Bedtime Story

Bedtime Story~by RTod

Once upon a time, there was a Kingdom where the people were troubled.  The kings and nobles that ruled them were vane, corrupt and cared little for those they were charged with protecting.  While most of the people had lives that were fine and happy, the state of the Kingdom often made them sad.  There was just always a nagging feeling that the Kingdom could be so much better.

One day a young boy decided he would make things better.  He was smart, handsome and brave, and though he was the type men would have happily followed into battle were he a Knight his chosen profession was Thinker. The way that the boy saw it, the problem with the kings and nobles was that the Philosophers they followed were flawed.  What the Kingdom needed, he realized, was a Better Philosophy to rule the land.

The boy worked and thought tirelessly trying to create a new Philosophy that would bring the Kingdom joy and prosperity.  To that end, he looked hard at what worked and what didn’t with other Philosophies, and endeavored to change them so that their Goodness shown through, but their Wickedness was no more.  And after years of work and thinking, he wrote a book, asking all the Kingdom’s rulers to follow his new Philosophy, which he called Trippy.

And oh, my children, how wondrous was the philosophy of Trippy.  It created a system that would make Good Men and Women even more free, and grant even the most humble pauper a road to great wealth.  It would embrace the acceptance and respect of all Ideas and Philosophies, knowing that in it’s Greatness all would choose to be Trippy of their own volition. We mortals must of course await death to taste True Paradise, but a Trippy world would bring us so close as to not know the difference.  So great were the boy’s words that soon many in the Kingdom were longing for Trippy kings and nobles.

At first the Trippies (as the boy’s followers were come to be known) were a fine and inspiring lot of learned men and women; each was a great Thinker is his or her own right.  They spread the Wisdom of Trippyism to the more common people who were so excited that a Philosophy had come that would bring them even greater happiness and freedom.

As Trippyism grew in stature, some of the Thinkers were joyful to learn that their place in the movement brought great personal boon.  Shopkeepers often gave them meat pies for free, or refilled their tankards without extra charge.  And many a manly Thinker found that a comely lass might grant him favor for his Trippy status.  Before long, sadly, jealousy and disagreements broke out among the Thinkers.  It was decided that this was because although all Trippies were certainly good not all were Pure, and they wisely began to weed out those that were less Trippy that their Philosophy not succumb to Wickedness.

The people’s love for Trippy grew and grew, till the day came that the rulers’ Philosophers, suddenly aware of the people their kings and nobles ruled for the first time in many years, invited the best most Trippy of the Trippy Thinkers to a grand feast to praise them.  The boy – wait, do you remember the boy, children?  The smart, brave and handsome one that we began our tale with? No? Oh… Well, no matter, he’s not that important – anyway, the boy reminded his Thinkers that those Philosophers were wicked and corrupt and should not be trusted.  The Thinkers thanked the boy for his great words, and then promptly put him on a ship that would sail him across the seas to spread his words to lands far away.  After all, they were now more than capable of explaining Trippy to the people.

The feast was fabulous, and the Trippy Thinkers began to see that with the help of the Philosophers that ruled they could build a Good and Magnificent Trippy Kingdom.  This pleased the Philosophers, who had their Heralds proclaim the Trippy wisdom to the people.  And this was well and good, for many of the people did not read, or if they could they did not have the time to read Trippy, so the Heralds were able to shorten and simplify Trippyism into a few easily remembered phrases so that it could be quickly learned.  What’s more, the Heralds were able to let the people know – oh wondrous news! – that many of the Kings and Nobles that had ruled the land werealready Trippy, and in fact had been so for time immemorial.  To save time, all the people needed to do was to give those kings and nobles more money, land and power.  And the people, wise in their nature, did just that.

Now, there were some people who had in fact read Trippy long ago and, confused by the rapid changes, foolishly spoke their ignorance aloud (as fools are oft to do).  The Trippy Thinkers were now declaring the poorest and hungriest irrelevant, they said, but hadn’t the boy written that Trippy would eventually lead to their being no poor or hungry?  Also, they seemed to remember something about how Thinkers should be Thinkers – so why were the Trippy Thinkers moving into castles, and allowing the Philosophers to make them kings and nobles?

The Thinkers and Philosophers laughed at this foolishness, and had the Heralds remind all the good people that these treasonous nay-sayers – the Blame the Kingdom First crowd – were not even real Trippies!  The good Trippy people scorned these traitors, and agreed to call them N’ippies, the contraction the Heralds used to mean Not Really Trippies.

Eventually, of course, the happy ending arrived as all the kings and nobles began to declare themselves to be Trippies, and they would argue on through the night as to who was the Trippiest, each declaring him or herself the best-est friend ever of the smart, handsome and brave boy.  Every now and then some fool might point out that Trippyism seemingly hadn’t changed anything, really.  This was all well and good, because that’s how the people learned to identify these rascals as N’ippies.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

Or at least mostly so.

For truth be told, the people were troubled.  The kings and nobles that ruled them were vane, corrupt and cared little for those they were charged with protecting.  While most of the people had lives that were fine and happy, the state of the Kingdom often made them sad.  There was just always a nagging feeling that the Kingdom could be so much better.

 

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22 thoughts on “Bedtime Story

  1. The kings and nobles that ruled them were vane, corrupt and cared little for those they were charged with protecting.

    “Vane” meaning that they know which way the wind is blowing, no doubt.

    I’m not getting the allegory at all, so I don’t have anything constructive to say. I just wanted to point out the unintentionally apt misspelling.

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      • True story: In my college freshman lit class, our first reading assignment was More’s Utopia. Since it was our first writing assignment in college, we were given a choice between an essay or describing what the perfect Utopian College would be like. It seems like less work so I did the latter, and made fake aimed-at-HS-Senoirs literature about the college, the kind that I had gotten by the bushel the pervious year.

        A week later he singled me out and praised my work in class, saying at first he thought all of my ideas were so dim as to be laughable, but he began to notice all the typos and misspellings and realized it was a brilliant parody.

        It wasn’t, of course. I am just a horrible typist and speller, and I cannot proof read my own stuff. When I reread tit years later, I cringed at how laughable the ideas were.

        I got an A+ on the project, the last I would ever get in that class.

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  2. And many a manly Thinker found that a comely lass might grant him favor for his Trippy status.

    It was here that I realized he wasn’t indulging in fantasy, but surrealism.

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        • A mathematician, a physicist, and an engineer are all attending the same conference. By chance, they all wind up staying at the same hotel, which has notorious but unpublished problems with its in-room space heaters.

          The first night, the space heater in the engineer’s room shorts and her curtains catch on fire. The engineer wakes up, quickly picks up the ice bucket from the bedside stand, unplugs the space heater with her foot, dashes into the bathroom, fills up the ice bucket, and returns to extinguish the fire. This being already a long joke, she decides it is safe and goes back to bed.

          The second night, there is a short in the physicists room and again the curtain catches on fire. The physicist wakes up and sees the situation, unplugs the space heater with his foot, dashes into the bedroom, fills up a small glass with water and returns to throw it on the flames. Having shown that water will indeed extinguish this fire, he returns to the bathroom, fills up the ice bucket, and runs back out to put out the fire. Satisfied, he goes back to sleep.

          The third night, there is a short in the mathematician’s room. He awakens, trips over the cord to the space heater (luckily unplugging it) and manages to make it to the bathroom. Filling a small glass with water, he returns to the main room and throws it on the fire. Seeing that water will put out the fire, and thus confident that induction shows the fire will be extinguished, he goes back to sleep, and the hotel burns down.

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          • A mathematician and an engineer are each presented with an identical room containing a stove and a pan of water sitting on the floor. Each is asked to boil the water. The engineer picks up the pan, puts it on the stove, turns on the heat, and after a bit the water boils. The mathematician does precisely the same thing in his room.

            The two are then presented with the same problem, only now the pan of water is sitting on a small table. The engineer picks up the pan of water, puts it on the stove, turns on the heat, and after a bit the water boils. The mathematician picks up the pan of water and places it on the floor, then leaves.

            When asked to explain himself, the mathematician says, “I reduced it to a problem whose solution is already known.”

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          • I prefer the joke about elephants.

            “Mathematicians hunt elephants by catching every animal in Africa, throwing away whatever isn’t an elephant, and taking one of whatever is left. Experienced mathematicians prove the existence of at least one unique elephant before proceeding to Step 1 as a subordinate exercise. Professors of mathematics prove the existence of at least one unique elephant, declare the exercise trivial, and assign their grad student to the detection and capture of an actual elephant.”

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  3. To be much more serious for a moment.

    As an empirical matter, this story rings true. It’s obvious, even.

    But are we comfortable with the implication — which I detect, and which others might not — that the content of the philosophy itself is always irrelevant?

    Put less confrontationally, are some philosophies more immune to these processes than others? Or are all equal in this sense?

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    • Philosophies? Or frameworks of thought, more generally?

      I’d say that generally speaking, philosophy progresses like any other discipline. However, I’d also say that applied anything suffers from similar implementation details.

      We’ll see, when we get to colonization. Self-selecting your starting group might make a big difference.

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        • > First, even some philosophers would beg
          > to differ about whether philosophy really
          > progresses.

          I suppose this depends on how one defines progress. If you’re trying to solve the same problem, and you’re all developing frameworks that have to punt on some serious deficiency in order to claim to solve the problem, then your particular framework suffers from the same weakness that the last guy’s framework did, really. On the other hand, if I have six different frameworks to look at the same situation and they call come to the same conclusion about what’s the right thing to do, I’m likely better off than if I only have one.

          Every framework has its own blind spots. I’d rather have six different instruments to measure something than only one. Seven’s even better.

          > Second, I can’t imagine anyone putting any
          > faith in colonization.

          The Universe will outlast the Earth, Mr. K. Indeed, by a stretch of time so unimaginably large that they don’t even compare.

          Sooner or later, we’re going to get our butts off this rock. Or, this rock will be uninhabitable and the point will be moot. As pessimistic as I am about many things relating to the human condition, we’re feisty buggers and we have a tendency to survive pretty major crises.

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    • Jason: “But are we comfortable with the implication — which I detect, and which others might not — that the content of the philosophy itself is always irrelevant?

      Put less confrontationally, are some philosophies more immune to these processes than others? Or are all equal in this sense?”

      I think the issue is that philosophy is a single blade that we assume we can use as a swiss army knife. (Yep, I’m going to leave this terrible metaphor there just cause I’ve already typed it.)

      Philosophy seems to work phenomenally as an academic exercise, and I do not use that phrase facetiously. As a way to hone logical thinking and problem solving (in a purely verbal way) philosophy is a great tool; it may be second to none when it comes to sharpening a mind.

      But when we decide that we can – for lack of better wording – use it as a noun and not a verb, it never works.

      I think philosophy works well when sharpening policy. I think it leads to bad things when used as a goal in and of itself.

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  4. Even the best of all possible philosophies wouldn’t rid the kingdom of corrupt, vain rulers or eliminate the people’s lingering sad sense that the kingdom could be better. The boy set out to do the impossible, and learned (maybe) that whatever benefit philosophy has, the kingdom isn’t governed by it. It’s ruled by people who will use whatever they can, the good and the bad, to hold and gain power. The boy really should have started a cable news network.

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  5. “As Trippyism grew in stature, some of the Thinkers were joyful to learn that their place in the movement brought great personal boon. Shopkeepers often gave them meat pies for free, or refilled their tankards without extra charge.”

    Of course, since Trippyism had privation and asceticism as two of its most fundamental tenets, those Thinkers who availed themselves of these benefits were not truly practicing Trippyism. But admitting this would wreck the parable so we’ll pretend it doesn’t matter.

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