Fables for Leaders includes 100+ short stories of talking animals and trees…. and my ruminations on each. I emphasize the philosophical and ethical aspects in these stories – from across the centuries - to my own on-the-job experiences, - successes and failures - and relate them to our contemporary behavior and decision-making. We relate to stories, we remember stories, and these fable stories may help in thinking through and solving, in untraditional ways, problems on the job.” Whimsical illustrations by international artist and paper cutter, Béatrice Coron, capture the charm of this ancient literature and add to its comprehension and enjoyment. Each entry -in 7 chapters- sets forth the original fable followed by Lubans’ commentary. And, many fable feature a “My Thoughts” space to explore how this fable relates to the reader. The seven chapter heads: “Us and them” “Office politics” “The Organization” “Problems” “Budgeting and strategic planning” “The effective follower” “The effective leader”. Topical sub-heads include: “Perspective makes a difference” “Where is the cooperation?” “Hiring decisions” “Performance appraisal” “Pretenders” “Kindness, loyalty and respect for the boss…or not” “Have you heard of the Tall Poppy?” “Gossip and envy” “Are you leading or am I following?” Etc.



Krylov’s THE MUSICIANS*

Posted by jlubans on May 04, 2021  •  Leave comment (0)

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A CERTAIN man invited a neighbor to dinner, not without an ulterior purpose.
He was fond of music, and he entrapped his neighbour into his house to listen to his choir.
The honest fellows began to sing, each on his own account, and each with all his might.
The guest's ears began to split, and his head to turn.
"Have pity on me!" he exclaimed, in amazement.
“What can any one like in all this ? Why, your choristers bawl like madmen."
“It's quite true," replied the host, with feeling.
“They do flay one's ears just a trifle. But, on the other hand,
they are all of irreproachable behaviour, and they never touch a drop of intoxicating liquor.”
But, I say, in my opinion you had better drink a little, if needs be: only take care to understand your business thoroughly.
Another translation offers this for the above moral:
Better to drink a bit, I say.
But do things the right way.”

________________
Like karaoke - which I am told gets better the more drinks consumed – the neighbor suggests the impresario stop excluding choristers who drink.
If they drink but sing magnificently, take the latter and worry less about the former.
If a teetotaler can’t sing, why have him or her in the choir?
So, it can be at work.
We may have a co-worker with an annoying habit or shortcoming, but if he or she is a good worker, a team player, say “So, what?”

*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869

If you liked this fable, there’s more! Buy this book and get a hundred workplace fables:

And, don’t forget my book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle is available at Amazon.

© Copyright all text John Lubans 2021

E-spinach & the Wood Wide Web

Posted by jlubans on April 30, 2021  •  Leave comment (0)

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A recent headline declared, “Scientists Taught Spinach How to Send Emails to Help Fight Climate Change!”
That declaration suggested to me (and maybe Popeye) a suddenly sentient spinach, its tiny roots tapping out texts!
Regardless of the hyperbole, the spinach story did get me thinking about something called the Wood Wide Web, aka WWW.
And, in turn, that moved me to think about Complexity Theory, a topic I sometimes try to teach in my management classes.
Complexity theory applies to systems that exhibit “non trivial emergent and self-organizing behaviors.” In other words, something happens in the system with no boss to dictate behavior or make decisions.
The theory holds that leaderless groups can indeed thrive and survive; e. g. the self-organizing World Wide Web operates with simple rules and no central control resulting in highly complex collective behavior.
While the spinach research makes no claims to complexity (i.e. a root system linked with other vegetables in nearby fields), the researchers have indeed created a new method for detecting major changes in our climate via spinach root systems.
According to the study, when spinach roots detect certain soil compounds they can send a signal to an infrared camera, which then triggers an email alert to scientists.
The Wood Wide Web is very much a complex system. The buried roots of trees and fungi in the soil cooperate and communicate back and forth.
Forestry researcher Suzanne Simard - by injecting fir trees with radioactive carbon isotopes (!) - ultimately showed how fungi and tree roots collaborate for each other’s benefit, an underground “network” of relationships, a mutualism.
She asserted that fungi and roots ‘forged their duality into a oneness, thereby making a forest’, a ‘co-operative system’.” Trees ‘talk’ to one another, resulting in a collaborative intelligence, a ‘forest wisdom’.
It is claimed that older trees even ‘nurture’ smaller trees that they recognize as their ‘kin’, acting as ‘mothers’.
While her tie-dye speak may be akin to the spinach email hyperbole or Silicone Valley’s hyperventilating about “singularity” – I too have been known to ascribe human qualities to trees and have even hugged one or two.
Indeed my fable, “The Fallen Tree”, embraces “forest wisdom”.
Perhaps more of a genuine mutualism and complexity can be see among starling murmuration
in which thousands of starlings a-wing make impromptu yet coordinated evasive movements to discourage predators.
But, and this is a big but, all may not be sanguine in leaderless systems.
An already noted, just like the human workplace, the WoodWW is a competition – not solely a collaborative mutualism.
A BBC News video helps explains the difference between the wish and the reality of the WoodWW, how some trees and fungi benefit by sharing nutrients and signals, and how some trees take more than they give.
What looks like mutualism is actually a closely played competition.
As one researcher put it, “For every birch donating carbon to its fir neighbors, there’s an orchid stealing carbon from nearby trees. For every plant that informs others of a disease outbreak, another sends out toxins to kill its rivals".
Sounds like the last place I worked!
Most of us want to cooperate – it comes naturally to humans - but genuine collaboration takes work to avoid imbalance; it takes sacrifice and not always getting what you want.
This is where leadership matters.
As for the Internet, by leadership I am not talking about an executive council or dictator to regulate the Internet.
What’s needed is for the producers and consumers (US -you and me) of content to lead in letting the platforms know we are not going along.
If you don’t like Facebook (for umpteen reasons), stop giving them content.
If you are offended by the egregious censorship on Twitter, stop tweeting.
If you are tired of Google’s money grubbing ad biz and its skewed search results, use another search engine or go to the library and ask a trustworthy librarian.
If you are offended by Amazon’s “book-burning”, go to another vendor.
Apply your opting out to any and all Internet participants who assert they know best.
Remember, the Internet is us.

--------
Only two days left.
Leading from the Middle: Changing approaches to library leadership and communication,” offered May 3-28, 2021.
Presenters:
Lyda Fontes McCartin, Interim Director, Center for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning, University of Northern Colorado
&
Andrea Falcone, Dean, Steely Library; Northern Kentucky University,
I have no connection with this class, but it looks interesting since the title is identical to my book from 2010, Leading from the Middle.

© Copyright all text John Lubans 2021

Babrius’ THE DOG AND HIS MASTER*

Posted by jlubans on April 15, 2021  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption. Bridger in “Come on, let’s go!” mode.

A CERTAIN Man was setting out on a journey, when, seeing his Dog standing at the door, he cried out to him,
"What are you gaping about?
Get ready to come with me."
The Dog, wagging his tail, said, "I am all right. Master; it is you who have to pack up."
____________

This will be the third time I’ve written about this fable. You can see the 2012 version here
and the 2016 one here.
To set the scene for 2021:
Should I stay or should I go?
I was on tenterhooks, as they say.
Well, as much as a tranquil personality like mine can be.
I had a new boss.
My previous boss - the one who hired me – had been pushed aside by his new boss and the governing board.
Prior to his departure, he told me that there were people on the board who, at the urging of an outside consultant, wanted me gone.
This consultant had engineered my boss’ early retirement.
The board left it up to the new leader to drop the hammer on me.
So, would the new boss give me the boot?
Remarkably, I did not get fired.
Another leader – a less ethical one - in the same situation would likely have pulled the plug to score points.
Instead, the new boss focused on pulling the organization out of its well-worn ruts: “We’ve always done it this way!”
It would be a labor worthy of Hercules.
My ideas for the organization aligned with those of the new boss.
Predictably, these ideas conflicted with my peers stuck in the status quo, namely, that our problem was not stodginess, it was a lack of staff. “All we need is MORE”, they crooned.
One day my boss called me aside and asked if I was up for a challenge.
He told me I was a “bent reed”, bent toward his way of doing things.
In other words, I probably could learn to do things his way.
I would have appreciated a different metaphor, indeed another fable. Instead of alluding to the “Tree and the Reed” he could have used the present fable.
Yes, I was that dog at the door, barking: “I’m ready, let’s get going!'”
Remember, an effective follower like me thinks independently and believes in his or her vision just as much as any effective leader.
While the bent reed allusion didn’t make me feel warm all over, it sure beat being fired!
Subsequently, he asked me to lead and turn around the most recalcitrant departments. Their excessive pride and an inflexible bureaucratic mindset had pretty much painted a target on their backs.
Earlier calls for simplification invariably were met with additional layers of complexity resulting in more bottlenecks, backlogs and alienated clients.
I was not certain I had the expertise to unravel this mess, but, lo and behold, his choosing me proved to be brilliant.
I was no “expert” so I was unafraid to ask the people doing the work for their help.
Nor, as he insightfully surmised, did I have the hubris of my predecessors who believed it was their birth-right to dictate solutions.
So, I took a collaborative approach (it's called letting go) and gave the staff free rein to innovate and to implement long delayed changes. In short, tons of positive results.

*Source: Babrius, Fable 110 translated by Thomas James in Cooper, Frederic Taber, editor (1864-1937), “An argosy of fables; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land”. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1921.

If you liked this fable, there’s more! Buy this book and get a hundred workplace relevant fables:

And, don’t forget my book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle is available at Amazon.

© Copyright all text and photo John Lubans 2021

Joie de Vivre

Posted by jlubans on April 11, 2021  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Photo by John Lubans July 2013, Riga, Latvia.

Our kitchen window overlooks Salem’s downtown, including a large bank building. At quitting time, a parade of office workers streams forth.
Recently, a couple of young women – in their work clothes - were walking toward the parking lot. One began to dance, a graceful move, more waltz than Watusi.
Her friend responded with a similar, but different, step.
Obviously, they were happy to be done for the day or, maybe, they had somewhere fun to go.
That bit of exuberant joy – which continued all the way to their car - took me back to 2013, to an open air sports stadium where hundreds of folk-dance groups were performing.
It was the outdoor dance venue for the quinquennial Song and Dance Festival in Riga, Latvia which celebrates national song, dance, music, theater, art and crafts with approximately 40,000 performers.
The above photo is of two of the thousands of folk dancers. They were taking a victory lap around the track at performance’s end. Who would ever think from this photo of the soaking rainstorm half way through the festival that poured down for a half hour; yet, without hesitation, the performers danced through the rain and the puddles on the turf?
The beatific, beaming expression on their faces, brings to mind the joy we can find in a job well done - of “nailing it” – in solidarity with others in the human community, with people we like, achieving something greater than what we could do alone.
Latvians, as introverted as any of the three Baltic nations, rarely smile in public. The joke that’s told is that their non-stop smiling during the five-day song and dance festival
uses up their smile rations until the next festival!
There’s another, darker interpretation for the grim faces; it’s how you learn to look during 50 years of communist rule.
I think I could make an argument that the photo is an example of “flow”, that state of being when we derive great satisfaction in a doing a good job and doing it masterfully.
Our exuberance overflows.
When I ran long distance – without any aches or pains – I rejoiced in the physicality of my movement, of my gliding effortlessly (so it seemed) over hill and dale, the wind against my face, full out under the open sky.

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Caption: Detail, photo by John Lubans, 2013, Riga, Latvia.

Click to buy:

And, my book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle, while not discounted, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright all text and photos John Lubans 2021

Babrius’ THE MOUSE AND THE BULL*

Posted by jlubans on April 06, 2021  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: The Mouse (in a hole in the Wall) taunts the bull

A BULL was bitten by a Mouse, and, pained by the wound, tried to capture him.
The Mouse first reached his hole in safety, and the Bull dug into the walls with his horns, until wearied, crouching down, he slept by the hole.
The Mouse peeping out, crept furtively up his flank, and, again biting him, retreated to his hole. The Bull rising up, and not knowing what to do, was sadly perplexed.
The Mouse murmured forth, "The great do not always prevail.
There are times when the small and lowly are the strongest to do mischief."
__________
Here the wee mousie puts one over on Ferdinand the Bull.
How does this apply to the workplace?
With just a little imagination - and my magic wand - I can relate that sanctuary Wall to a few experiences I have had with HR.
Ever seeking to avoid law suits and an organization’s embarrassment, HR sometimes produces rules and regs that stymie administrators from moving out or even disciplining ineffective people.
Like the mouse, these folks quickly learn they are safe in the HR constructed wall and that only self-sabotage or a cash payment will un-lodge them.
Yes, yes, I know HRs intentions are noble and well-intended and meant to protect employees from capricious administrators (like me).
Alas, sometimes those layers of protection backfire and result in no action taken to remedy poor performance.
Talk about a staff morale buster!
Another example is apparent in how the “mice” can hobble a basic American constitutional right - the freedom of speech (and the intellectual freedom to think for myself).
Take a look at the controversy surrounding Andy Ngo's book, “Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy”.
The rightly famous Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon had to promise the blockading antifa “mice” and the store’s censoring union employees they would only sell the book online and not display or promote it in their retail bookstores.
A fairly objective report can be found in Reason magazine.

*Source: Babrius, Fable 112 in Cooper, Frederic Taber, editor (1864-1937), “An argosy of fables; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land”. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1921.

© Copyright all text John Lubans 2021

Avoiding Avoidance

Posted by jlubans on March 30, 2021  •  Leave comment (0)

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In preparing for another column on “What I Would Do Differently”, I listed out a baker’s dozen of instances in my career where I could have done better. These were conflicts; those times when someone seeks to frustrate something you want to do.
Looking at that sorry list, it dawned on me that while each of those snafus was a personal failure, my saying so and explaining how I would follow up did not address a more important question.
Could any of the dozen been averted?
What in general could I have done differently before the situation became a problem?
All too often, my silence or failure to follow up, may have escalated a small problem into something larger.
Were there not ways to anticipate and nip an incipient problem in the bud?
Was there a lack of clarity in my message, then how could I have changed that?
Did I not listen to my colleagues? How could I change that?
Were my colleagues not interested in or swayed by my intentions?
Did they not understand my purpose in making a change?
When I stated my belief that simplicity was preferable to complexity, did anyone understand what I meant?
I rarely explained; rather I assumed. And, as we know, there’s an adage for that. (When you take away the U and the ME that leaves ASS and a silly one at that).
No, we cannot know all eventualities nor do we need to, but we do want the key points well understood.
You should not leave it up to the staff to figure it out for themselves.
Some were already on my wavelength so they were not confused. Others – too many - tried to understand but, without clarity from the leader, failed to do so.
This latter outcome undercut my belief in and practice of the concept of subsidiarity; that ideas and processes are always best developed and tried out at the local level, not from above.
For that philosophy to succeed the people doing the work had to understand what I was hoping for.
At the start of any new initiative I should have made questions de rigueur, expected and wanted. Not just the abrupt “Any questions?” at the end of a meeting when everyone’s heading out the door.
Since it was not self-evident for everyone, I should have done far more follow up explaining about meanings and what was to be done. .
The Red Team technique would have been one way for those involved to really get at the pros and cons of a new way of doing something.
And, even if you can’t use a Red Team for every idea, you can do something similar, like worst-case scenarios, a plus delta, or a list of plusses and minuses and the major reasons for and against.
Any of these would help avoid the seemingly inevitable misunderstandings; they’d deter that predictable cycle I observed in those dozen miserable instances referred to at the top.
Lest ye misunderstand, I am not talking about the classical business bugbear, Communication about a made decision.
Rather, I speak of my explaining more and better of what I was trying to do and seeking feedback and advice prior to the decision. I would want to engage those working with me, both direct reports and my fellow executive leaders.
Anger was a response I underused.
For example, when one of my staff displayed an uncooperative attitude, I should have been far more explicit in why her response was unacceptable.
Instead, my tacit acceptance – like the dog in the elevator - allowed her to get away with it only to worsen matters between us.
A touch of controlled anger (a remonstrative bark or growl) would have helped get her attention and then I could have explained calmly what it was I was trying to do and what I expected from her.
After all, I was the top dog, was I not?
In another instance, I should have been furious when one of my peers grabbed me by the head, admonishing me to think.
He was offended by something I had said, perhaps jocularly, but he stepped way out of bounds when he touched me.
I ignored it, naturally, but my anger was clearly called for. I should have demanded an apology at the least and then find out what prompted that behavior.
These last few decades have given us a contrast in how leaders respond to criticism and insults. The Presidents Bush and Mr. Trump represent extremes. Mr. Trump, like a pro-wrestler, when slapped, slapped back.
That made for news and probably impeded some policy objectives but his disruptive, abrasive behavior (kick ass) also probably made some good things happen (vaccine development, for example) that never would have happened with a gentle prodding of an elephantine bureaucracy.
The Bushes, father and son, never took umbrage in public at insults hurled - like shoes - their way.
I had a mentor like that. He never sank to a backstabbing level. Indeed, I favored the Bush approach – never acknowledge an insult – over Trump’s never turn the other cheek, but perhaps there is a midpoint between the two?
Anger has its place and it can add clarity. There’s no question in my mind that I could have used it more and to better effect than I did. But, it takes practice and if you never use it, when you finally lose your temper, it won’t play out well.
Seeking clarity around conflict can be more difficult in some environments than others. I found that in ecclesiastical or academic conflict I was dealing with shadows. Innuendo, the perfumed dagger variety of intrigue was the preferred course of action. Unless you were born Byzantine, many pitfalls awaited.
It’s taken many years, but I have come to realize that frankness, sincerity, candor, honesty, all have to be made manifest. These qualities cannot be left to a guessing game. Nor can any be realized in silence.

© Copyright all text John Lubans 2021

“Well I can't stay inside talkin' Gotta get outside rockin'”

Posted by jlubans on March 18, 2021  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: The vast Doce Cuarenta (12/40) coffee house* on the outskirts of Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico. (Photos by author, March 2021)

My title comes from the lyrics to “Cappuccino Bar” by the rocker and musical maestro, Jonathan Richman.
Overly caffeinated, Mr. Richman is itchin’ to do something besides talkin’. He bolts from the coffee bar and sings:
“… I'm out there with my guitar
Playin bang bang rock and roll.”
This by way of introduction to an exploration of how coffee and cafes help get one creatively going!
How is that?
Well, there’s the caffeine.
Studies confirm that caffeine “suppresses unwanted and unnecessary insights and instead helps you focus on the work at hand” – in other words with caffeine you don’t day dream, you stay on task, you buckle down and “pick that bale of cotton”.
Doing so, coffee blocks “your ‘monkey brain’ which is constantly jabbering …”.
Coffee, it is claimed, helps you listen to your inner (and linear) “ox brain” and - steady as an ox - allows you to plod forward step by step to get the job done.
OK.
But, you can brew your own coffee and stay at home or in the office – no need to go out.
Does going to a café add value? Are we more creative in a café than at an office desk?
The BBC has answers.
Besides the chemical effects of caffeine, there are good reasons to step out.
Reason 1- Background noise.
It’s asserted that if you’re very slightly distracted from the task at hand by ambient stimuli, it boosts your abstract thinking ability, leading to more creative ideas. A low-to moderate ambient noise can boost your productivity.
Reason 2. Observing others working inspires one to get working.
Being around other people engaged in work or study can put you in a mood to do likewise. Like going to the gym, we see the guy next to us lifting twice as much weight as we are. We put down the 15-pound dumbbells and go with the 35 pounders. This is termed the social-facilitation effect.
Reason 3. Visual variety
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Caption: Green farmer depicted at Doce Cuarenta.

Working from home (or the office) can get boring; oen we sit in the same chair and look at the same four walls, the same windows. And we do it solo, often in silence.
But, in a café, unfamiliar noises, the movement of people, the retail environment and the variety in interior design can provide enough distraction to help us be our sharpest and most creative. “Visual stimulation – how the place is decorated – has an effect on people’s creative thinking process.” Researchers call it “convergent creative thinking.”
Reason 4.
The café’s ‘air of informality.’

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Caption: Featuring indoor and outdoor seating, a place for everyone. A Todos Santos author friend told me it’s where she goes to write.
Unlike the implied formality of a Zoom pixelated conference room, "there is an air of informality when meeting up at a café.” That informality hearkens back to Ray Oldenburg’s, the “third place”, that one leg of a satisfactory life’s tripod: home, job, and “other place”. It’s where the regulars welcome each other with small talk, exaggeration, good humor and kindness. Where no one remains a stranger, as long as they adapt to the norms of the place and await an invitation to join in. I wrote about one such place back in 2011.
The informality and camaraderie found over time in a cafe can lead to collaboration, can lead to friendship, can lead to good group effort.
Even if you remain solo – I, the inveterate introvert - the good vibe of a third place can foster good feelings within yourself.

*You’ll find Doce Cuarenta on a dirt road well off the La Paz highway going north from Todos Santos. It sits amidst landscaped grounds, palm trees and other greenery bordering sandy gravel parking lots.

© Copyright all text John Lubans 2021

The Peculiar Case of “Going Forward”

Posted by jlubans on March 15, 2021  •  Leave comment (0)

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Dilbert Cartoon by Scott Adams

Why do some clichés live on?
What is the motive power behind “going forward” - and its alias “moving forward” - remaining as one of bureaucracy’s favorite go-to phrases?
Imagine a boss challenging a team to do some “out-of-the-box thinking” to solve a corporate problem? As Dilbert confirms, she’d be jeered figuratively if not literally.
Fortunately, much of bizspeak has a short life; even the atonal recognize duds like “drill down”
“ducks in a row” and “paradigm shift”.
It takes only a bit of ridicule by the wokest workers who, while totally au courant with the moment, are among the most cliché-ridden. Still, they call the tune on corporate speak – just like the habitues of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.
So, why does “going forward” linger linguistically?
Some believe it suggests a sense of action, purpose, and direction.
More likely it’s alleged vitality stems from its service to “pivot” (another bizspeak cliché).
Going forward” often follows an admission of and apology for some egregious action or unpopular policy decision. Or it may merely be “some sort of inconvenient or unpleasant reality”.
The words following Going Forward can be a promissory sop to those silenced – the politically incorrect losers - by some pressure group.
The pivot leaves the unsavory and untenable (we have now “been there and done that”) and looks ahead to a happier tomorrow in which the wrongs of yesterday will have melted away.
Actually, the pivot only serves to further disgruntle the disgruntled.
Then again, there is something magisterial, even orotund, about invoking “Going Forward”. The speaker believes himself to be endowed with an oracular insight and it is only right and just to speak glowingly about the future under his leadership. In the leader’s eyes the term is far better than admitting ignorance about the future.
The phrase is a dead giveaway for bending the truth; and it is dismissive of any hearer’s ability to “read between the lines” and to understand what really is going on.
Like one book’s character who always prefaced his lies with “Actually…” “moving forward” .
signals insincerity and that what follows cannot be held accountable. It’s why the pivot usually includes several caveats, maybes, even “God willings”!
Does the speaker/ writer really not know that the phrase is unnecessary? Leaving it out helps the meaning get across; yet they use it. Why?
Maybe it’s a dodge so the leader does not have to come clean and admit, “I don’t know.”

© Copyright all text John Lubans 2021

"Never again" A Fable

Posted by jlubans on March 01, 2021  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Diogenes and his lantern with canine audience by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1860?)

At a Central America airport after your visa has been stamped and you’ve picked up your luggage, there’s a final stop. The alcohol control point. There you’ll find a modern version of Diogenes, and his lantern in search of an honest man.
This modern Diogenes and his airport helper query each and every arriving visitor:
“Any alcohol in your luggage?”
From all the denials, our alcohol inspector must feel something like Diogenes endlessly searching with his lantern - in the light of day - for an honest man, Are you an honest man?
Diogenes notes, while you say no, your eyes shift; and he notices a bit of a fidget in your part, a sort of standing on one leg.
He suggests maybe you should answer with “Never again”.
Apparently having to accept thousands of no’s , our modern Diogenes has become even more of a cynic than was the Diogenes of old.
Is this an anodyne for one’s guilt? Perhaps; after all, in the grand scheme, bringing in a few bottles is more peccadillo than felony.
Home free?
Not quite.
You are now asked to push a red NO button behind which sits a veritable Cerberus of an airport x-ray machine, conveyor belt and all.
If your push on the button sets of a flashing red light, (Oh, damn!) you get to have your luggage inspected and any contraband confiscated plus a monetary fine.
If the light turns green, you are free to go, guilty conscience and all. Never again.

Moral: Clutch your rabbit’s foot when pushing that red “NO” button.

____________
*"Never again” reminds me of a recent novel, Soviet Milk, about life in “Soviet Times” in my native country of Latvia. Latvia was an occupied country from 1945 to the early 90s.
If you – a regular citizen – were suspect of harboring anti-communist views, then an official would pull you aside at work or school. A favorite question asked by the communist interrogator/enforcer was, “Do you believe in God?”
A Yes was a quick ticket to a KGB jail cell and a reservation on the next Siberia express cattle car.
In Soviet Milk, the young woman protagonist comes up with an alternative response, “I have not yet met God”.
The communist interrogator is befuddled.
Our heroine did not say yes and she did not say no, but yet she seemed to say that, at worst, she was an agnostic. As such, she’s less dangerous than an all-out Christian.
The enforcer gives her a pass.

© Copyright all text John Lubans 2021

Krylov’s THE PEASANT AND THE HORSE*

Posted by jlubans on February 20, 2021  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Laughing Horse by Neil Seager

A PEASANT was sowing oats one day. Seeing that, a young Horse began to reason about it, grumbling to itself.
"A pretty piece of work this, for which he brings such a lot of oats here! And yet they say men are wiser than we are.
Can anything possibly be more foolish or ridiculous than to plough up a whole field like this, in order to scatter one's oats over it afterwards to no purpose?
Had he given them to me, or to the bay here, or had he even thought fit to fling them to the fowls, it would have all been more like business.
Or even if he had hoarded them up, I should have recognised avarice in that.
But to fling them uselessly away! No; that is sheer stupidity."
Meanwhile time passed; and in the autumn the oats were garnered, and the Peasant fed this very Horse on them.
Reader, there can be no doubt that you do not approve of the Horse's opinions. But, from the oldest times to our own days, has not man been equally audacious in criticising the designs of Providence, although, in his blind folly, he sees nothing of its means or ends?
_____________
Long before the internet
, Krylov gave us this fable about humankind’s “blind folly” in gainsaying not only Providence, but each other.
The braying ass of a horse’s diatribe reminds me of much of the daily parade of commentary on so-called** social media: ignorant, one-sided, negative, absolutely certain,
ill-humored, repetitive (think “meme” and “sharing”) and unforgiving.
I won’t go on but I (and you) could.
Will the silly donkey offer an apology to the sower? Will he offer thanks to him as he munches on the harvest of winter oats?

*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869

**A misnomer if there ever was one. The clunky phrase, social media, is just the pathological opposite. More apt: Anti-Social Media which daily rails against the notion of solidarity, the idea that most of us mean well, we have kind hearts, and want to help each other even when we make poor decisions.

© Copyright all text John Lubans 2021