The Victorian 1972

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ARNOLD PALMER AND ME

by A GOLFER

A few years ago my father had introduced me to the game of golf. From the very beginning I became interested in this game of 'the stick and the ball'. But somehow I never could strike a professional score of about 70. Then, one day, that miracle occurred.

I lay awake in the midnight darkness. For the first time in my personal golfing history, I had broken 90. I nudged my brother, sleeping next to me. "Can you believe it?" I screamed. "I'm no longer an amateur! The art of mastering golf is simply......"

And my instructor's voice filtered in "....a matter of beginning your downswing with your shoulders instead of your hands."

"What in heaven's name?" I shuddered, "How'd you know?" I further exclaimed in amazement.

"Because that's what you've been muttering all night", my brother sighed. "Don't you think you should get your shut-eye now, Arnold Palmer?"

He was right. In a few hours I would play my first-round match in the club tournament against my arch golfing enemy, upon whom I shall bestow the pseudonym, Nicklaus.

I laughed and chuckled in my pillow sadistically. With the secret of the game locked in my breast, I would not only humble him at last but also make him give up the game! I closed my eyes, and ordered my mind to be devoid of all thoughts. Empty. Blank. It insisted, however, in having a replay of each stroke of my day's round.

During the first two holes all 32 of my teeth could be seen illuminating the dark room. But when I found myself missing the 20-inch putt on the 3rd green, my jaws tightened. That putt had hurt me. And the other ones I muffed later on made me feel like Charlie Brown after one of his kite-flying safaris. If I had sunk them, I would have scored a nice fat 84. And if one of my drives hadn't shied out of bounds, while my eyes had temporarily been focussed on a pair of hot-pants, I'd have oozed around with a hot devastating 82.

Or might I not have scored better still?

This presumption caused me to gasp aloud, waking my brother with a start. Since he was awake anyway, I could not find any reason for not sharing my earth-shattering, mind-numbing, elephant-halting, discovery.

"You know, I could have done better. It's just that somewhere along the line Joe Btfsplk must have been following me.

"A perfect pitch to the eighth green insisted on hopping into a sand trap. My drive on the eleventh freaked out into a bush. On the fifteenth my caddie burped, thus distracting me and making me swing wildly, only to miss the ball completely! Since these were extenuating circumstances, wouldn't you agree that..........."

"Why is it," my dear brother interrupted, "that you can remember for a year every single shot of your last game, but can't remember for five minutes what you learn from your Bio, Chem or Geog?"

"Why don't you take a dive into a deep pool - with no water'?" I snapped. Back to business. Back to golf. My subconscious had come to an incredible total of 82, after subtracting all the 'extenuating circumstances.' When, after a few more subtractions, I came to 79 my heart burst.

"Holy Cow" I cried. "I'm a championship golfer. No! A professional, no less!"

All roads lead to Rome. There was no arrow pointing that did not lead to the fact that I could make even par. And should Alfred Hitchcock smile, why shouldn't I?....... well, the implications were seismic.

Ever so carefully so as not to cause my brother to phone a psychiatrist, I slithered from the bed and gripped my driver. For a moment, I wiggled in delightful anticipation. Then, powerfully and smoothly, I swept my body through an entire swing. The ball zoomed into orbit, my stick struck glass and, quick as lightning, I was back in bed.

After pacifying the household, back I went to bed, revelling in my dream.

Confidence! Yes, confidence was the key. My safaris on the golf course, all this time were born out of lack of confidence. But now, oh how! I was the supreme master of technique. Poor, poor Nicklaus. Tomorrow, it would be like Pearl Harbour, no! Hiroshima.

At 3.00 a.m., I pleaded with my mind to let me sleep. But I might as well have asked Ralph Rotten to stop fighting the forces of 'goodness and niceness.' By 4 o'clock I had won the Club Championship. By 5, the Malaysian Open and, half an hour later, I became the first Asian to complete the Grand Slam. I shunned the press and television men, the Times reporters and leapt into the Grand Canyon of Sleep.

My brother and I sat on the Golf Club terrace, watching the sun give way to the challenge of the moon and the stars, to the fickle fortunes of man. Now that the match was over, I wished I was a zillion miles away in outer space. Not even in the Sahara Desert had I seen so much sand, and not even Charlie Brown's kite-eating tree could equal my golf ball-attracting trees and bushes. I would have done better with a cricket bat for sure.

I felt Nicklaus' gaze, his triumphant look. Well, golf's not my cup of tea, so I'm giving it up for good. I cast my eyes over the turf, and went into a serene slumber. Only an hour ago this had been my battlefield.

Two drinks later, I felt better. Relaxed. Much the same way as I had felt after my 89. My God! I have it - relaxation! It wasn't how you held the club, how you swayed your hips or your shoulders sloped, but simply how well you relaxed. Once the art of relaxing was mastered, why, everything else would fall into place. Yes, yes, I saw it clearly now. The message registered.

Almost breathlessly, I stared out over the golf course. What should I wear for the U.S. Open? I only hoped that I wouldn't be so relaxed to drop the trophy on Nixon's dainty toes. Staring at Nicklaus, I asked, "How about a return match next Sunday?"

"But what about your terminal exams? You promised to study for it," my brother quipped.

His words buzzed in my ears for about two seconds, then mercifully ran away when Nicklaus's voice led him to slaughter.

"Ready for another licking, Born Loser?"

I only smiled. What did he know of the gentle art of relaxing. Only Arnold Palmer and I knew. Good old Arnie!


SCIENCE AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

YAP CHIN SEONG, Upper Six D

It is disturbing to note the turmoil that science is currently in. The reaction of the scientific community to the formation of the BSSRS (British Society for Social Responsibility in Science) in April three years back must have been mixed. Its inception inevitably impresses upon the general public the idea that the scientists have blundered and committed serious felonies in the past. Whatever it is, its inauguration reflects the unhappy situation that science is in. I shall attempt to discuss in this article some of the characteristic features of science and in this light to put forward the basis of the scientists' responsibility to society.

"The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it and he delights in it because it is beautiful." - Henri Poincaré

Science is popularly mistaken by the layman for the aeroplane, the wireless, the laser beams or the transistors. Needless to say, these are products of years of research and are the useful results of science but an undue emphasis on the utilitarian aspect of science misses the whole point of it. The motor cars, the Wankel engines are not the substance but the shadow of science. Those who stress heavily on the practical facets of science invariably associate science with technology and see scientists as technicians. There is nothing wrong for a scientist to be called a technician but in so doing the very essence of science is misintepreted.

Science cannot be equated with technology although the latter is nourished on the work and results of the former. Technology is only the spin-off from science, not the ultimate purpose of it. To repeat Poincaré, science is a study of nature, an observation of natural phenomena and an endeavour to explain these phenomena in known sets of rules or laws. The scientist's effort is sustained by man's exploratory nature, the burning desire in him to know and to understand. It is not the purpose of science to study nature as a means to explain it. It is an end in itself.

As a means to understanding nature, science evolved a method that is both rigorous and logical. This method, commonly referred to by the vague term 'scientific method', is applicable to all questions facing mankind and the solutions obtained, provided no groundless assumptions or wrong observations were made, can be open to doubt. It must be qualified that by questions, I refer to questions capable of technical intepretation. I admit of the existence of spiritual phenomena but I dismiss them as mere hallucinations. In contrast to other methods of attaining truth, as best exemplified by religion, the scientific method is highly logical. Science accepts nothing on trust, but collects an infinite number of details and data and builds them up into a composite and, if possible, a simple picture of the underlying and directing forces.

The scientific method is characteristically humble. Unlike religion, science claims no finality in its conclusions which may be the results of years of painstaking research and experimentation. These are only temporary features, a resting place in the link to truth. Hypotheses overthrow hypotheses before passing through the stormy stage of a theory to become a revered law. Absolute as it may seem, a law is still liable to refinement. The scientist also humbly acquiesces to this fact. Science advances more by denying what is wrong than by asserting what is right - by reducing and eradicating across, rather than heading straight toward some preconceived final truth.

Science is a philosophy, a method of thought that far excels others. It is pragmatic. It accepts no proposition other than that which can be subjected to experimental verification. Any statement groundless in this respect will have to be shelved or brushed aside as products of human imagination. They are mere hallucinations and they can only appeal to people possessed of mysterious feelings, a subject that science cannot entertain.

Science is an intellectual exercise. It is an endeavour to formulate an all-embracing principle from a mass of collected data, in conformity with accepted rules, the derivations subject to further experimental proof. If experiments confirm the earlier conclusion, it means we can place more faith in it. If they do not, either more experiments need to be carried out or the conclusion itself is to be jettisoned in search of a newer one. There is joy in this intellectual exercise for the search for truth and scientists, I must say, are happy people.

The problem, I feel, is not really that there is something innately wrong with science or with the scientist. The problem, I believe, lies in the misapplication of science by people of various professions at the expense of environmental cobalance. Take the graphic example of the hydrogen bomb. It is quoted widely as criticism of the ill effects of science but I find this unfair. The awfulness of the bomb is the manifestation of the evil that is in man and it is not necessary for the scientist to shoulder the blame. To say that science is the true cause of it is untenable. The scientist, as long as he confines himself to an objective pursuit of knowledge, cannot be guilty of the catastrophe at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "Science", says Professor Sir Ernst Chain, "has no ethical or moral quality as long as it limits itself to descriptive study of nature." To blame the scientist as solely responsible for the nuclear holocaust is not doing him justice and to blame science for it is more than wrong. Leo Szilard, the foremost scientist in the field of atomic science, was among the first to urge the U.S. government to produce an atom bomb. Szilard may be criticised for his action but to do him fairness it must be mentioned that he was also at the forefront of a movement to ban the use of atomic weaponry in warfare. He worked actively in this and his efforts culminated in a petition to President Truman dated July 17, 1945 and signed by sixty-nine scientists.

I consider Szilard a genius, a social asset not a wrongdoer. Had we known of the immense harm of the atom bomb earlier, should we then discourage the development of atomic science at the beginning of the century? No. Science, for it to develop properly, must be allowed to grow irrespective of the need or fear of society. A wilful suppression of research in any direction because it can be of possible harm to society is the very negation of the spirit in which science is founded. Even if we had known of the terrible destruction that the bomb can wreak we should not suppress its development at all. We should only be cautious with its application.

Coming straight back to the question of the scientist's social responsibility, scientists, I believe, have no more a responsibility than any other ordinary community of thinking citizens. They have as much to offer to society, both good or otherwise, as lawyers or politicians, or economists. Scientists have and can have no greater claim to wisdom than other members of society and, as such, should share no greater burden of social responsibility. If there can be a BBSRS, there is a greater urgency for a SSRP - Society for the Social Responsibility of Politicians. In all fairness, however, I must also mention that the idea that scientists are objective, dispassionate, impartial and tolerant is a myth. They are just as prejudiced and emotional as any other group of people, certainly in relation to matters outside their own professional competence, but also in relation to the views of colleagues in their own fields of scientific research with whom they disagree. The strict discipline of science only entails that its devotees adhere to its spirit. Scientists as human beings are corruptible. They quite often find in their hands a special skill of genocidal potential which opens to them a blue door in the antechambers of prime ministers. They sit at conference tables, they become important people because they possess a killing technique. And, therefore, scientists are bought with large salaries and fellowships and rewards quite inappropriate to their merits. It is only in these respects that there is need for safeguards. If scientists create blunders as politicians often do, it is because scientists are human beings not because science causes blunders.

An area which abounds with the ills of science is war technology. People hate wars. As there are many scientists actively engaged in military research people hate scientists because they make wars so horrible. Such an attitude is unfounded. The scientists are justified in taking an important role in military research. I must stress that military research is not science but technology. It does not make any difference anyway. In such research men of genius are justified to contribute. I must caution that I did not mean it is justified in destroying human beings although I agree military technology aims to do just this and to do it effectively. The scientists should not evade this if called upon to contribute to military science although I may have reasons to object to their being called at all. What I mean is that scientists should not be called upon to kill humanity in the form of war research but they should not back out when they are summoned to do so. Refusal to comply on the part of the scientist to the nation's wish is tantamount to frustrating the will of the people, for in a democratic country the nation's wish is the people's wish. When a scientist is approached by his government, it is like he is approached by the whole population. And if the scientist declines to comply, he is in effect going against the wish of his fellow citizens.

When I said I object to scientists being called to war effort, I mean I object to wars. Everybody hates wars but they have happened and are still happening. The solution to eliminating wars and stopping scientists from participating in war research is only secondary. But if scientists do not take part, you might say, wars would be on a lighter and less horrible scale. True, but that is not the point. The ugly fact remains that man continues to wage wars and whether people are killed by bows and arrows or whether they are killed by nuclear bombs is the same - people are killed.

Norbert Weiner, the child prodigy who received his Ph.D. at nineteen and who was particularly gifted in cybernetics, linguistics, philosophy and literature, was asked by a scientist in the early post-war days to be supplied a copy of a technical paper on guided missiles that Weiner had written in the war years and which was then out of print. I shall extract some lines from the letter that Weiner wrote:

"..... the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has made it clear that to provide scientific information is not necessarily an innocent act, and may entail the gravest consequences. The interchange of ideas must, of course, receive certain limitations when the scientist becomes an arbiter of life and death...

"The practical use of guided missiles can only be to kill foreign civilians indiscriminately..... I, therefore, do not desire to participate in the bombing or poisoning of defenceless people... Since it is obvious that with sufficient effort you can obtain my material, even though it is out of print, I can only protest pro forma in refusing to give you any information concerning my past work. I rejoice at the fact that my material is not readily available...."

Weiner's refusal to provide the necessary information hinders the free development of science and as the information is essentially military, he is also guilty of having impeded progress in national defence. Since the nation has decided to develop guided missiles and he is citizen, Weiner is obliged to contribute his genius.

Weiner was confident that guided missiles could only have harmful effects and he proposed to be a censor of his own ideas. But how can he know that his continued research in this field may lend to useful results? For example, missiles can carry man's instruments and as success in space exploration shows, can carry man through space to outer planets. Unknowability of the practical aspects of any research is characteristic of science. No scientist can say for sure whether his pioneering effort is going to bring mankind good or bad. The scientist need not be bothered about this.

Critics charge that science creates wars and so scientists are responsible. They argue that a nation more superior in arms is inclined to threaten other nations and to go to war. There is, I acquiesce, evidence that weapons beget wars and is, presumably, why some scientists, like Weiner, do what they can to obstruct armament. I shall not delve on the question of armament but I do know of the fact that scientists of the Eastern bloc exhort their Western counterparts to lay down their arms in the name of morality and humanity. This suggestion sounds hollow in my ears. Unilateral disarmament, far from bringing world peace, is capable of universal catastrophe. Technical improvements in weapons can only influence the logistics and the strategy of any war that may occur; whether a war occurs or not is the crucial matter, and this is determined by the current 'posture' of the world.

Science then, in concluding this article, can be summarized as a study of nature. It is irrelevant to ask of its social responsibility. Wars that so embitter humanity remain a reflection of the weakness of mankind. The application of science to war is deplorable and lamentable and the unfair suspicion and hatred of the scientific community by the lay public because of the horrors of modern wars which science has made possible is unjustified.


ON BEING AN ATHEIST

R. Pathmanathan, U 6A P.S.

I - The Atheist as Empiricist

An atheist is a rebel because he refuses to reside within the dubious sanctity of dogmatic rules. Camus wrote that a rebel is a man who says no, but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation. Before an atheist ever turns to religion for answers, he must be convinced, beyond a shadow of doubt, of the existence of God. Most atheists profess to believe only what the eyes "see". The true atheist knows that such a belief is ridiculous; we do not see mathematical points or negative numbers, but engineers use these concepts to build bridges and highways.

The true atheist is an empiricist, that is, he believes in experimentally verifiable data. The true atheist is very convinced. He knows why he is an atheist. He is familiar with the classical attempts that prove or disprove the existence of God (the Cartesian proof, the Newtonian God of Nietzche, the Emergent Evolution Theory of S. Alexander). The modern atheist is less concerned with the existence of God than with his reasons for his not believing in such an existence. Oscar Wilde wrote that science is a history of dead religions. Religions die when they are proved true. As science matures, it turns again to philosophy for guidance. For even if science were to answer every question about the workings of the universe, there would be the question of how science itself works. Which is why scientific findings never lend themselves to certainty or exactitude; as experimental evidences accumulate, findings and records grow more and more precise and accurate. Which is why it is meaningless to inquire into the nature of or reason for, the existence of the forces of 'g', for example.

II - The Atheist as Logician

If someone were to examine the question of the existence of God (here, I mean, a god of a non-animistic religion) thoughtfully and dispassionately, he will probably conclude that there is no evidence for the existence of such a Being. Most modern philosophers agree on this. We cannot deduce the existence of God from an a priori proposition, and it is only a priori propositions that are logically certain. When I ask firmly religious people to explain the nature of their God, they tell me that He is a mystery, who "transcends human understanding". This is to say that God is unintelligible. And this means that He cannot be significantly described.

Yet others say that their God is "not an object of reason, but of faith". Basically, all this means is that the admission of the existence of God is one of mystical intuition, of trust - since it cannot be proved by experiment. If one allows this, then it is impossible to define God in logical terms; or, it is impossible for a sentence to be significant and be about God. Hence when religious people describe their 'vision' (or something that cannot be described), they must also admit that they talk nonsense when they describe it. Similarly, it can also be logically argued that all people who claim to 'sense' on 'feel' God are in effect only experiencing a 'religious feeling' or 'emotion', and not an object (God).

III - The Atheist as Humanist

The intelligent atheists recognise that man can realise certain values here on earth; that certain forms of life are worth having, worth living for, worth pursuing for their own sake. They believe that the world is intelligible, that by man's reasoning and understanding, one can come to terms with it. Atheists may represent modern humanists, for one of the fundamental positions of humanism is its lack of dogma, and the belief that man should have the freedom to think out for themselves how they ought to live, to think out their principles. Religions demand of its adherents fortitude, the power to hope and the will to suffer. Widely interpreted, religion has come to mean 'a system of faith or worship.'

Paul Tillich speaks of the Christian 'courage to be' and the patient wait for a 'personal revelation of the Divine Self'. Lao Tse in his Tao-Te-Ching spoke of the nameless, omnipresent tao and 'the way of meek' or wu wei.

"To be rigid is the way of death
To be supple and soft is the way of life....
"
- Bk. II, LXXV, D. C. Lau trans.

The Hindu system of belief stresses an anchoritic life and the ridding of physical wants. Moslems resign themselves to Fate - "Allah il Allah". The Zen master D. T. Suzuki urges his disciples to escape "into the midst of boiling water". Herman Hesse, in his poignant and original Siddharta described the Buddhist condition - "All is pain". The philosopher Nietzche also believed that suffering strengthened and purified the human spirit and soul.

"The preponderance of pain over pleasure is the cause of our fictitious morality and religion."

- Friedrich Nietzche, (The Antichrist, Section 15)

The Swedish existentialist Soren Kierkegaard in his "Either/Or" spoke that truth has lost its force with us and horrible pain and suffering must teach it to us again. I do think this ridiculous. The mass media has contributed enough to the gruesome representation of the times; such ghastly reportage urge people to play shivery games with each other, and to indulge in crisis ethics (the passive, social form of blood sports). Those who remain civilised must stand before these gales…. this advocacy of pain and suffering.

I, for one, would say that it is hypocrisy to pretend that suffering is not bad in itself, or pretend that suffering is in the interests of some higher good. One of the things we should reproach the Churches for is just this hypocrisy. It is insane to believe that suffering illuminates everyone. To be illuminated, one needs the intelligence, the power, the patience and even the time.

In the course of my daily acquaintances, I meet many devoutly religious people who believe that their suffering is a form of gratitude, and an opportunity to turn evil to good. But what if such a transformation or spiritual cycle is never completed in one's lifetime? Aren't the religious folk unduly optimistic that such an event will come by and be completed in their own lifetime, even if this process only occurs in their death throes? Indeed, how can they be sure that such a changing from bad to good will even occur, based on the thin and yet undemonstrable assumption that God is merciful? More important, isn't it also true that suffering breaks people and crushes them, and is then never illuminating? Poor folks, death when it comes is then a total defeat for them - for they not only lose their lives, but their humanity as well.

The traditional sermon has it that Pride is the Deadliest of the Seven Sins - I contend that Pride remains a moral necessity, the spring of all personal dignity and responsibility. Even among the religious, there is poverty in spirit: I can cite many Christian intellectuals, for example, who have grown too aloof from the wickedness of the world, have given themselves completely up to the religious spirit, which has been allied more often with sadness than with vigour or zest for life.

IV - The Atheist as Realist

Atheists are often condemned because it is said that they take away peoples' hopes in an after-life. Our principle is that any goal that is to be realised must be realised here and now, that human life can be worthwhile for its own sake, that there are goals to be achieved. But, it is argued, many people in the world today are not in any position to achieve these goals because they are deprived in one way or another. Many of these people can only find new hope and confidence in religion. This is an important point. But it can be correctly indicated that such a situation arises because the level of education is low. When people are equipped with adequate education (and with the socioeconomic progress which will surely result) these deprivations will slowly disappear. It is the world scene that is to be faulted; the humanistic atheist can only hope to do everything in his power to diminish its meanness; he does not believe, definitely, that prayers and religion will alleviate personal hardships materially.

V - The Atheist as Aesthete

Religions also preach universal love. Many contemporary religious pundits, notably Reinhold Niebuhr, are emphatic in the positive benefits of such an awareness. But I personally know of many religious women who cannot love their husbands, and often seriously desire their deaths. The phenomenon is well known to psychoanalysts. For two thousand years, the major religions have failed to prevent terrible wars - where they have not generated these wars themselves. Religious conflict is rife everywhere (Ulster is but one nation exemplifying this). No man can see his own misery clearly and this is often our greatest comfort. I venture to say that Love cannot exist within a person alone, while Hate still persists alongside it.

My words do not imply that atheists are amoral. Contrarily, many atheists believe in the sense of universal brotherhood and the love for one another as the only solution to suffering. The point I wish to impress is that while religions often preach these same virtues, they do not appear to be succeeding; indeed, it is held that, in this respect as in many others, the role of religion is redundant.

However, atheists can also lead aesthetic lives. Not all atheists are grasping materialists, just as not all religious people are fanatics. I have always held that the truly aesthetic are those who lead beautiful lives, doing beneficial work for society that they find pleasure in performing. Is not the essence of religious teachings that one needs to lead a decorous, aesthetic life? Famous atheists Spinoza, Shelley, Santayana, Croce, and recently Shaw and Russell led decorous, noble and productive lives.

"The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by a kind of religious feeling that knew no dogma and God created in man's image....... Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who are filled with the highest kind of religious feeling, and were in many ways regarded by their contemporaries as atheists and sometimes saints."

- Albert Einstein

Martin Buber, probably the most influential theologians of the 20th century, in his "I and Thou" wrote that it was wrong to regard men (subjects) as things (objects). By means of spiritual dialogue, he suggests that a closer "I - Thou" relationship be established, as opposed to the former "I - It" relationship. Surprisingly, this approximates A. J. Ayer's profound humanistic philosophy.

The love for truth, which must not be confused with love for certainty, has seldom made much appeal to religious minds. The intolerance of most religions is due to their arrogant claim of possessing certainty.

In the Diamond Sutra, an incident is narrated of how Siddharta Buddha was approached by scholars, who were perplexed by the plethora of philosophies that confronted them. Buddha's famous reply sums up the gist of an intelligent atheist's attitude:

"Believe nothing on the faith of traditions, even though they have been held in honour for many generations, and in diverse places. Do not believe in the faith of the sages of the past. Do not believe what you have imagined, persuading yourself that a god inspires you. Believe nothing on the sole authority of your masters and priests. After examination, believe what you have yourself tested and found to be true and reasonable and conform your conduct thereto."


......AS THE RIVER RUNS HOME TO THE SEA

A. S. L.

For years no one had set foot on the miles of shingle and sand dunes of the remote island in the north. Greys and yellows and gentle greens are its colours, colours which are most of the time muted by mist, like those of faded water colour. But sometimes at sunrise or sunset, land and sea and sky will catch fire, and the pinions of the wild geese and cormorants as they fly to their nesting grounds among the sand hills, will be tipped with vermilion and gold.

A river flows through the sands into the sea, its clear waters fed by the melting snow of a massive volcano. Its banks in early spring and early summer are gay with a tangle of lemon rhododendrons. At the place where the river makes its final turn before entering the sea, these rhododendrons are unusually sparse, for here is human habitation.

Ten years back Jim had been a young and renowned Industrialist in the City. Then suddenly he became sick of society, of the power-crazy, ruthless men and women in his world. Greed, corruption and lust for position; conniving, and fawning people, he had seen them all. He had had his fill of them. He had built a vast Empire and now he was a slave to it. So he had left his business in the hands of his most trusted associates, and together with his wife, Eve, had retreated to this Island.

It had not been disappointing. At first, of course, both of them had found the change difficult. But slowly they had found in the solitude and quiet of the island, a home. Here a man could live like a man, close to nature. He had even taken to trapping furry animals in winter, but as he had no need for money, he gave them away to the poorer people when he went ashore for supplies. Some thought him crazy.

As the years passed by they found complete and utter happiness. A son was born. Their happiness deepened and matured in a way that sometimes made both of them afraid that it was too happy to last. They had their island and they had each other and they wanted nothing else.

Bold, brassy, and at once hot, the disc of the sun seemed to spring above the far lips of the ocean to send its golden light flooding across the still sleeping world. The pearly mist melted away. The sea, breathless and unruffled, changed from purple to blue and took on a glitter like burnished metal.

Jim had by now awakened, and was worried that his son Steve was not back yet. Steve, even at this young age, was in the habit of going for an early morning swim. Suddenly, Steve's frantic cries filled the air. Jim ran out to see his son racing towards him, yelling something he could not make out. Panting and gasping for air, Steve blurted out that there was a man sleeping on the beach. Together they went to the beach to see who had dared to invade their privacy. On the beach was the body of a man, pitched face downwards, arms and feet akimbo, still being lashed by the waves. Jim bent down and picked him up and could hear the imperceptible sound of breathing. Fortunately the man was still alive.

Jim carried him into their log cabin, stripped him of his wet clothes, covered him with warm blankets, and let him rest on his bed. Then, he had a close look at the intruder. At once he saw something evil and dangerous in the man's face. Yet he was young and very good looking. Eve and even Steve felt the same way. Dark clouds began to gather in the sky and soon the fury of the storm descended upon the small island. Cloud, rain, spume, gravel and sand merged into a frenetic whirlwind. Jim was not a superstitious man, but there was something so ominous and frightening about it that he felt a shiver run through his spine.

A few hours later, the man awoke. He looked around him. There was Jim sleeping on the sofa, Eve was in her room, while Steve was reading in front of the fire place. He smiled. Thus far his plans had gone off without a hitch. What an actor he was. He had heard from the people in the mainland of the eccentricities of Jim. Imagine giving away furs when he could hardly make enough to feed himself, let alone his wife and two kids! Oh, yes! He had even heard that 'those people in the island' hoarded away gold and precious stones! So he had decided on a quick way to get rich. He had purposely dashed his boat on the reef, and allowed himself to be washed ashore. He had waited to be discovered, and what an act he had put on. He chuckled to himself and woke Jim.

Jim had questioned him and was apparently satisfied with the man's - he called himself Adzig - concocted story. Adzig decided that it was not the right time to make his next move. He was still a bit weak and wanted to know more, besides. Jim had told him that he would be going ashore in two days' time and would take him along. So he didn't have much time.

The following day Jim had gone out on an errand. Eve was looking at the man. He was good-looking and yet there was something cruel about him. Their eyes met. He smiled and got up and moved towards her. She was an attractive woman, and he was starved for such beauty. Steve was outside playing. He grabbed her and tried to kiss her. She struggled and reached for the rifle that was on the rack, and pointed it at him. Adzig backed off.

"Stay away from me, or I'll kill you," she warned him.

But he was not one to be scared easily. And Steve had just come in. She put away the rifle hastily. He looked at them calmly, and then said, "Look, all I want is your money and gold and jewellery. Nothing else. If you don't give it to me, I won't hesitate to kill you." They protested and denied in vain. He simply would not believe that there was no gold or valuables. He ripped the place apart, searched every nook and corner, searched for secret doors and panels, but found nothing. He was in a fury. There was a maniacal look in his eyes. Then in an innocent tone Steve had said, "Maybe it's in the other cabin."

He had meant the cabin on top of the hill. They had built it in case of an emergency. Adzig pounced on him. "You'll lead the way of course," he roared, and grabbing the boy together with the rifle and some food supplies, set off.

It was a long way off. It was getting dark. He had come to the river bank and decided to take a short rest. He had no presentiment of fear, no premonition of retribution. Why should he have? Wasn't he near to his goal now? Soon he would be rich beyond his wildest dreams. Behind him a stone glissaded down the bank. He jerked around in fear. It was only a seagull which rose from the crest of the sand dunes; in a second it was gone, and the bank was silent again. He didn't see the dark mass rise behind him. He didn't hear the pad of the great steel-tipped paw as the bear came out from the shadow of the sand dune. The storm had played havoc with the bear's usual hunting grounds, driving small animals to shelter; and the bear was hungry. And now the bear, out of necessity was thinking of food of another kind. It had caught scent of the man and the boy.

The first thing he heard was the sharp excited cough of a bear about to kill. He spun around, his fingers snatching at the trigger and the bullet ricocheting off a rock. Then the bear was on him. He screamed. He fired twice but the bullets glanced off the bear's shoulder bones. He saw the silver claws swing back for the kill. He saw the huge mouth open wide. He flung up the rifle to protect his face. But the powerful paws smashed through barrel and stock, and ripped the flesh of his face. With another sweep of its paws it smashed his skull. He was quite dead. But the bear would not stop in its ferocious attack. It caught him round his waist and turned his body until the spine broke, and then it threw him like a paperweight onto a huge boulder near the sand dunes.

Not satisfied it now turned on the boy. He had been petrified with fear. The bear moved slowly towards him, paws outstretched. Closer and closer. And then there was the sharp crack of another rifle fired in rapid succesful. The bear began to fall slowly, and came to rest at Steve's toes. It had fallen like a Sequoia, with a jarring thud.

The boy looked up, and there on top of the dunes was his father and mother. As they headed back home, the mist lifted clear of the sky, and a rainbow spanned the sky between heaven and eath. They walked hand in hand. There were no words. There was no need for words. As yet no more than a light breeze, the wind was blowing with cool steadiness, rippling the pellucid waters to a million spearheads of dancing moonlight. It was beautiful. As beautiful as the river runs home to the sea.




VI The V.I. Web Page


Created on 21 March 2000.
Last update on 02 July 2000.

PageKeeper:
Ooi Boon Kheng ooibk@pop.jaring.my