Secular Parables & Aphorisms of the Week

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 4:28 AM [General]
    Posted By: Frank Burton

    Parable of the Week

    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 1, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason

    Dedicated to Orbital Sciences Corporation's "SS Deke Slayton" Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo ship, and Planetary Resources Corporation's Arkyd-3 asteroid mining explorer, destroyed 6 seconds after launch from Wallops Island, Virginia. Space entrepreneurism is a heavenly road, but no less a hard one.

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    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.

    October 25, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), by Frank H. Burton.

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    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.

    October 18, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton.

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    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 11, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton.

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    Secular Parable & Aphorism of the Week

    Sunday, October 5, 2014, 6:40 PM [General]
    Posted By: Frank Burton

    Aphorism of the Week

    We have conquered that which is without -- now we must conquer that which is within.

    Dedicated in admonishment of U.S. hysteria concerning its non-existent epidemic of Ebola virus, while ignoring measures to halt its real epidemic of children's enterovirus.

    Parable of the Week

    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.

    October 4, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason

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    Aphorism of the Week

    Reason, like gravity, is the weakest of natural forces, but in the end creates suns. -- via Alfred North Whitehead

    Dedicated to U.S. state-by-state efforts to counter federal prohibition of the medicinal and recreational sales of marijuana, both prohibitions causing death and misery -- one by allowing illness to go untreated, the other by creating black markets, gangs and crime.

    Parable of the Week

    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.

    September 27, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason

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    Secular Parable & Aphorism of the Week

    Sunday, September 21, 2014, 8:42 PM [General]
    Posted By: Frank Burton

    Aphorism of the Week

    To harm from faith is evil.

    Dedicated to the Flood Wall Street protesters, and in admonishment of capitalists' refusal to accept the reality that fossil fuel use is fueling runaway global warming, and their consequent refusal to see that such willful blindness endangers the survival of our civilization and our species.

    Parable of the Week

    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.

    September 20, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason

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    Secular Parable & Aphorism of the Week

    Saturday, August 30, 2014, 8:36 PM [General]
    Posted By: Frank Burton

    Aphorism of the Week

    Indirectly known truths are convergences of multiple independent streams of information: If the streams aren't converging, aren't multiple, aren't independent, or aren't information, truth isn't established.

    Dedicated to the 14 year-old inventor of Email, V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai.

    Parable of the Week

    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.

    August 30, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), by Frank H. Burton.

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    Secular Parable & Aphorism of the Week

    Sunday, August 24, 2014, 6:28 PM [General]
    Posted By: Frank Burton

    Aphorism of the Week

    Not all who wander are lost. -- via J.R.R. Tolkien

    Dedicated to the Community Ambassadors of Saint Paul, MN, who take to the streets to positively interact with and mentor at-risk youth, heading off social confrontations or potential run-ins with the police, and offering connections to jobs, skills training, college programs.

    Parable of the Week

    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

    August 23, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason

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    Aphorism of the Week

    To win a rational argument by evoking emotional irrationality is a sadly pyrhhic victory.

    Dedicated to "T'Pring," Star Trek actress Arlene Martel.

    Parable of the Week

    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.

    August 16, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason

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