human, The Sentient
One day a human looked up into the zenith of the heavens, arcing above her blue and green-swathed Earth.
She saw a small, cloudy galaxy far, far away -- Canis Major, pulled along like a puppy on a leash of a billion stars.
The human felt a lonesome chill in her heart, and heard a distant voice calling to her -- and wondered, "Is there anybody out there?" She devoted her life to listening to the radioed songs of the spheres -- listening for but one word, one tune, one message.
And she pointed her antennae to Canis Major.
But there was only silence.
One day, a million years hence, a sentient will look up into the zenith of the heavens, arcing above its small, blue and red-swathed world.
It will see a huge galaxy spiraling above it, so, so close -- the Milky Way, pulling its own galaxy into her vast, slow embrace.
The sentient will feel a lonesome chill in its center, and hear a distant voice calling to it -- and wonder, "Is there anybody out there?" It will devote its life to listening to the radioed songs of the spheres -- listening for but one word, one tune, one message.
And it will point its antennae into the arms of the Milky Way.
And shall hear.
Thus, we are not alone, and we have a purpose.
Parable of the Year, New Year's Eve, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton. The Parable of the Year is dedicated to SETI (The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and to the memory of its greatest proponent, Carl Sagan; to Louis Leakey's Angels -- Jane Goodall, Biruté Galdikas, and the memory of Dian Fossey, who have fought to save humanity's closest cousins; to David Brin, and Al Gore, who have revealed new possibilities; and to all who fight for sapient life's noble future. May all who did well now rest, and may all the rest now do well.
The Spectator, The Participant
Two men each had a small, black-and-white television set.
On their TVs they watched the happenings of the day -- slippered feet perched upon cushions, hands dipped in bowls of pretzels and popcorn, potato chips and onion dip.
And the years changed only the size of their bellies.
Then, one day, the news channels showed the death of one hundred thousand souls in a far distant land -- due simply to a lack of water purifiers.
Sitting on their couches, both men watched the carnage and misery on their small, black-and-white TV sets -- and they each stood up, put on their pants, combed their hair, and walked out of their apartments.
Later that day, both returned home.
The first, carrying a wide-screen color TV.
The second, carrying five hundred water filters and a plane ticket to a far distant land.
Thus, live life -- not witness it.
December 21, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to you who give of yourselves or the bounty you create.
The Resigned, The Revolutionary
Born into poverty, near the army base of an invading power, were two sisters.
Without food, their parents forced them to prostitute themselves for money to feed the family.
One sister, pulling at her filthy dress and twisting a strand of oily hair, whispered to the other, "I know you hate this. I do too!" But the glint of hatred in her eyes faded into dullness, and her head dropped.
"This is how the world has always been," she sighed.
But her sister stood and gazed with determination at her downtrodden sibling. "Sister," she replied, "our world is what we make of it!"
She then belted her rancid smock, leaned down and kissed the bowed head of her sister, and grabbed her only pair of shoes - one black, one brown.
"I love you, my sister, but no more will I feed my parents with my own body."
"Today, I begin a new world for women like you and me!"
And she marched out of her brothel -- and into other brothels, and schools and churches, in all the neighboring villages -- to recruit those like her to become resistors, educators, employers, and politicians.
To so change the world in her image.
Thus, revolution begins with one turn.
December 14, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Minnow, The Salmon
From a mountain spring burst the Water of Life, flowing to the grey, salty ocean far below.
Over rocks and valleys the living water split into endless cascades, and each cascade was unique unto itself.
But all still rushed down toward the grey, quiet horizon.
One moment, in one such cascade, was born a Minnow. Briefly the brightly colored Minnow tarried in a small eddy, but soon was caught up in the mighty rush of water and hurtled down into the grey ocean, and was lost.
Also in that moment, in another such cascade, was born a Salmon. But the brightly colored Salmon did not drift downward with the rushing waters. It skipped and leaped up and across, from cascade to cascade.
Although the living water in which it was conceived rushed without cease to the grey ocean, the bright Salmon continued on.
Thus, do not let your ideas die with you -- let them leap.
December 7, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Fist, The Hand
A great commander assembled his lieutenants for war.
One lieutenant asked him, "Sir, your former compatriot and long-since foe has offered parley upon the plain of battle. Shouldn't we respond to his overture?"
"From this enemy? No," the commander replied.
Confused, the lieutenant asked why.
"You are new to my staff, are you not?" The commander rose from the head of the conference table, gesturing to the lieutenant to also stand, then walked around the table to him.
The commander reached down to the table, plucked an almond from a silver dish full of nuts, and offered it to the lieutenant.
"Have an almond, lieutenant."
As the lieutenant looked down and picked the nut from the commander's extended palm, the commander asked him, "How do you know when a former friend has become your implacable enemy?"
The lieutenant pondered, and then replied, "I don't know, sir."
"Eat your nut, lieutenant."
The lieutenant quickly popped it into his mouth and chewed it.
"You look hungry. Please, have another," the commander said as he picked up and extended to him a second almond.
But as the lieutenant reached out to take the second almond, the commander closed his palm around it into a fist -- which slowly reared back and then suddenly loomed in the lieutenant's surprised face.
The lieutenant found himself lying on his back on the carpet, blood dripping from one nostril down into his ear.
The commander dropped the nut, bent over him and solicitously reached down his open hand, saying, "Here, son, let me help you up."
But the lieutenant brushed away his hand.
The commander straightened, smiled with satisfaction, and said, "So, you do know, after all."
Thus, to become a fist, the open hand will first close.
November 30, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Retreat, The Charge
Dark thickets and ravines shrouded the countryside.
Toward this spectral wood ran two young sisters, on an urgent task from the town to carry medicine to their grandmama.
But upon hearing a hooting owl and the rustling of animals in the murky undergrowth beneath the old, gnarled trees, the sisters skidded to a halt and froze, faces blanching.
Beyond lay only mist.
The elder sister, eyes wide and voice trembling, grasped at her younger sister's tiny hand and murmured, "We must turn back and walk around this woods!"
A hiss like the quenching of fired metal burst from her little sister's pursed lips.
"No!" she replied, with steel in her eyes and voice. "That was just an owl, and that rustling was probably rabbits!"
She stood rapier-straight.
"Our grandmama is ill! This is the only way to get the medicine to her fast!"
"I won't go, not this way!" the older sister cried. "Maybe we can search for another way through or around?"
"You know there's only one way!" the younger sister said with finality, and urgently reached for the medicine.
As her big sister, stomach clenched from fear and indecision, passed her the small package, the young girl held it close to her chest, took a deep breath, narrowed her eyes, and plunged into the dark woods to save her grandmama.
Thus, sometimes the only way out is through. -- via Robert Frost
November 23, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Years, The Momentum
Youth and elder, they found each other, joined by infirmity, sitting on a park bench.
In talking, they found they were both near the end of their days, from untreatable illnesses -- the old man's after a lifetime of traveling and seeing the world, and the young woman's after a brief time founding and working at a shelter for battered women and children.
The old man looked pityingly on the young woman, and asked her, "Don't you find it sad that you'll die so young? While I've lived so long traveling the world and seeing so much, that I've grown tired of it?"
The young woman looked at the old man with a small smile, placed her hand on the old man's shoulder, and then asked him, "Don't you find it sad that you'll die after so long a life spent as a spectator, without advancing even one other person's life?"
"Come! Work with me in the time we remain!"
Thus, measure your life not in years, but in momentum.
November 16, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Mite, The Flea
Pedagogue and Pupil strode an ancient acropolis above a teeming city.
One evening the Pupil, dismayed at his childish writings after a long day's lessons, pounded his fist on his robed thigh and asked, "Master, do our lives even matter? Are we not insignificant?"
The Pedagogue smiled, his cheeks and forehead crinkling, as he walked. He stopped and bent down to stroke the head of a passing puppy, and brushed his hand under the dog's belly. Then he held his hand up to his Pupil's face, illuminated in a wall's torchlight.
"Look in my hand," the Pedagogue said. "What do you see?"
The Pupil looked down at his master's open hand. "Master, I see nothing in your hand."
"Look closer," the Pedagogue replied.
The Pupil's nose almost touched his master's open palm. "Master, there's nothing there!"
The Pedagogue replied, "Did you not regard a Mite, chewing on a fleck from the dog's skin -- and a Flea, poised to leap?"
"No, Master," the Pupil replied.
Then the Pedagogue extended his hand, touched his Pupil's arm briefly, and pointed up to the darkening sky. "Regard the Cosmos, my Pupil."
The Pupil looked up and stared at the stars -- but sullenly, just as doubtful of the world's significance to the cosmos as of his significance to the world.
The Pupil jerked his head back down as something bit his arm. He peered at his skin in the torchlight, until he saw a tiny black speck -- the Flea, placed there by his Peripatetic mentor's touch -- digging into his skin.
The Pedagogue beamed, and said, "Now what do you see?"
Thus, like insects we seem insignificant -- until we puncture the skin of the World.
November 9, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Mousetrap, The Cheese
In the wall of a prim countryside cottage lived two mice.
One night, when the two-pawed giants lay sleeping in their quilted nests, the first mouse ventured out into the kitchen for breadcrumbs -- whereupon he espied a large hunk of cambozola.
There in the middle of the moonlit plain of linoleum tiles the cheese sat -- like an offering -- perched on a brass throne in the center of a raised, wooden dais.
Elation coursed through the mouse's little body like a crackling electric spark, sending his nose whiskers a'twitching.
"Oh," he thought to himself as he dashed up to the side of the white, blue-green marbled cheese, "life is so good!"
As his jaws clamped down on the wonderfully smelly cheese, the mousetrap upon which it sat sprung -- and, before he could have even one more fleeting, gullible thought, snapped all his thoughts off in an instant.
Another night, when the two-pawed giants again lay snoring in their nests, did the second mouse venture out onto the kitchen floor -- whereupon he too espied a large chunk of cambozola cheese, sitting on its brass throne and raised wooden dais.
The mouse dashed toward the cheese with elation coursing through his veins -- but then skidded to a halt before the dais, and pondered it.
"Oh," he thought to himself as he sniffed the cheese and the dais, "life is good -- perhaps too good? Where before there were only scattered breadcrumbs, now there is this, this offering? On this burnished throne? Of the smelliest, most wonderful of cheeses? And why does this wooden dais upon which it sits smell a bit like...soap and mouse pee?"
And so did the second mouse creep back from a fortune too cheesy to be true.
Thus, doubt is the beginning of truth.
November 2, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Proclaimer, The Achiever
Banners flapped in the breeze over the homes of two village weavers.
One weaver proclaimed to the whole village her great skill, and said she had in mind a cloak that would be as light as fog, a marvel to behold.
"As soon as I weave it, people shall come from miles away to stroke it and drape it over their shoulders, and I'll be famous throughout the land!"
The other weaver also had in mind a cloak of the finest weave and design, and too thought that people would come from miles to see and stroke it -- but she kept her silence, for, after all, she'd done nothing as yet.
The day soon came when the first weaver, swamped by the priorities of daily existence, and shunning the demands of her own dream, decided to continue loudly proclaiming her potential greatness, while postponing its birth for yet another year.
But on this same day, the other weaver, bursting with her secret dream, murmured, "Ah, to hell with busy work!"
She threw off her job, ate like a beggar, and wove.
With all her spirit, she wove the warp and weft of her soul.
And soon thereafter came the day when the first weaver gazed, dumbfounded, at a robe only she thought she could make, yet never had -- carried on the shoulders of the second weaver, who in turn was carried on the shoulders of all the villagers in celebration.
Thus, your ideas are not creations -- to be real, they must really be.
October 26, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Panda, The Roach
Zoo life became the most beautiful animal on Earth -- the Panda, who with a single coy glance melted the heart of any who chanced upon him; who with one tumbling pratfall made people burst into laughter and joy.
Yet deep in the rocks of the zoo enclosure also lived the ugliest animal on Earth -- the Roach, who by crawling onto the rocks to sun himself caused children and mothers to scream in distress; who by unfurling his buzzing wings and dangling abdomen made people burst into a dead run.
One day, the Panda came up to sniff the sunning Roach, and the Roach spread his antennae wide and said, "I wish I was like you! People would love me, and laugh when they see me! I would be so warm, and my carapace would be fuzzy, instead of shiny and smooth!"
The Panda laughed. "Hey! I was going to say the same thing!"
"What I wouldn't give to be like you!" the Panda mused, while chewing a bamboo husk. "I'd love to be able to put a scare in those people who stare at me all day! Their cooing gets on my nerves. And they laugh at me when I fall down! You never fall -- you have six legs! And I'd love to be able to fly up and away over their heads, and to eat other stuff in the dirt besides this stiff bamboo! And your carapace stays so glossy and clean, and here my fur is all yellow!"
In that moment the Panda and Roach saw each other in a new light. Both were perfect, after all - because both were the epitome of themselves.
Thus, be perfectly yourself.
October 19, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Caterpillar, The Butterfly
It was an insect who had no wings.
It longed to fly, like other beautiful insects it saw when it looked up into the clouds, but all it had ever known was anxiety -- and so it ate and ate, and grew so very fat.
"Oh, I will never fly now, nor ever be beautiful!" the insect cried, as it rolled and pitched precariously on a tiny twig, and munched a green leaf with its six little jaws. Its compound eyes scanned the heavens for a solution, but saw none there.
The poor insect grew still and cold in dismay, and then spun a silken hammock for itself to lie down in its misery. It was so anxious that it spun and spun the hammock around itself, until it shut away the entire world.
And then it cowered, and, so cowering, passed into insensate stupor.
So, much later, after time unknown to it had passed, was the insect more surprised than any other to awaken with a new purpose in its head and a new form for its body. It spread, dried and tested its newly grown multihued wings, and then, unfurling its coiled tongue and tasting for the first time the sweetness of the breeze, soared into the clouds -- alive anew.
Thus, who you are may be merely an incubator of who you can be.
October 11, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Cicada, The Beetle
Dawn rouged the pale bodies of two newborns - a Cicada and a Beetle.
The Cicada, a newly hatched but well-fed larva, dug a bed deep in the earth, and therein slept for seventeen years.
Arising on the moonlit night of a new millennium, he emerged from the Cocoon of the Earth reborn, with great rasping wings that shimmered like oil on still water.
Yet, as the Cicada flew into the night, he hurried about his business of finding a mate with desperation -- for, after sleeping most of his existence away, he had remaining to him but a few short weeks of life.
The Beetle as a pupa slept but a span of days, not years.
Arising on the first dark night after the gibbous moon, which had been a nightlight for his slumber, he emerged in armor as black and as sharp as volcanic glass.
Then he marched into the night, and to his business of building a home and winning a mate, with industry.
For he was young, strong, and the years of his future spread out wide and far beneath his armored feet.
Thus, better late than never -- but better earlier than late.
October 5, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Freeman, The Slave
As boys in the heart of summer, a freeman and a slave played together on a plantation.
The freeman child went on to a fine school and learned much about the world, while the young slave learned to read and write secretly, by moonlight.
As a grown man, the freeman returned to the cotton plantation of his childhood. Although his teachings conflicted with being a slave owner, he stifled his doubt and drove his father's slaves with a cane -- and a hardening heart. In night sweats, he cried out as he dreamed of what his slaves would do to him, were liberty to roost in the nest of their minds.
The slave saw the change in his boyhood friend, so told him nothing of the wonders of the world he'd read about in secret books brought to him by traders from beyond the plantation. Instead, as he learned what lay beyond the cotton fields, he taught his kin all he knew about right and wrong, and good and evil.
"The root of all evil," he said to them, "is refusing to think."
One day, the slave led an insurrection of his fellow slaves, and together they fled north along the Underground Railroad in search of freedom and a better life. With his farming skills and ability to read, write, and cipher, he one day became a prosperous farmer and family man, and by old age a lawyer and church deacon.
The freeman, however, had lost along with his slaves all they had known about running the plantation. He'd never bothered to learn how to run a farm, assuming all he'd ever need to know was how to run his slaves. So he was forced to sell off the plantation, acre by acre, to local small farmers, until he was left with nothing but an empty house.
Then he sat on an old rocking chair on his porch, and for the remaining years of his life drowned himself in whiskey and watched the paint flake from its eaves.
Thus, freedom is the well of reason, but one must drink from the well.
September 28, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Husband & Wife, The Spouses
Dwelling on the outskirts of a city, in a small cul-de-sac, was a loving family -- a husband and wife, their two children, and their pet dog.
Each morning, as the husband walked to his car to commute to work, he looked across their small cul-de-sac at the empty windows of a house for sale, and imagined what his future neighbors would be like.
"Hope they'll be nice," he thought to himself, "and that the husband plays golf!"
Each afternoon, as the wife picked up after their young son, daughter and poodle, she stared out her bay window's curtains at the vacant house across the way, and imagined her future neighbors.
"Oh, what if the wife likes to cook? We'll share all our best recipes!"
Each day, as the young son and daughter played in the front yard, they glanced across at the empty swing before the vacant house, and imagined what the neighboring children would be like.
"Maybe they'll let us use their swing!" the sister said to her brother.
Then, one day, the "For Sale" sign was gone.
The very next morning, a moving van arrived. The husband, wife, kids, and even the poodle stared out of their bay window at a station wagon that drove up to the new home, and from which a family poured out: a boy and a girl, their Scottish terrier, and their two parents -- who hugged, kissed and held each other arm-in-arm as they strolled up to their new home behind their scampering children.
The mouths of the husband and wife peering out from the bay window fell open.
The two parents of the new family were both women.
The husband and wife turned and stared at one another. They both began to frown.
But the slamming of their screen door jarred them from their stupor. Through the bay window they saw their kids and their poodle -- feet and paws flying -- dashing across the street to welcome their new playmates and their two mommies.
Thus, marriage is a voluntary union of sapients.
September 21, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the worldwide victims of so-called "Defense of Marriage" and other homophobic or anti-gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender legislation, and to civil rights judges -- heroes in black, not white, robes.
The Way of Taqlid, The Way of 'Aql
Proudly the tribe reigned over deserts white with sand and spotted with black pools of oil.
Although war had been thrust upon them since the grey dawn of history, until peace was a fleeting memory, among their number had lived mathematicians, astronomers, scientists and librarians -- who had saved the foundations of the Edifice of Man.
Yet, when Man learned to transmute the black oil into gold, and when the hearts of many claimed the garden from which all men arose, the land and the tribe were torn with strife 'ere unseen.
Two youths lived in that place and that time.
The first youth grew to hate all who, long before, had oppressed and driven out his people. Hearing the cries of zealous religious scholars for jihad, one sunrise after prayers he said to himself, "I will do as my scholars preach, for surely they know best, while I know so little."
Imitating so many before him, he strapped on a bomb and blew himself up inside a schoolyard, killing the children of his enemy.
Following the way of Taqlid to his murderous death, his face, in its last moment, was sadly alight with expectation.
The second youth also grew to hate his people's lot, yet saw the children of his oppressors in a different light -- as people like him, trapped by both circumstance and belief.
Whenever hatred and the call to jihad surged in his breast, he recalled the terror in the faces of not only their tribe's children but of the children of their enemy, and his struggle turned inward. He, too, prayed to Allah, but said to himself, "As the Prophet used the way of 'Aql -- of intellect and mind -- to restore our tribes to faith, so too must my shoulders carry the weight of interpreting his teachings; I must use my own intellect and mind."
"And my ijtihad, my inner struggle, tells me that murdering others is not the way to paradise, either here on earth or in the heavenly presence of Allah."
So did the second youth start a madrassa, which he named The Lifting of The Black Stone, to teach ways of peaceful cooperation and non-violent resistance taught by Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus, Muhammad, Sumayya, Bahá'u'lláh, Gandhi, King, Milk, Romero, Mandela, and Suu Kyi.
And his madrassa gradually restored to his people their once and future path of logic and questioning -- the only way to transform enemy into ally; the way of war through peace.
Thus, the true jihad is ijtihad. -- via Irshad Manji
September 11, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the victims of 9/11 and of fundamentalist terrorism.
The Apples, The Oranges
He was a great religious orator, a Preacher of a particular religion that claimed absolute salvation for all who shared its beliefs -- and absolute damnation for all who did not.
Yet as the right hand mirrors the left, so too was there a great philosophical orator, a Mentor of a particular philosophy that claimed regard for all -- without regard to their religious or non-religious beliefs.
One day the Preacher and the Mentor espied each other across a fruit bin at a food market.
With a baleful stare, the Preacher pointed his finger straight down and cried, "Repent! Believe in God, or be damned!"
The Mentor pondered, then picked up two fruits and replied, "And which God is that? The God of apples or the God of oranges?"
"My God!" cried the Preacher, aghast.
"Exactly the problem!" replied the Mentor, as he put first one, then the other, fruit in his basket. "How tart we'd become, on a diet of only oranges. How cloying, were our bellies filled just with applesauce, apple pie, apple juice."
The Mentor then gently placed a third fruit in the Preacher's basket. "And on your exclusive diet, oh how sour have your followers become!"
The Preacher glanced down at the fruit.
It was a lemon.
Thus, religion is a garden of the spirit, to be tended in all its diversity.
September 7, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Slave, The Gladiator
Colonnades, now broken and mouldy, gleamed pink rose in the Rome where lived a slave and a wounded gladiator.
Both men had been sentenced to the arena, wherein prowled hungry lions.
They were sentenced to be the lions' food.
As they stood before the metal gate shortly to open into the arena, the slave grasped the gladiator's one good arm, looked up into his face, and yelled through the deafening roar of the crowd, "I shall kneel and show my neck, so that the lions will be able to kill me with one swift bite."
The gladiator frowned down at him. "But you gain your freedom if you pick up a sword and slay or make lame the lions!" he said. "The way your grasp is cutting off the blood to my one good arm, it is clear you have two strong hands to my one -- and you are short enough to stab the lions under their bellies. Why would you not fight for your life, and for happiness?"
"I am puny, and would never succeed! My last moments on earth would be spent hearing roars of laughter louder than the roars of the lions!" the slave cried.
"But only the Gods know our fate if we pick up the sword, little friend -- and even They might wager on us!" The gladiator laughed, and gently freed his good arm. "So I, for one, am going out to slay some lions!"
And the gate lifted.
Thus, you are a fighter by design -- and a slave only by choice.
August 31, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Pond Dwellers, The Platypus
Say God had a Claw.
If He skewered the pond with that mighty Claw, It'd poke out the other side of the world -- on the island continent from whence the Platypus came.
Ask the Platypus how he came to be in this woodland pond so far from home, he'd clap his duckbill a few times, and a silent tear would trickle down his furry face.
But one bright day, he shook off the dew beaded on his oily-smooth coat and scuttled over the muddy shoreline to greet a gaggle of wood ducks -- although they were known throughout the pond for being hoity-toity.
"Hullo!" the Platypus croaked, in a voice not unlike a toad's.
The wood ducks just stared at first, at the rubbery grey bill, furry little brown head and body, beaver tail and absurd clawed, webbed feet. Then they laughed.
"Look at him! Fur instead of bright feathers! What a duck is he!"
But the Platypus smiled, turned and dove into the very deepest part of the pond.
After being submerged so long that the ducks gaggled about the poor, clownish creature having drown'd, the Platypus burst back out of the water onto the banks -- and from his big grey bill dropped a huge, delicious salad of slimy greens and tadpole garnish.
And so the wood ducks became his fast friends.
Then one rainy day, the Platypus left his new friends and scuttled over to greet some beavers, busily constructing a mud and twig hut.
"Hullo!" the Platypus croaked, accompanying his greeting with a nice, gooshy slap of his beaver-tail on the soft mud.
The beavers turned from their work and chortled at the vision of this tiny beaver who possessed, beneath his earnest little face, no bright yellow teeth, but a duck's bill glued on his mouth.
"Go lay an egg, duck boy!" they cried.
But the Platypus smiled, reached toward a bush and with a quick snick of his sharp claws severed a huge stick. Breaking it in two with his strong little furry arms, he spun around to scoop a wad of mud with his flat tail, and tossed both the sticks and the mudball high over the beavers' heads -- to plop solidly onto the growing rim of their beaver hut.
The beavers stared at the well-platted lump of new wall, then turned back to the Platypus -- and in unison slapped their tails in welcome.
And so both the haughty wood ducks and the crude, muddy beavers became the Platypus' fast friends.
And one pink, foggy dawn, the Platypus brought them all together for a backwoods hoe-down -- where all day and into the moonlit night was heard a joyous chorale of quacks and thumping percussion.
Thus, if you are in between, be a bridge.
August 24, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Feather, The Wing
House sparrows spent their days in search of seeds to fill their busy bellies.
One sparrow spread his smooth, brown wings and flitted from tree to tree -- his masked face and black pearl eyes espying the backyards below him.
But the other sparrow hopped along the ground, wings tucked, in search of his food.
The first sparrow, observing the second, called down, "Hey! Hey! Hey, you!"
"Why don't you spread your wings and fly, instead of hopping on your claws?"
The second sparrow looked up at him and said, "Hey you, too! Here's why!"
And the second bird opened his wings to reveal a set of sorry-looking, ruffled feathers.
So misaligned were they, that the wing they fashioned wasn't sturdy enough in catching the air to easily lift a fat -- or even so much as a thin -- sparrow.
"I can barely reach the lowest tree branches with these feathers," the second sparrow sighed. "They just don't fit right."
He refolded his ragged wing-feathers, shrugged his little, stooped sparrow shoulders, and cocked his head.
"So, I live under the bushes and hop to my food."
Thus, make sure each of your wing-feathers fit together, or you will not soar.
August 17, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Forest, The Prairie
Ere the passing of the Ice Age thirty thousand years before, the tribe had lived in the great forest.
A young warrior of the tribe often leapt upon the bare back of his appaloosa to explore the meandering rivers, valleys and hills of the forest.
He felt the rough, smooth or flaking bark -- and peered at the unique lobes and spikes on the leaves -- of uncounted trees, all well-met friends.
Then, one day, roaming further than ever he had before into the dim forest undergrowth, he saw, from the east, daylight penetrate the trunks of the entire forest -- and was afraid.
Slowly, he nudged his horse eastward.
The great arches of the trees slowly separated, no longer meeting in the sky to make a bower over his head, but only reaching for each other like parted lovers.
Onward the warrior went, until, far ahead, he saw the trees simply stop -- and beyond, brilliant daylight.
So did the warrior come to the eastern edge of the great forest.
He stopped under the last of the trees, and, from their shade, gazed out at a sight he'd never before seen, nor ever imagined.
A golden prairie, vast and unending.
And a robin's-egg sky, vaulting far above the pale daylight moon.
The young warrior saw the true measure of his little forest, and his little life, and laughed while he cried.
Then, with a leap of his heart and a stroke upon the tossing mane of his appaloosa, he galloped into the Golden.
Thus, the mind is distracted by its own clutter -- to see far, leave it behind.
August 10, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Thundercloud, The Rainbow
In a virgin land, mountains loomed over deep valleys. Yet above even the tallest of these mountains marched great, stately columns of clouds -- and often their feet grew dirty.
In this land, deep in the valleys of great shadows, lived two young girls of a creek-side tribe.
When the feet of the great clouds turned black from striding over the mountains, the two girls sat together, holding at bay one another's trembling, while lightning and rain whipped the earth before them -- until the clouds had stepped over their small valley, on into the eastern mesas.
One day, the first young girl said to her friend, "I've heard of a wondrous thing!"
"It is said if one climbs to the rim of the mesas at daybreak and turns to face the greatest of thunderclouds, that, right before the torrent strikes you, you will see above the valley a circle of light. And it will shine in every color of the earth, sea and sky!"
The other girl replied, "So too have I heard this!"
But her head dropped. "Yet, to see this thing, one must stand before the tumult, and walk through it home!"
"We shall do it!" the first girl exclaimed.
But the second girl only shook her head.
"No. You must go alone. I am too afraid of the lightning and the thunder, of the winds and the rain."
And so, in the dark before dawn, when black-foot clouds strode over the western peaks and the air whipped and rumbled with the giants' wet breath, the first young girl silently donned her moccasins, a small pack of food, and her poncho of oiled buffalo hide, and stepped out from her teepee.
Hearing a footfall, she turned and stared into the face of her friend.
"When you return, will you tell me of the circle of colors?" her friend asked.
The young explorer's eyes glinted with the last of the moon.
Thus, you must drink from the cup of dreams, or from the cup of regret.
August 3, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton. Dedicated to the victims of the I-35W collapse, who each were on their journey.
The Three-Legged Stool, The Four-Legged Stool
Carpenters ran neighboring shops in a small village courtyard.
One carpenter, a well-to-do man, fashioned a satin-cushioned stool with three legs. It was lustrous, with ornate frill and spindly, curved legs -- and all who came to see it in his fancy shop window applauded its great beauty.
The other carpenter, a poorer and much less talkative man, had also fashioned a stool, but with four legs. It was boxy, much like a straight wooden chair with no back -- and all who walked by where it sat on the stoop of the second carpenter's shop ignored it, or whispered, "That poor carpenter is so boring and old-fashioned!"
Yet one day, the Chieftain, with his young prince in tow, came to the village to shop -- and all the villagers peered over each other's shoulders as the entourage marched into the courtyard of the two carpenters.
The Chieftain glanced at the rich carpenter, who, surrounded by the villagers, genuflected deeply as he gestured expectantly at the gilded, three-legged stool in the shop window.
Then the Chieftain looked at the poor carpenter, who stood alone in his shop's doorway -- and at his thick, boxy, four-legged stool.
"Which stool do you want, my son?" asked the Chieftain, turning to look down to his young boy.
"Oh, the pretty one, Father!" exclaimed the young prince.
As the crowd applauded the young prince, the Chieftain said, "Bring out the stool for my son!" The first carpenter went into his shop window, lifted out his ornate, three-legged stool from its glass enclosure, and placed it before the prince.
"Bring out that one, too!" said the Chieftain, pointing at the unadorned, wooden four-legged stool. As the crowd laughed at his drab stool, the second carpenter reached down and placed it before the young prince.
"My son," said the Chieftain, "sit on your stool."
And thus did the prince hop onto his gracefully-made, upholstered, three-legged stool, and fall flat onto his backside as the stool toppled over.
As the crowd murmured, the Chieftain reached his hand down to his son, raised him up, and brushed off the dirt from his satin-robed bottom.
"My son," he said gently, "now try this other stool."
The prince sat on the other stool gingerly, then began trying to rock it over, but it was so boxy that it refused even to wobble.
"Father, this stool isn't pretty, but it works! I want this one!"
The Chieftain smiled at his heir for the lesson he'd won that day -- and rewarded the nervous first carpenter with his thanks, but the second carpenter with his gold.
Thus, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but usefulness is not.
July 27, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Wolf Pack, The Lone Wolf
They lived to roam the hills of the midnight sun.
Together the wolf pack loped across the tundra in pursuit of adventure, and of prey. Their gazes darted back and forth among themselves, their hearts and thoughts in unison, their baying a chorus.
The pack was merciless to those wolves who, from the grey blush of age or the loss of vigor, fell behind. It turned upon them and rendered them, devouring their flesh, before running onward.
But one Lone Wolf was the strongest and most fearless of them all. Farthest-seeing, tallest-eared and keenest-nosed, he raced like the blowing wind, and leapt ahead of the pack, running free into lands far beyond the horizon.
In winter's long night, he called back to his mates, in a long, solitary howl, of the visions he had seen. And yet he ran onward, far, far ahead of the pack.
So did the time come when the Lone Wolf stopped -- to wait for the pack to catch up to him, to tell them of his visions and adventures.
As he saw the pack approach in the low-hanging moonlight, over the distant hills behind him, and heard their baying, his breath quickened, and he loped toward them in joyful homecoming.
But as he approached, the pack fell on him.
And rendered him, devouring his flesh.
Then, in uncaring ignorance of the visions that lay ahead, the pride of wolves ran on.
Thus, the pack cares not whether you run behind or ahead of it -- only that you run apart.
July 20, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Fog, The Sun
Amid the ruins of a castle on a moor lived an old hermit and his young pupil.
One day the fog lay on the moor like a spent lover, and all was grey.
"See you the lowering fog, boy?" asked the hermit.
"Aye," replied the boy, "I can spy nary a foot beyond our keep, teacher."
Then his teacher asked, "And how is this fog like the lives of men?"
The boy pondered, then replied, "Teacher, I know many a man and woman, 'tis true, who can see no further in front o' their faces than we do now."
"Indeed!" the old man laughed. "But then, young one, what be the Sun that burns away the fog to show our far horizons?"
To this the boy only shook his head.
Gently the old hermit reached out with one long, withered finger, and tapped at the boy's forehead, and the boy felt the hermit's touch as if it were a droplet of flame.
"Here is your Sun, boy. Here is your Sun."
Thus, reason can lead to meaning and purpose -- by burning away the fog that lies ahead.
July 13, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.
The Dodo, The Crow
In a verdant field surrounding a farm lived a Dodo and a Crow.
One year the farmland was sold. The Dodo and the Crow watched in silence from nearby bushes, while the old farmer glanced about at his past, stared down into his future, then slapped his straw hat against his leg like a horsewhip and walked away.
Soon came a horde of earthmovers crawling with construction workers, who ripped up the crops, trees and wild underbrush -- to build a parking lot and tract homes.
The Dodo ran about in circles. It squawked disconsolately when it saw its nest crushed by a tractor, leaving no underbrush to build anew. That night the cold winds came, and, to put the squawking Dodo out of its misery, a crew worker impulsively bashed in its head with his shovel.
The Crow, too, lost its treetop nest the very next day. As the gnarled old oak fell and was chipped into mulch by workers, the Crow circled, a cruciform spectre, in the desolate sky. But, unlike the Dodo, the Crow set out the next day to build a new nest, where he could -- in the very top of the riggings used by the construction workers. With the crops all now laid waste, the Crow consumed the bodies of the shrews and mice uprooted from their nests and crushed under foot or wheel.
So did the Dodo find a new way to die, and the Crow find a new way to live.
Thus, the erasing of one path limns another.
July 4, 2007, excerpt from The Parables of Reason (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), Copyright © 2007 by Frank H. Burton.