The Man Who Was Smarter Than God

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Once upon a time there was a man who was smarter than God.  At least that is what his friends said behind his back.   Michael was indeed one of the smartest men you could ever meet.  Now some might call this a blessing while others might call it a curse.  His mother was fond of saying that “ignorance is bliss” while his father believed, (though he did not practice it himself) that intellect and knowledge was everything.  A man who was smart enough could rule the world.  His father continually berated Michael to think and to use his intellect.  Michael’s father demanded that Michael read only non-fiction and in an argument stick to the facts.  The only things that mattered in the world were facts, data and evidence.  Emotions ruled stupid people and decisions based on emotions were decisions that were stupid.

Michael grew up with very little respect or tolerance for anyone or anything that was not logical and rationale.  When the first Star Trek series became popular, Michael was surprised at the admiration for Lt. Commander Spock.  Many people saw Spock as the epitome of logic and rational thinking versus Kirk’s impulsiveness and McCoy’s rampant emotionalism.  However, Michael saw Spock as divided between emotions and intellect.  He could not accept that Spock was a role model for logical thinking.  Nothing was as important to Michael as mind and intellect and the ability to ignore and suppress emotions. This of course had its negative side as far as Michael’s social aspirations were concerned.

Michael had few if any male friends and zero female friends.  Men did not like Michael because they feared his put downs and lack of acceptance of their often biased and illogical thinking.  Michael was very intolerant of what he saw as inept thinking and has no qualms about correcting anyone.  It was hard to deny that Michael was usually right, but this meant that being around him would make you feel inferior and stupid.  No one wants to associate with anyone who makes them feel insignificant.

Michael was attracted to women and would have liked to date and have a social relationship with the opposite sex.  However, most women saw him as wooden and unemotional.  This was a state that Michael was rather proud of.  Moreover, compassion and love were traits that Michael saw as incompatible with a rational human being.  There traits would lead to decisions based on emotions and not logic.  Dates that Michael went on with the opposite sex usually lasted less than an hour and calls for a second date by Michael would always go unanswered.

Somewhere along the line, some of Michael’s friends (more like acquaintances really) tagged him with the moniker “The man who was smarter than God.”  This was the source of endless jokes and laughter, all of course behind Michael’s back.  Michael grew more and more isolated from any human contact, particularly after his mother and father passed away.  Michael never even bothered to attend their funerals.  “They are dead” he reasoned, “So my going to their funeral is not going to bring them back.”

As the years went by.  Michael became lonelier and lonelier but also richer and richer.  Michael was a genius with computers and also finance.  He invested his money earned from writing software programs into a stock portfolio that he managed.  This portfolio grew to nine figures and Michael never had to worry about working for a living or where his next meal would come from.

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Michael loved to take walks to break up his work and enjoyed being outside.  One day while taking a walk, he stopped at a little bench in a park and sat down to take a short rest.  A young man about 16 years of age walked up to the bench and sat down next to Michael.  “Hi,” the young man said, “My name is Joshua and I am special.”  “That’s nice,” replied Michael, hoping to end the conversation quickly.  “I am running away from home” came back a reply.  “Oh”, said Michael, not particularly caring why.  “Nobody likes me” explained Joshua.  “My sister makes fun of me and my mom and dad don’t do anything about it.”  Somewhat curious, Michael asked “Where are you going to go?”  “I always go to this bench until its time to go home” said Joshua.  This did not make any sense thought Michael, so he continued the conversation to find out more about this strange boy.

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Joshua was fifteen years old and a developmentally disabled child.  He had suffered a fall when he was very young which left him with a severely diminished cognitive capacity.  He also suffered from some physical limitations.  He was now in high school but spent most of his time in special needs classes.  From early on, his family told him he was special.  They were very loving parents and did their best to help him cope with his limited capacities.  They knew he would never be able to live on his own.  His older sister Inez, whom Joshua loved dearly, frequently became exasperated with him.  She did not quite have the patience of his mother and dad, but right about now, she would go out looking for Joshua.  The typical pattern was that Joshua would become angry with her and “run away from home” to this park bench.  Inez would come and “find” him and take him home.  She loved him as much as he loved her.

The conversation finally ended when Inez showed up.  Joshua introduced his new friend Michael to Inez.  She said hello to Michael and that she was very happy that Joshua had a new friend.  Joshua asked Michael if he could come to visit him after school sometime if he did not live too far away.  Michael reluctantly agreed thinking that he would never see Joshua again.  In some respects he regretted this since he actually felt a stirring of compassion towards Joshua and he was moved by Joshua’s openness and lack of pretentiousness.  Goodbyes all around and each left to go home.

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A few days later, much to Michael’s surprise, who should knock at Michael’s home but Inez and Joshua.  Inez said that she would drop Joshua off if it was okay with Michael and pick him up in an hour or so.  Michael agreed and spent the next hour or so talking to Joshua about many different things.  Joshua was surprisingly able to comprehend many things that Michael would bring up and they had some interesting if eclectic conversations.

Michael learned that Joshua loved science and animals and nature.  He also learned that Joshua’s parents were not very wealthy.  Michael deduced that they did not have enough money to buy some of the things that Joshua wanted and that they often struggled to buy some of the things he needed.  Apparently, the fall did more than just brain damage to Joshua and he had some severe internal injuries which needed ongoing treatment.  Joshua never complained though and saw most of these hardships as simple facts of his life.

al_roker_marqueeThe first day that Michael and Joshua spent together turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months.  Each week, Michael and Joshua would spend at least an hour together.  Some days, Michael would play video games with Joshua and other days they would do “walk and talks.”   Inez would drop Joshua off and Michael would take Joshua home.  Michael looked forward each week to seeing Joshua and spending time with him.  Michael often tried to buy Joshua some of the things that he wanted, but Joshua’s parents were very proud and explained that they would prefer that he did not.  Michael accepted their request but would take Joshua out for a hamburger or pizza whenever possible.  His parents did not mind this as Joshua had a prodigious appetite.

A few years went by and Michael s life became less lonely and much happier.  Michael greeted people on the street and spent time talking to other people without correcting them or giving them advice.  Every week Michael and Joshua would get together.  Then one week, Joshua did not come by.  Michael was disappointed but simply thought that some event had come up and Joshua had to attend it.  The following week went by and again no Joshua.  By now, Michael was very worried.  He called Joshua’s parents.  Inez explained that they were at the hospital with Joshua who was very sick.  She said she was sorry she had not come by to tell Michael about it, but things had been rather chaotic.  She said Joshua had asked about Michael and when would he come up to visit.   Michael told her that he would go right now.

When Michael arrived at the hospital, he found Joshua in bed with many tubes sticking out of him and his worried parents at his bedside.  Joshua looked up when Michael entered his room and his face turned into a big smile.  “I knew you would come,” he happily exclaimed.  “I am dying,” he whispered to Michael.  “But don’t worry about it, I will be OK.”

Michael stayed for awhile until Joshua fell asleep and then went out of the room followed by Joshua’s parents.  “We are very sorry we did not call you sooner”, they apologized.  “We always knew this time would come but we thought he had a few more years.”  “Isn’t there anything they can do?” replied Michael.  “No”, said his father.  “We wish there was, but they have done everything they could.”

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Michael came up every day to visit Joshua for a week.  Then one day, when he came to the hospital Joshua was no longer in the room.  The nurse explained that Joshua had died in his sleep the night before.  Funeral arrangements were made by Joshua’s parents and Michael attended the wake.  At the funeral, Michael gave his condolences to Inez and Joshua’s parents.  Michael was nearly as devastated as they were.  Joshua had a simple funeral, but Michael made sure that there were plenty of flowers there.

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Michael went home and for the next week did nothing and said nothing.  Then one day, he thought.  I am not going to forget Joshua.  I am sitting on a pile of money that is not doing anything for anyone.  I am going to start a home for “special” children where they can come each day to play games, have meals and interact with toys that their parents could not afford for them to have.  My home will have first class aides that are well trained in caring for special needs children and we will have all the security needed to ensure that these children have a safe and secure environment when not home.  This will be someplace that parents can drop their children off when they need a break or rest.

So Michael started this home.  It had the capacity for about 150 children.  The home had numerous playrooms, security cameras in each room and a full kitchen staffed by cooks with degrees in dietary nutrition.  The home was free to qualified children which was based on need and not income.  Parents would fill out an application and it was reviewed by a board of professionals versed in the needs of special education children.

Michael came each day and spent at least four hours at the home.  During these visits, he would meet the parents of each child and spend time with all the children to find out how they were doing and what they liked and did not like about the home.  Michael was constantly making improvements to the home.  When he was not at the home, he was using his genius to earn more money that he would then plow back into the home.  Michael named the home: “The Joshua Home for Very Special Children.”  Michael was admired by parents and loved by the children for the care and compassion he put into this home.

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Twenty years or so when by and Michael passed away.  In his will, he set up a foundation and trust to manage the home.  Every penny he had was put into this foundation.  Michael specified that he did not want an elaborate funeral and wanted a very simple burial.  Despite his request, the number of people that called to inquire about his wake and funeral soon dictated that his request would go unheeded.  A number of unnamed benefactors put up money to have the funeral moved to a larger venue.  Even with a bigger church, there was standing room only.  Estimates were that over a thousand people attended Michael’s “simple” funeral.  Many people stood up to talk about his generosity and compassion and all the children that he had helped not only with the home but often with medical expenses and care that they could not afford.  And no one referred to him as: “The man who was smarter than God.”

The End

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3551– Sunday, August 11, 2019 — Win- Lose or Can Win-Win Save Us?

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Here is a question for you.  It deals with the following hypothetical situation.

You are at a garage sale.  You do not know the seller.  You spot a vase that he/she has marked for sale. The price is $5 US dollars.  However, you suddenly realize that it is an ancient antique Chinese vase and you know that it is worth at least $50,000 US dollars.  What do you do?

  1. Buy the vase for $5 dollars and sell it for as much as you can.
  2. Tell the buyer that the vase is worth at least $50,000 dollars.

I have asked many people this question.   A good friend of mine says he would tell the seller.  He maintains that honesty and not taking advantage of people is the right thing to do.  Another gentleman, whom I met at my three-day Jesuit retreat this year, proudly told me that it is a case of Caveat Emptor.  He would buy the vase for five dollars and sell it for at least $50,000 dollars.  Just as an aside, my friend who would tell the seller the value of the vase drives a used pick-up truck which he bought for under $10,000 dollars.  I noticed my acquaintance at the retreat drove off after the retreat in a $75,000-dollar Porsche Cayenne.  Not sure what to make of this contrast but it is interesting.

Many people have taken one side or the other on this issue.  I was running the other day and suddenly I thought “I would buy it for $5 dollars, sell it for $50,000 dollars and then split the $50,000 dollars with the original seller.”  The original seller would be happy, and I would be happy.  I realized that with a little thought, I had come up with a win-win and not a win-lose situation.  I wondered why I had not thought about this solution at first.  No one I had described the situation to had thought about it either.   It made me reflect about a number of battles that I have seen over the years while living in the Wisconsin North Woods.  These “battles” have often become quite acrimonious with a great deal of animosity and bitterness between the combatants.

  1. The battle between Indians and locals over fishing rights.
  2. The battle between snowmobilers and cross-country skiers.
  3. The battle between power boaters and canoers.
  4. The battle between bicyclists and ATV riders.

The most recent battle up here in Northern Wisconsin is over CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Food Operations) versus small family farms.

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In each case, the situation plays out as follows.  1st. We have the hostility between the two groups or sides over some interests or goals.  2nd. We have a town council meeting called to help ameliorate the conflict.  3rd. Each side gets to air their grievances or make their claims for their group at the council meeting.  4th.  The town council comes up with a solution that a:) neither side is happy with or b:) one side wins and the other side loses.  Seldom if ever is there a recourse to a win-win scenario.

Now my ex-wife once explained to me before our divorce that there is not always a win-win solution.  I concede that is the case.  However, I will also argue that all too often we do not sit down with the other side and look for a win-win solution.

Further hampering the problem, is that these issues often become political.  The Governor, Mayor or some other political authority will convene a committee to study the issue.  The committee will seldom be knowledgeable experts or authorities, but instead will consist of a group of people with political influence or with a vested interest in a particular outcome (usually having to do with financial interests.”

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A case in point is the recent committee that was convened by the Governor of Arizona to come up with a DCP (Drought Contingency Plan).  After twenty years of ignoring the water problem in Arizona, the Governor was forced by the Federal Government to come up with a written plan to better manage the dwindling water supply in Arizona.  Arizona’s Governor appointed thirty-eight members to the steering committee.  It was billed as a “bipartisan” committee of citizens with a broad range of perspectives on the water issue in Arizona.  The committee was divided into the following groups:

  • Municipal leaders from cities and public works groups (8 members)
  • Agricultural interests (6 members)
  • Home Builders/Development (5 members)
  • Tribes (3 members)
  • Industrial (1 member)
  • NGO (1 member)
  • Miscellaneous (3 members)
  • Legislative Leadership (4 members)
  • Central Arizona Project Board Champions (2 members)
  • Governor’s Office (2 members)
  • United States Bureau of Reclamation (1 member)

Two co-leaders were selected to run the steering committee.

If you look at the backgrounds of the committee members, you will find mostly managers, lawyers and career politicians.  There is a scattering of individuals with some background in conservation, but they are a small minority.  Fifteen of the committee members are politicians.  What you will not find in any noticeable numbers are biologists, conservationists, environmentalists or ecologists.  The very experts that one would think would be more important to solving a water crisis than for instance five real estate developers.  Speaking of real estate development, after the committee finalized their plan, the Pinal Council for Economic Development stated: “There is no reason to stop economic development in Arizona.  We have plenty of water.”

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Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr said that the plan, far from being groundbreaking, represents another run at “business as usual” for the state.  As the Arizona version of the drought plan is now written, she says it’s propping up what she sees as unsustainable growth and unsustainable farming practices.  Many critics have noted that the plan has little or no conservation component.  It is a plan to subsidize more water drilling in the aquifer.

My contention is that we need win-win solutions.  We cannot ignore economic development, but neither can we ignore our environment.  We cannot sacrifice the future for the present or vice versa, sacrifice the present for the future.  However, the solution to many of our problems requires a win-win format that is not governed by money and political interests.  If our country keeps allowing the politicians and lawyers to make the rules, we are surely headed down the path of oblivion.  There is an anti-intellectualism and anti-science bias in this country which I believe is gradually destroying our ability to make decisions based on science and facts.

“The citizen cannot cease to need or to be at the mercy of experts, but he can achieve a kind of revenge by ridiculing the wild-eyed professor, the irresponsible brain truster, or the mad scientist, and by applauding the politicians as they pursue the subversive teacher, the suspect scientist, or the allegedly treacherous foreign-policy adviser.”  — Richard Hofstadter

 

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