About the Author
The Riddle of the Miners
The Anvil and the

The Beauty of the

John Ruskin and His

Kleptomania and Its

Smile and the Whole
   World Smiles with You

Tiens, voilą une baffe
There is an object called

The Prophet Jonah

World Voices Home

The Literary Explorer
Writers on the Job
Books Forgotten
Thomas E. Kennedy
Walter Cummins
Web Del Sol

The Beauty of the System

Worried that you might have cancer, twins, a herniated disk, you go for a high-tech medical test and afterward ask the technician what the test has revealed. The technician says she cannot say, the testing facility’s doctor will need to look at the results. In a few days this doctor will send your doctor a report.

                Annoyed, if not enraged, you curse the American medical system. Just so doctors can get rich and enjoy a feeling of superiority they don’t deserve, or just because there’s a whole ’nother batch of cannibals getting rich off malpractice lawsuits, you — the one who is paying and worrying — have to wait. And, from what you’ve seen of the images and numerical printouts, the test doesn’t seem all that difficult to interpret, and this technician has a great deal of experience. You can see in her face that she already knows — you do have cancer, or twins.

               In your anger and anxiety you are ignoring the beauty of the system. This technician — for all she can indeed see exactly what you have and don’t have — does not trust her judgment. She could misinterpret the test, she thinks — not that she can recall ever having done so. She could be missing something. She is certain the doctor knows more and is smarter than she is. She had not needed her teachers to remind her; she had learned this lesson before starting school.

Two neighboring countries have been fighting for years over an infertile spit of land that lies along their border. Resources desperately needed for teachers, schools, vaccines, antibiotics, food and water are being spent on fighter jets and anti-aircraft missiles. Hundreds of soldiers and civilians are being killed every year or maimed by landmines; crops are being destroyed; women and children are being raped and enslaved by marauding troops — with no end in sight.

               Frustrated, if not enraged, you denounce the cynicism and heartlessness of politics. The leaders of the two countries are perpetuating this war, and fanning the flames of chauvinism, demonizing the enemy, imprisoning critics as traitors — and they are doing this to keep their long-suffering people from turning against them, to divert attention from how they and their friends are looting and mismanaging the country’s resources. And meanwhile the leaders and diplomats of the major powers continue to publicly condemn the senselessness and brutality of the war, and also continuing to do whatever they can to help businesses in their countries make money manufacturing and selling jets, missiles and landmines to both sides.

             In your anger and idealism you are ignoring the beauty of the system. Among the many soldiers who are dying in this gruesome charade of a war, there are those — perhaps even the majority — who believe that they are dying for a great cause. Grieving mothers, while wishing that somehow the bullets might have found them instead, find comfort in the thought that their sons did not die in vain.