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Archive for January, 2007

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In ancient Greece, Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom.   

One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance that ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”  

“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied.  “Before you tell me your story I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Test of Three: 

“The test of three?”,  asked the man.

“That’s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my student, let’s take a moment to test what you’re going to say.  

The first is the Test of Truthfulness.  Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”  

“No,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it.”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not.

Now let’s try the second test, the Test of Goodness.

Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?”  

“No, on the contrary…”  

“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him even though you’re not certain it’s true?”  

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued. “You may still pass though, because there is a third test — this test is the Filter of Usefulness.

Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me in light of your other two answers?”  

“No, not really…”  

“Well,” concluded Socrates, if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?  I am not interested in gossip.”

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One day, Barry went to a lawyer friend for advice.  “I’m in real trouble” he said. “My neighbors across the road are going on vacation for a month; and instead of boarding their dogs they are going to keep them locked up and a woman is coming to feed them, if she doesn’t forget.  

Meanwhile they’ll be lonely and bark all day and howl all night, and I won’t be able to sleep. I’ll either have to call the SPCA to haul them away or I’ll go berserk and go over there and shoot them and then when my neighbors return, they’ll go berserk and come over and shoot me.” 

The lawyer patted back a delicate yawn. “Let me tell you a story,” he said. “And don’t stop me if you’ve heard it before because it will do you good to hear it again.”  

“A fellow was speeding down a country road late at night and BANG! went a tire. He got out and looked but he had no jack.  “Then he said to himself. ‘Well, I’ll just walk to the nearest farmhouse and borrow a jack.” 

“He saw a light in the distance and said, ‘Well, I’m in luck; the farmer’s up. I’ll just knock on the door and say I’m in trouble; would you please lend me a jack? “And he’ll say, why sure, neighbor, help yourself, but please bring it back.” 

“He walked on a little farther and the light in the farmhouse went out, so he said to himself, ‘Now he’s gone to bed, and he’ll be annoyed because I’m bothering him just when he’s trying to get to sleep AND he’ll probably want some money for borrowing his jack.  And I’ll say, “It isn’t very neighborly of you to ask, but I’ll give you a quarter.”

And he’ll say, do you think you can get me out of bed in the middle of the night and then offer me just a quarter? Give me a dollar or you can get yourself a jack somewhere else.’  

“By the time the man got to the farmhouse the fellow had worked himself into a frenzy. He turned into the gate and muttered. ‘A dollar! All right, I’ll give you a dollar. But not a cent more! A poor fellow has an accident and all he needs is a jack. You probably won’t let me have one no matter what I give you. That’s the kind of guy you are.’  

“Which brought him to the door and he knocked angrily, loudly. The farmer stuck his head out the window above the door and hollered down, ‘Who’s there? What do you want?’ The fellow stopped pounding on the door and yelled up, ‘You and your stupid jack! You know what you can do with it?!'”  

When Barry stopped laughing, he started thinking, and he said, “Is that what I’ve been doing?”  “Right,” the lawyer said, “and you’d be surprised how many people come to a lawyer for advice, and instead of calmly stating the facts, they start building up a big imaginary fight; including what he’ll say to his partner, what she’ll say to her husband, or how they’ll tell the old man off about his will. So I tell them the story about the jack and they cool off.  

“The next time I hear from them, one tells me that the partner was glad to meet him halfway; the gal says she can’t understand it, her husband was so reasonable she thought she must have gotten somebody else on the phone; the relatives found out the old man had already been asking a lawyer how he could give everything to them before he died, to save them inheritance tax.”  

Barry thought, “How true! Most of us go through life bumping into obstacles we could easily bypass; inadvertently asking for a fight and lashing out in blind rage at imagined wrongs and duplicitous foes.  

“And we don’t even realize what we are doing until someone startles us one day with a vivid word like a lightning flash on a dark night.”  

Well, the other night Barry was driving home from the city. He was late for dinner and hadn’t phoned his wife. As he crawled along in a line of cars, he became more and more frustrated and angry. He thought to himself: “I’ll tell her I was caught in the heavy weekend traffic and she’ll say, ‘Why didn’t you phone me before you left town?’   

“Then I’ll say, “What difference does it make anyway, I’m here!” And she’ll say, “Yes, and I’m here, too, and I’ve been here all day waiting to hear from you!”

And I’ll say, “I suppose I haven’t anything else to do but call you up every hour on the hour and make like a lovebird!” And she’ll say, “You never are nice when you call, rather you are mean, demanding – like a dictator!”  

By this time Barry was turning into the drive and he is plenty steamed up. As he jumped out and slammed the car door, his wife flung open the window upstairs.  “All right!” Barry shouted up to her, “Say it!”  

“I will,” she cooed softly with a smile on her face. “Wanna borrow a jack?” 

 

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