Pandora’s  Box

Mars had been declared lifeless. Now it was time for real humans to set foot on the red planet.The world watched as the first men walked on the dusty surface in triumph; superlatives filled the media and at NASA great cheers resounded. 

The next day both men were dead. They lay waxen like old Egyptian Mummies , their skin stretched and  pock-marked   heads almost skeleton- like. It looked as if both men had died in their sleep from a cause unknown. The situation was dire, as the whole trip was designed around manpower.

The  next day their bodies began to dissolve and all organic materials in the ship began to break up and turn to dust. The watching world was filled with horror. The eccentric scientist Coburne Cox declared it was a virus that had laid dormant for millions of years and we in our exuberant foolishness had fed the beast.

Other more religious groups spoke of the wrath of God on the human race that had gotten too clever for its own good.

The Watch

Jimmy stared fascinated by the hairspring-wheel : he could hardly believe such a tiny spring could ever be made, let alone act as if it were alive , coiling and uncoiling. Spinning first one way , slowing , then the other way , driving the tiny notched wheel that measured out the ticks of the timepiece. He looked in boyish wonder at the the great mainspring which did not seem to move: it was releasing its pent up energy slowly like a great dam of water might drive a turbine wheel.The only outlet of power the mainspring had was the hairspring- wheel which slowly sapped its energy until the next wind up was necessary.

‘What’s that tiny screw on the top of the hairspring wheel Grandfather? Jimmy gazed up into those old grey knowledgeable eyes. The old face wrinkled in smiles ‘ Its the spring adjuster and alters the time-keeping of the watch  making it fast or slow’. The boy gazed again lost in wonder and Grandfather clicked his pocket watch shut.

‘ Come ‘he said , ‘ it’s time for lunch’.

Genius

When we consider the difference between virtuosity and Genius reasonable explanations are difficult and that is why we often read he was a gifted genius. I give a few examples in the realm of music.

Can a person be a genius at playing the piano? No since virtuosity is achievable by practice. Thalberg , Moscheles and Raff were all virtuoso pianists and wrote large quantities of music. Their music is rarely heard and largely forgotten today. Thalberg had astonishing technical skills and played many famous piano concertos to audiences of his day. These men also taught composition and counterpoint.

Works of genius have something in them that lasts. Genius cannot be taught but given the right material virtuosity can. A work of musical genius sticks in the general mind of mankind. It does not need to be technically difficult but it must move the soul in a memorable way. It is a lasting creation people want to hear again and again, and passes down the generations.

Luck

The use of the concept of luck to make us feel good is prevalent. For example: the bullet grazed my ear I was lucky to be alive , just a few seconds later and I would have been killed outright: my luck was in I won a thousand pounds.

This is the usual way we humans look at events; we ask what effect they have had on us and if it is good we speak of luck. In the event of a possible catastrophe we simply consider how lucky we were to have escaped. Should a serious setback occur we immediately speak of how much worse it could have been. In spite of frost bite I was lucky to lose only two fingers.

The opposite of luck is also made personal: but for an unlucky spin I would have won the jackpot. In this subtle way we protect ourselves from the rough and tumble of day to day events. 

The statistician has a completely different viewpoint, luck means nothing to him , his only concern is with probability. He views from the outside looking in objectively. So many men between forty and fifty will die of heart disease. He is untouched by the human tragedy.

The gambler takes luck very seriously indeed , inspite of the fact his belief often ruins him. He sincerely believes that he is lucky; it’s  not the laws of chance which govern the outcome but his choice. Or he has the other warped view that the laws of chance conform to his choice.

The advertiser uses human weakness to get us to gamble. He shows a picture of a real but ordinary person who has won a large sum and we make the link.

Burdock

It was an old piece of wasteland at the back of a church. A place where we were not allowed to go, but to us it was paradise. The ground was rough and overgrown with weeds and contained many dips and hollows large enough to crouch down and hide in.  This was our world and when we played in it time had no meaning  ; we were totally absorbed in the game until we were dragged away or light faded from the sky.

Here grew burdocks in wild profusion which made fine ammunition to startle the enemy. They stuck on most types of  clothing and we had pitch battles with them. So my memory retained a soft spot for the burdock plant which played such an important part in the innocence of boyhood.

Decimation of Character

I have noticed a tendency for this reprehensible technique to be used in argument as follows:

Instead of examining a man’s opinion on any subject we examine the man himself , asking questions such as: is he wealthy? Does he break the law? What does he say about others? Is he a member of any groups? The intention is to invalidate anything he may have to say.

Along with this unpleasant practice we imply that in order to have an opinion on anything we must experience it directly. Only an expert footballer can criticise football; only a doctor the use of medicine; an artist only is competent to criticise a painting.

Just think if these media tricks were taken seriously very few would dare open their mouths. The media would close down and parliament would shut it’s doors.