“. . . the old idea that ‘Mother Nature’ knows best is a concept that could only have arisen in a comfortable, well-fed society which has forgotten what it is to struggle for existence. Nature is not motherly, she is red in tooth and claw, she ravens for food – and she has no favourites.”
1. Cyclone Rhonda is back, up from Melbourne! When she stood on the Ladder of Knowledge she wowed the audience with a string of opinions. She and Norm had a few words to say to each other, which only added to our amusement.
Later in the day she agreed to debate with Mr B the idea that Australia should become a republic, and she won the debate easily by not bothering to present her point of view. She used the opportunity to talk about 1970’s communism and Chiang Kai-shek. A brilliant manoeuvre that left Mr B looking silly.
Rhonda will be at Speakers’ Corner for another two weeks.
If you’d like to see Rhonda in action, click here to see a few video highlights.
2. Other grasshoppers were invited to speak too, and each was given five minutes plus question time. Kieran explained why he thought Donald Trump’s bombing of the Syrian airfield was a good idea. He spoke well and is obviously informed.
Mirko spoke about his phonetic language. He nodded sagely when the group, working together as a team, finally managed to decipher one of his printed phonetic messages. He felt vindicated.
Mark the Grinner spoke about perfectionism, and about the relationship between reality and our growing addiction to electronic devices. He also briefly mentioned selfies. He should know that it’s not just humans who take selfies:
3. Steve Maxwell almost made it to Speakers’ Corner today, but a minor setback in his recovery meant that we won’t see him for another week. No backflips or cartwheels for another month, Steve. Doctor’s orders.
4. Mr B admitted that he struggles to complete questionnaires, and to give an example he felt the need to describe the time he was in a spa with eight others and had an awkward experience.
Peter the Younger suggested that most questionnaires are designed to get the result they want anyway, so perhaps it’s not such a bad thing that Mr B struggles to complete them.
5. Today’s assertiveness tip was: ‘Get out of the habit of using filler words like ‘um’, ‘er’, ‘like’, ‘sort of’ and ‘you know’.
What does that bad habit have to do with assertiveness? Click here to find out.
To practise, a few grasshoppers took turns to play the ‘Half a minute’ game in which they had to talk for 30 seconds without using those filler words’. They made the task look easy.
6. Mr B told the tale about Ulysses sailing by the island of sirens. He said that like Ulysses, we also have to tie ourselves to a metaphorical mast when we are presented with temptations that can disable us.
If that doesn’t make sense see this chapter on his blog.
7. This week’s paradigm. (A paradigm is a pervasive belief held by most people in society, even though that belief might be weird to an objective and sensible observer.) The paradigm: “We are entitled to a high standard of living.”
People who have adopted that paradigm (most of us) have little interest in sacrificing comfort for change.
A few months ago South Australia experienced a number of power blackouts, prompting displays of indignation and blame. Yet not once did someone say, ‘Let’s accept the blackouts. Rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars rectifying the problem and wasting resources, and increasing energy bills and pollution in the process, let’s simply shrug and get out the candles. Let’s put up with the inconvenience now and then.”
As expected, Mr B’s grasshoppers objected to the idea, and a discussion about the merits of coal mining and renewable energy sources ensued. That’s precisely what happens when a paradigm is prodded.
8. The something nice segment. To charm some and irritate others.
(A strange meme. A little girl with paper wings attached probably won’t fly. She’ll just plummet. But hey.)
9. Other subjects discussed:
– “I am better than no one, and no one is better than me.” Is that true? Or are some people better than others? Views were divided.
– The parable of the king and the artist. (That’s the story of how the king wanted a picture of peace in his palace.) The story went down well if you could consider stony silence as ‘going down well’.
– Land tax. It was proposed that every investment property is taxed not on the area of the land itself, but on the amount of floor space of a building. So, instead of having 20 apartments that are each charged one twentieth of the land tax for that block of land, each apartment would pay the full tax. That’s 20 times the revenue for the government (for that example), and it would prompt owners to let their properties instead of leaving them empty. It was a brilliant idea, spoilt only by two troublemakers who put forth sound objections.
– Do each and every one of us have a ‘pearl’ inside us, as we try to deal with a past irritant still within us?
10. The poems. Peter the Younger read one short, sharp poem, while Mr B supplied a longer one.
by Robert Service
‘Twas on the sacred First of May
I made a sentimental sally
To buy myself a slender spray
Of pearly lily of the valley;
And setting it beside my bed,
Dream back the smile of one now dead.
But when I asked how much a spray?
The figure seemed so astronomic
I rather fear that my dismay
Must have appeared a little comic.
The price, the shopgirl gravely said,
Alas! was fifteen francs a head.
However, I said: “Give me three,
And wrap them in a silver paper,
And I will take them home with me,
And light an ‘in memoriam’ taper,
To one whose smile so heaven bright,
Was wont to make my darkness light.”
Then lo! I saw beside me stand
A women shabby, old and grey,
Who pointed with a trembling hand
And shyly asked: “How much are they?”
But when I told her, sadly said:
“I’ll save my francs for milk and bread.”
“Yet I’ve a daughter just sixteen,
Long sick abed and oh so sad.
I thought – well, how they would have been
A gift, maybe, to make her glad . . .”
And then I saw her eyes caress
My blossoms with such wistfulness.
I gave them: sought my garret bare,
Knowing that she whom I had loved,
Although no blooms I bought her there,
Would have so tenderly approved . . .
And in the dark I lay awhile,
Seeing again her radiant smile.
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