Krylov's THE ORACLE*

Posted by jlubans on September 28, 2023  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Krylov statue, Summer Garden, St. Petersburg.

IN a certain temple there was a wooden idol which began to utter prophetic answers, and to give wise counsels.
Accordingly, it rejoiced in a very rich attire, being covered from top to toe with gold and silver; and was gorged with sacrifices, deafened by prayers, and choked with incense.
Every one believed blindly in the Oracle.
All of a sudden?wonderful to relate!?the Oracle began to talk nonsense?took to answering incoherently and absurdly, so that, if any one consulted it about anything, whatever our Oracle said was a lie; so that every one wondered what had become of its prophetic faculty.
The fact was, that the idol was hollow, and the priests used to sit in it in order to reply to the laity; and so, as long as the priest was discreet, the idol did not talk nonsense; but when a fool took to sitting in it, the idol became a mere dummy.

I have heard?can it be true??that in days gone by there used to be judges who were renowned for ability?so long as they kept an able secretary.
_______
Drollery is what Krylov
practiced during his time (1789-1844) in Czarist Russia. Somehow, he was able to elude punishment for his gentle, tongue-in-cheek criticism of the royals and their corrupt bureaucracies. I doubt he would have been tolerated by Stalin or Putin.
This year, I had a momentary hope of visiting in person via a Helsinki ferry the above statue. Doing so, I realized, would be supremely stupid - a dual citizen of Latvia and the USA - to put a foot across the Russian border while Russia wages war in Ukraine and is ever on the lookout for hostages.

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

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ONLY a click away, my oracular fables for the workplace:

And, my book on democratic workplaces includes wise and not so wise counsel: Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

Copyright text by John Lubans 2023

Pareidolia

Posted by jlubans on September 21, 2023  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: If you can see the bear you have an IQ over 200*.

A new word-of-the-day (in title) took me back to my fable, "The Bear in the Tree".
If the word is new to you, as it was to me, (pronounced pair-eye-DOH-lee-uh) what is it?
Simply, it's the not uncommon ability for a human to see things that are not there, like dragons and dolphins in the cloudscape. Or, more scientifically, the ability to "perceive a specific and often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern".

Since I write about workplaces, is there any correlation between the ability to connect the dots pareidolialy and creative problem solving in the workplace?
In other words does one's ability to perceive images in the clouds transfer to identifying unseen patterns in the workplace?
Is there a test that measures this skill? Assessing individuals' capacity to recognize such patterns (pareidolia) has even been proposed as a way to measure relative levels of creativity?
Imagine the job interview.
I take the applicant out to a field and ask him or her, "What do you see in that cloud"?
The candidate might rightly think, "What is this guy smoking"?
While we can see end products - someone's previous work - as creative or not, actually measuring someone's ability or inclination to produce a creative solution is very different and difficult.
Still, it may be worthwhile to see how a candidate reacts when challenged to brainstorm about some abstract concept, like "Name a dozen uses for a brick other than in construction."
If we value workers who can tolerate and make use of ambiguity perhaps taking the candidate into the cow pasture is not all that crazy.
At the least is would measure the candidate's sense of humor.
I recall halting a group of executives trudging along on a forest trail as part of a training exercise.
We stopped alongside a burbling creek with the wind gently soughing through the trees, birds chirping, bees buzzing, crickets sawing away.
I asked them, "What do you hear"?
No pareidolia for these guys, one piped up that he could hear his name being called for his tee-time at the nearby golf course!
I should have persisted, telling them that I could hear rustling in the undergrowth and that in previous visits had come across a colony of water moccasins.
That would have tested their ability to tolerate and make use of ambiguity!
Flash! Here's a relevant quote from Alexander Pope (1688-1744):
"Lo! the poor Indian!
Whose untutored mind
Sees God in clouds,
or hears Him in the wind
."

*I came across the bear face tree one early New Year?s Day (2016) while off-trail.

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ONLY a click away, my fables for the workplace will test you pareidolialy:

And, my book on democratic workplaces shows how leadership that copes well with ambiguity encourages productivity Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright photo and text by John Lubans 2023

Serendipitous Fine Writing

Posted by jlubans on September 01, 2023  •  Leave comment (0)

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Now and then, in my reading of fiction from the late 1800s and the early 1900s I come across some fine writing.
At the moment I am reading a silly mystery story, The Amateur Inn, from the roaring 20s set in the Berskshire Mountains in which Boston brahmins match wits with local yokels.
Much of Albert Payson Terhune?s* writing - in this novel - is stilted and forgettable until we run into this delightful patch during a courting couple's stroll along a country road:
"Rousing herself embarrassedly from one of these sweet silences, Doris nodded toward the big brown collie (Macduff), who had come to a standstill in front of a puffy and warty old toad, fly-catching at the edge of a rock shelf.
The dog, strolling along in bored majesty in front of his human escorts, had caught the acrid scent of the toad and was crouching truculently in front of it, making little slapping gestures at the phlegmatic creature with his white forepaws and then bounding back, as if he feared it might turn and rend him.
It was quite evident that Macduff regarded his encounter with that somnolent toad as one of the High Dramatic Moments of his career.
Defiantly, yet with elaborate caution, he proceeded to harry it from a safe distance.
"What on earth makes him so silly?? asked Doris as she and Vail (her would-be-lover) paused to watch the scene?the dog?s furry and fast-moving body taking up the entire narrow width of the path. ?He must have seen a million toads, in his time.?"
(But, according to Vail) "Mac knows that toad is as harmless as they make them. Yet he is fighting a spectacular duel with it.? He's entering into the spirit of a perilous jungle adventure."
"Why doesn't he bring the sterling drama to a climax by annihilating the toad so we can get past?" she demanded, adding, "Not that I'd let him.
That's why I?m waiting here, while he blocks the path, instead of going around him."
"No rescue will be needed. Mac will never touch the toad."
"Does Mac know he won't, though?"
"He does," returned Vail, with finality.
"Every normal outdoors dog, in early puppyhood, undertakes to bite or pick up a toad. And no dog ever tried it a second time.
A zoology sharp told me why.
He said toads' skins are covered with some sort of chemical that would make alum taste like sugar, by contrast.
It?s horrible stuff, and it's the toad's only weapon.
No dog ever takes a second chance of torturing his tongue with it. That?s why Mac keeps his mouth shut, every time he noses at the ugly thing."
Mac knows it.
And the toad knows it."

Another excerpt from near the end of the book,, Mac reunites with Clive, his very first owner, home from the war at long last. Terhune's description of Mac's exuberant welcome reminds me of how Bridger, daughter Mara's black lab, sensed she was home after a year's absence in the military. She - Bridger - too went into a frenzy not dissimilar to Terhune's depiction:
"With a scream of agonized rapture; a scream
all but human in its stark intensity, the collie
hurled himself upon his long-absent master.
Leaping high, he sought to lick the haggard
face. His white forepaws beat an ecstatic tattoo
on Clive's chest.
Dropping to earth, he swirled
around (Clive) in whirlwind circles stomach to
the ground, wakening the hot echoes with frantic
yelps and shrieks of delight."
"Then, sinking down at Clive's feet, he licked
the man's dusty boots and gazed up into his
face in blissful adoration. The dog was shaking
as with ague.
After two years' absence his god had come
back to him."
*Mr. Terhune (1872-1942) had major literary success with books on dogs; he realized and capitalized on this remarkable aptitude. He wrote some 26 books about dogs or featuring dogs, and on the side he bred and showed prize collies.
Excerpted from The Amateur Inn by Albert Payson Terhune, NEW YORK: GEORGE H. DORAN, 1923.