Michael KreponChauncey Gardner, Redux

Quote of the week:

“The whole visible world is only an imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of nature. No idea can approach it.” — Blaise Pascale

Note to readers: Every two years or so, Guest Contributor Chauncey Gardner weighs in from his woodland retreat. I interviewed him while standing unsteadily in the eddies of Restoration Creek.

MK: Chauncey, why the grim visage?

CG: Surveying the damage from a month of monsoon rains. This meek little creek became a torrent. Hasn’t happened around here since Hurricane Camille in ‘69, or so I’m told. Jumped the banks, moved boulders, scoured the creek bed. Who knew there was so much solid rock under here?

MK: Chauncey, there are huge rocks all over this property. Why wouldn’t they be under the creek, too?

CG: Aren’t you the philosopher. Next words out of your mouth, I suppose, are when it rains, it pours.

MK: As a matter of fact…

CG: If you’re in the business of dealing with bad weather and you can’t stop the rain, I suggest you find another line of work. Speaking of your line of work, great ballplayers bat .300. What’s your batting average in the nuclear arms control and disarmament business?

MK: At a tactical level — you know, battles over this and that — we rarely hit above the Mendoza line. But at the strategic level, we have Hall of Fame credentials — so far. No mushroom clouds in warfare for seven decades. Major and middling powers don’t even test the Bomb, and haven’t for decades. Not bad for government and non-government work. And even the messages we convey when losing tactical battles help shore us up at the strategic level.

CG: It will be easier for me to clean up around the creek bed than it will be for you to tidy up that mess you work on in Washington. This creek will mostly take care of itself. Nature will prevail and adapt. Sure, there are new zigs and zags in the channel, and I’ll have to do some transplanting. But come back a year from now and you probably won’t notice the high water marks. I don’t see the point in fighting losing battles against nature.

MK: Chauncey, who are you kidding? You compulsively pull weeds that keep coming back. You just can’t help yourself. You specialize in temporary victories. There are temporary defeats in my line of work, but you can’t afford to pass up losing battles or let nature take its course. It’s human nature to make big mistakes. We’re an accident-prone species.

CG: Weeds aren’t big mistakes and they’re not accidents. They are marvels of nature, highly evolved reproductive machines.

MK: Nuclear weapons once were considered marvels, too. Now they’re older than Studebakers — at least in terms of basic design. They’re too dangerous to use and too provocative to test, so the faithful find other ways to swear allegiance, like parading them around on national holidays. Or conspicuously spending large sums to replace them.

CG: You mean they’re like clothes in a closet you no longer wear but can’t quite send off to the Salvation Army? Yours is a very strange business. I prefer temporary victories to temporary defeats. Easier on the psyche. Now make yourself useful. Pull that Japanese stiltgrass over there before it runs rampant. And then help me transplant this fern.

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