A favor for a new friend

A friend and collegue from work wanted to post this on one of our internal blogs, but for a variety of reasons,(mostly due to the reactions to it), it was not allowed. So i offered to post it here on my personal blog. To my normal readers, this will be a little departure, but interesting nonetheless.

(The following post is not the work of the staff of “Things That Never Happened” and may not reflect the opinions of the blog and it’s crack team of researchers, writers and editors.

(author’s name witheld until I’m told otherwise, but if you need to know who it is, you probably know already.)

One morning, Tim wakes up and starts getting ready for work. As he is eating his breakfast, he looks out his kitchen window and sees a unicorn eating the strawberries in his back yard. Quite surprised he sits and watches for a minute or two. Then he gets up and goes to the window to get a better look. The unicorn sees him, gives a quick nod, and takes off in a silent blur of white and silver across the yard and over the back fence, disappearing from view in a small fraction of a second.

Rather astonished, Tim continues preparing for and going to work. When he returns home that evening, he goes and visits his strawberry patch and finds that several of the berries that he was planning to make into jam later that week are indeed gone. Also there are a few strands of silver hair in the wooden railing around the berry patch.

The next day, Tim goes and visits his neighbor, Alan. Tim asks him, “Hey, Alan – Do you know anything about unicorns? I had one eating my strawberries yesterday morning.”

Alan gives him a rather irritated expression and answers, “Yes, I have heard quite a bit about unicorns from Charles, the neighbor across the street. He will talk in great length about how great unicorns are, but so far he has not provided anything to support his claim that they exist. I am quite certain that they do not. Are you sure that you are not delusional?”

“The thought had crossed my mind,” Tim replies, “but several of my strawberries are missing and I found this hair in my yard.” Tim holds up the hairs.

Alan looks at the hair. “I don’t think missing strawberries and white horse hair is going to prove that unicorns exist.”

“Probably not,” Tim answers. “I think I will go talk to Charles then. Have a good afternoon, Alan.”

“Same to you, Tim,” Alan answers.

Later that morning, Tim goes to visit Charles. “Hey, Charles – I hear that you believe in unicorns.”

“Indeed I do,” replies Charles. “Wonderful creatures, are they not? Incredibly intelligent and very powerful. They have healing abilities and it is even said that they created the world and all the life on it. Do you also believe in unicorns?”

Tim answers, “I do now. I saw one eating strawberries in my back yard yesterday.” After a couple moments of shocked silence, Tim asks, “What? I thought you believed in unicorns?”

“Unicorns are creatures of light,” Charles replies. “One wouldn’t have been eating strawberries. Also, unicorns haven’t been seen in almost two centuries. Are you sure it wasn’t a deer that you saw?”

“It disappeared in a streak of light and was completely silent while moving that fast.”

“Well, that at least sounds like a unicorn. Welcome to the club of unicorn believers. Perhaps when you speak to other people about it, you should just skip over that part about unicorns existing physically though.”

“Thanks Charles, I think,” Tim answers. “Talk to you later.”

“No problem. And don’t be too concerned about believing differently from the rest of us. We all have slightly different beliefs. For example; Logan, a couple streets down, says that they are green rather than red like I do. We figure that since they are just light anyway, they can become whatever color they want.”

So Tim returns home and checks his back yard again. He notices that there are a couple more strawberries missing and decides that he really should expand the berry patch if he wants this unicorn to come by more often. So he goes and purchases some more strawberry plants as well as dirt and wood to expand the garden area. He then spends several hours in his back yard working on the improvements.

Glen, Tim’s next-door neighbor comes home and sees him working. So he comes over and asks, “Hey Tim, how are things going? What are you doing?”

“I’m expanding my strawberry patch,” Tim explains. “There is a unicorn that has come by and I want to encourage him to return.”

“Unicorn? Don’t tell me that you are buying into that mythical nonsense that Charles keeps talking about.”

“Well, sort of,” Tim answers. “Is it really such a bad thing?”

“It can be. Charles and Alan have gotten into some rather heated arguments about it, each trying to prove their existence or not. Alan keeps wanting to either see one in a bridle and saddle that he can ride around in or at least a picture of one. Charles tells him that they are made of intelligent light, so a physical manifestation is out of the question, and that they are very selective about what can detect them. He says that they avoid all mechanical contraptions like cameras and radio antennas and are even particular about which people’s eyes they enter.”

“So which do you believe?” Tim asks.

“I don’t.” Glen states emphatically. “I only believe what I can verify objectively. I can’t agree with Charles and his beliefs until he can provide some experiment that can be repeated by anyone in the world and get the same results. Results that verify that this unicorn energy exists. I really don’t think he will ever be able to. Even if he brought out a creature that looks like the unicorn he describes I would think that it is some genetic mutation. As for pictures, my cousin’s oldest boy can ‘shop a picture of a unicorn that is quite convincing. He at least admits that it is a completely bogus picture though. Anyway, have fun with your garden. I’ll see you later.”

The next morning Tim decides to try his hand at photography. He searches in his closet and finds two cameras; one a basic digital camera and the other a rather nice film camera. Then he waits by his window for the unicorn to return. Once it does he first uses the film camera and takes several pictures. Some with short exposure time and some with long. Then he switches to the digital camera and takes a couple more. After he is done he looks at the digital camera and sees that the pictures did not come out properly. All it shows is an unfocused and blurred section of the picture where the unicorn should be. That afternoon he goes and gets the film pictures developed anyway.

When the film technician hands him his pictures he comments, “Looks like you were testing out the settings on your camera since they are all rather boring pictures of a back yard. Looks like some of the settings failed. Do you have the manual for the camera? I know quite a bit about cameras and can help you with it.”

Tim looks at the pictures and sees that the short exposure shots had the same blurred section that the digital camera had and the long exposure shots were very nice pictures of his yard, with no image of the unicorn at all.

“Actually, I was trying to take some pictures of a unicorn,” Tim replies.

“Great, another unicorn guy. It seems that every month there is some new guy coming in here trying to get a picture that will either prove or disprove their existence. I wish they would just give it up. I am tired of developing the pictures.”

“You don’t have any interest in unicorns?” Tim asks. “They are rather beautiful.”

“There are plenty of things that are beautiful that I can take pictures of. Anyway, enjoy your photographs, such as they are.”

So Tim takes his pictures home and throws them away.

That next day, Tim decides to do some research and see if there is anything that is known about unicorns. He looks online and finds that there are three books that describe the unicorn he saw. The first is very old and is quite popular. The second is also quite old but is not used as much, and the third is rather new and is also not used very much. Tim goes to the bookstore and buys a copy of all three. He finds that the second two are bundled together.

Tim then spends the rest of the day and most of the rest of the next week when he is not at work reading those books. One evening, as he is reading next to his kitchen window, he notices that the unicorn is in his back yard again. “I have a question for you,” Tim calls out to it. The unicorn turns and looks at him. “Is this book accurate?” he calls out, holding the less popular book out the window. The unicorn walks over and touches its horn to the book for a couple seconds. Then it nods ‘yes’, tapping the book several times in the process. Tim then holds out the other book, the more popular one. “How about this one?” Again the unicorn touches the book. For this one the unicorn also nods ‘yes’, but is more reserved. “Thanks,” Tim says. The unicorn winks, then leaves in its usual fashion.

The next morning Charles comes by. “Hey Tim, How are you doing?

“Not bad,” Tim replies. “I found a couple books about unicorns. What do you think of them?”

Charles looks at the books. “Well, the first is the same one that I use. A very excellent book. The second is not generally accepted as accurate. It contradicts a lot of what is stated in the first.”

“The second one is a lot more descriptive and accurate to what I have seen,” Tim replies. “I didn’t notice any contradiction when I read them. Have you read them both?”

“No, but I am told that they are contradictory. Keep both books if you want, just remember that the rest of us won’t accept anything that you say about unicorns if you are getting your information from that other book.”

“Well, I have seen what I have seen,” Tim says, “and I am not going to change what I have said. Popular opinion, science, and logic will not convince me that what I have witnessed myself is not true.”

That evening as Tim sits at his kitchen window watching the unicorn in his yard, he says, “You know, I am surrounded by people who do not believe the same as I do and they all have valid reasons for believing as they do. Glen only believes what he sees, and since he has not seen a unicorn, he does not believe. Alan is convinced by logic that unicorns do not exist. Charles believes in unicorns, but very differently than I do. What should I do to convince these people that what I am saying is correct?”

The unicorn looks at him and answers, “You don’t. You should explain what you know. Convincing others that it is true is my duty; anything else would not be sufficient and will likely cause contention rather than understanding.”

(So that’s the end of the guest post, here come the guest comments…)

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “A favor for a new friend

  1. tamaril

    Thanks. I appreciate you doing this. I am rather new at blogs and such things.

  2. grumpyrob

    Groovy, glad to see that you agreed to host it. I have to say that the analogy, while not perfect in all details, is effective in communicating the thought. I have been thinking of an “outside” blog to host more detailed (and less monitored) discussions outside of the “official” environment. Perhaps a dedicated forum would be a good thing? Of course it is also pleasant to see all of us being forced to play nice… dunno if it would be a good experiment or not.

    Let me know whatchoo think…
    -Rob

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