Wednesday, August 03, 2005

President's Letter: August 2005 - Not necessarily a fairytale island

President's Letter, Larry Geller

Once upon a time there was a certain island in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean on which all the inhabitants were blind. Gradually, their island was invaded by developers and architects who had clear vision. The developers developed, covering much of the island with concrete and asphalt. You would hardly know it was a tropical island; there were so many dwellings and office buildings.

One day, an army of developers and architects were passing through the city, but it took them a long time due to traffic congestion. And lo, they had an idea, which would bring them much profit, and which they knew the people would accept, since they could not see. They proposed that an expensive transportation system be established, to be paid for through the levy of many taxes upon the people.

The system would consist of a fixed passageway along which would move a line of elephants. The people of the city had heard of elephants, but had no experience of them. Some believed that the elephants would relieve congestion on the roads and byways; others believed the opposite. A committee of five was organized to debate the merits of the proposed transportation system. Unlike the similar Sufi tale, there was no elephant to inspect, so they were working with completely made-up evidence.

The first young man held that "For going from point A to point B, nothing surpasses an elephant. It will always get you from A to B." He left for later discussion where A or B would be located.

The second young blind man was fixated by the beast's long trunk. "Why, each elephant could hold on to the tail of the elephant just ahead of it, and many people will be moved from A to B simultaneously!" The third young blind man considered the elephants' vast hungry mouths, and proposed new taxes to pay their upkeep, which was met with much objection by the others. The fourth young blind man reminded the others that the elephants were uncomfortable to ride and slow, and so persons of means (for example, the developers and architects) would not use them, confining the ridership to the lowest classes of commoners. Accordingly, the elephants would with but not relieve the congestion on the roads and byways.

The fifth committee person was a wise old blind woman. She listened to the uproar the young men were creating and laughed as she remembered her own foolishness as a young woman. Like these young men, she once thought she understood the whole of something when she had been presented with only a part of it, and she willingly depended on the teachings of others who were, in truth, as blind as she. She laughed also because she was about to move back to Colorado before the new taxes kicked in.