Monday, 4 November 2013

The strange  way  that  roles  of  others  touches  our  lives

There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the roles of others in our World can have both an indirect and a direct effect our  lives. It is called the Butterfly Effect. That special effect is based on the premise that if a butterfly in Asia flaps its wings; a hurricane will form in the Atlantic.  

For example, who could have foreseen that a woman in Austria who gave birth to newborn baby born on April 20, 1889 would have such a profound and horrible effect on the lives of countless millions of people around the world?  I am speaking of the birth of Adolf Hitler. 

But sometimes people who suffered during their lives can have an indirect affect on the lives of millions of other people.

For example, a seemingly unplanned meeting in Akron, Ohio in 1935 between two men; both of whom were recognized as being hopeless alcoholics, began a program of recovery that has helped millions find sobriety and serenity. Bill W. was one of those two men. In fighting his own battle against drinking, he had already learned that helping other alcoholics was the key to maintaining his own sobriety, the principle that would later become step twelve in twelve steps to fight his alcoholism. The bond formed between him and Dr. Bob would grow into a movement that would literally affect the lives of millions of alcoholics. Their organization became Alcohol Anonymous.

It is possible that when someone who found himself in a situation where he could have save many lives but wasn’t able to do so, has had an effect on someone who actually did save lives.  Here is an example.

In the year 1912, Captain Radley Liversidge was offered the job of being the captain of the Titanic. However, when he learned that the owner of the Line wanted him to take the ship across the Atlantic without slowing down or even stopping when he approached the icebergs, he refused the offer. He said he knew that if he took the job and slowed the ship down when he approached the icebergs, he would be fired when the ship arrived in New York so he instead of accepting the offer to captain the Titanic, he choose to continue being master of a smaller passenger liner.  When he learned that 1519 people died on the Titanic, he felt so bad at refusing to captain that ship, he resigned his captaincy of another passenger liner and moved to British Columbia and bought a farm.

Now how did that man have an effect on the life of someone else in 1947— thirty-five years later when Liversidge was an eighty-year-old man and that other person was only a 14-year-old boy?

That 14-year-old boy was me and when I lived with Captain Radley Liversidge and his wife in Nelson, B.C., he told me many tales of his life at sea—first as a cabin boy on a three-masted schooner and later as the captain of a passenger liner.

In 1951 when my mother offered to take me to Hollywood to live with her, I instead chose to join the Canadian Navy. While I served on a warship, we were unloading tons of shells for the large guns. While we were unloading boxes of high explosives into the hold of a smaller ship that already had inside of it, several tons of cordite that propels the large shells, one of the ropes of the skid broke and the boxes on the skid began to slide towards the edge of the skid. To prevent this, I climbed over the stantion (railing) of our ship and while a fellow sailor held my wrist. I precariously leaned over the smaller ship where its contents were 20 feet below me and managed to pull the skid back to the deck of our ship. If the sensitive explosives had exploded on contact with the cordite, our ship along with the smaller ship and all 800 of us on board our warship would have been killed instantly. It was Captain Liversidge’s tales of the sea that made it possible for me to be on that ship and bring the skid back safely to the deck of our ship.

When I taught over 500 boys how to swim in the YMCAs in Victoria, British Columbia and in Hollywood, California, I am sure that many of them who later found themselves in water over their heads, were able to survive because of what they learned when I taught them how to swim. Again I can attribute that to Captain Liversidge because had I gone to Hollywood with my mother in 1951, I wouldn’t have been teaching swimming in the YMCA in Victoria and then spending 30 days teaching swimming in the Hollywood YMCA while visiting my mother in 1954.

Alexander Graham Bell’s mother was deaf and she instilled in him the desire to help others. In 1871 he went to Boston, Massachusetts, to teach at Sarah Fuller's School for the Deaf, the first such school in the world. He also tutored private students, including Helen Keller. As one of those strange co-incidents in life, I too worked as a senior supervisor in a school for the deaf in Vancouver in the mid-1950s. In any case, from 1873 to 1876 Bell experimented with many inventions, including an electric speaking telegraph (the telephone). Now had his mother not been deaf and inspired him to help others, it may have been much longer in time before the telephone was perfected in the way we have it now.

A train conductor slapped Thomas Edison hard across his ears when a chemical reaction Edison had created in his 'train lab' caused a fire. He later became a prolific inventor. Among Edison's most famous inventions is the first practical and long-lasting light bulb. He also refined and developed other gadgets such as the phonograph, typewriter and the motion picture projector/camera. All these inventions came about despite him being partially deaf. In fact, his handicap did not hinder him from pursuing his dreams to invent. Instead, according to him, his deafness actually aided him because it blocked out noises that disturbed him while he was working on his inventions. The train conductor had no idea that many years later after he slapped Edison on his ears; him slapping Edison brought about the successful light bulb that has shone on the lives of billions of people world-wide.

Many times there are people wh0 have no idea whatsoever as to just how much influence they have had in the lives of others. Let me give you an example.

In 1960, I was driving home to Toronto from a job interview I had in Sioux St. Marie, Ontario. While I was riding my motor scooter in the early hours of the morning on a highway, I fell asleep. Seconds later, instead of turning on the curve ahead of me, I was heading towards a deep ravine. A truck driver who had seen me heading towards the ravine blew his horn and I immediately awoke and stopped in time. Had he not blown his horn, I would have gone into the ravine and been killed. If I had been killed, what followed in my life would not have occurred. For example, I later became the precursor of the United Nations bill of rights for young offenders which has an affect on the lives of millions of children around the world. That wouldn’t have come about had I been killed twenty years earlier in that ravine. That unknown truck driver made it indirectly possible for that bill of rights to come about.

Sometimes, people have brought about the deaths of many people because of stupid things they did or things that they didn’t do that they should have done.

Good examples of this are the nine persons who were involved directly and indirectly responsible for the sinking of the Titanic that cost the lives of 1519 people.  If you go back into my blog and to April 16, 2012, you can read about how each of these nine people had a direct and indirect part in the sinking of the Titanic because of their stupidity.

Unfortunately, there are many people who die as an indirect involvement of other people who didn’t even know the people who died. Here are some examples.

While passing through Pitt Meadows, B.C., on October 19, 2010, a red Toyota, driven by an emergency-room nurse, spun out of control, leaped a concrete barrier and headed into the oncoming lane. A Suzuki Swift vehicle that was carrying Beckie Dyer and Johnny De Oliveira, a Pitt Meadows couple in the incoming lane who just happened to be driving home from a Justin Bieber concert at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena, were killed instantly when the Toyota landed on top of them.

Justin Bieber had never met the doomed couple. Further, he had never been to Pitt Meadows, and it’s likely he has never even heard about their deadly crash. But that night, the then 16-year-old pop star unwittingly set off a chain of events that resulted in the deaths of two people who had chosen to attend his concert.

In 1979, eleven people were trampled to death and/or suffocated while rushing into Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum to see a performance by The Who rock band.  The members of that band had no idea that their attendance at that showing would cause the deaths of people they didn’t even know.

While the Gun N’ Roses band was onstage at a 1988 rock festival, two men were killed when the dense crowd collapsed on top of them, fatally burying them in mud. Drummer Steven Adler later said that the incident still haunts him. In 2010, he said, “I felt I had somehow been a cog in some bigger machine that hurt those kids.” The cog he was speaking of what the Butterfly Effect that his band had on those that died while attending the concert. 

In a May, 1979 episode of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, stuntman Dar Robinson arranged a fake on-air hanging of Mr. Carson from a Wild West-style gallows. Later, a few hours after the broadcast in Rhode Island, 13-year-old Nicky DeFilippo, an avid Tonight Show fan, was found by his parents, hanging from a noose. He attempted to emulate the fake hanging done by a professional stunt man.

This forces me to bring up a rather interesting but sad example of such a thing occurring many years earlier in Toronto when a stunt man at the Canadian National Exhibition did the same kind of stunt. The next day, a 14-year-old boy tried the same stunt in his home. He died in the attempt. The professional stuntman in the CNE had no idea that a kid would try the same thing and die in the attempt.

Mr. Krakauer’s 1996 bestseller, Into the Wild, told the story of Christopher McCandless, a 24-year-old who died during an ill-advised attempt to live in the Alaskan wilderness. Krakauer’s book has inspired numerous other wayward youth to hike recklessly into the wilderness, including a 29-year-old from Switzerland who died trying to find the site of McCandless’ death.

In 1970, in a tragic effort to emulate Woodstock, The Rolling Stones hastily organized a free concert on the outskirts of San Francisco and hired the Hells Angels to run security. By festival’s end, one attendee had drowned in a waterway, two had been killed in a related hit-and-run accident, and a gun-wielding audience member was stabbed to death by an Angel, within sight of the stage.

Before Lawrence Wright was the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, a history of Al-Qaeda, he wrote the screenplay for The Siege, a film depicting a series of Islamist terrorist attacks on New York City. In 1998, in protest at the film’s depiction of Arabs, an Islamist group bombed a South African Planet Hollywood, killing two British tourists.

John Hinckley, Jr. fired eight bullets at U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Reagan’s life was narrowly saved after the attack, but his press secretary James Brady became permanently disabled after suffering a bullet wound to the head. Hinckley said that did the shooting as he was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster, with whom he had become infatuated after seeing her portray a teenage prostitute in the 1976 film Taxi Driver. When Jodi Foster was acting in that movie, she had no idea at all that a nut case would do what he did just to impress her.

In Seicho Matsumoto’s 1960 Japanese novel, Kuroi Jukai, two star-crossed lovers commit double suicide in Japan’s dark and mysterious Aokigahara forest, located in the shadow of Mount Fuji. Although that popular tourist spot had long been an established site of suicides, in the years since Kuroi Jukai’s publication, Aokigahara has come to rival San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge as one of the world’s most popular magnets for self-inflicted death, with authorities recovering 50 to 100 bodies a year from the forest.

Although Kurt Westergaard, a cartoonist was just one of 12 Danish artists who published cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed in the newspaper Jyllands- Posten in 2005, it was Mr. Westergaard’s drawing of a bearded character with a turban shaped like a bomb that was singled out by Islamic activists as particularly inflammatory. The cartoons kicked off a wave of protests throughout Africa and the Middle East that are estimated to have killed several dozen people. This man should have known that human lives would be lost because of his foolishness in depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed in the manner in which he did.

A pivotal scene in the The Deer Hunter, written by Deric Washburn, a screenwriter involves a game of Russian roulette played between American POWs in Vietnam. In the months after the film’s release, at least a dozen young men across the United States were killed in games involving partly loaded revolvers.

During the 1940s, actress Veronica Lake popularized the “peek-a-boo” hairstyle. She was forced to change her look, however, after U.S. officials informed her that female munitions workers sporting the hairstyle, which partly obscured one eye, were being killed after getting sucked into factory machinery.

Queen Victoria who ruled Britain and other Commonwealth countries like Canada at the height of British colonialism could be linked to innumerable deaths, but she is also indirectly linked to Canada’s worst public transit disaster. In 1896, a Victoria, B.C. streetcar en route to the Queen’s birthday celebrations was so overloaded with revelers that it collapsed a bridge and tumbled into a waterway, killing 55 people.

David S. Ward’s 1993 film The Program features a scene in which the members of a college football team prove their mettle by lying down on the center line of a busy highway. The scene was pulled from theatres almost immediately after one U.S. teenager was killed and two others badly wounded while mimicking that same stunt.

The 2002 film, Queen of the Damned is the loose adaptation of Anne Rice’s 1988 novel of the same name. The year of the film’s release, U.K. citizen Allan Menzies, after acquiring a delusional obsession with the film, stabbed and bludgeoned a close friend to death. Menzies testified at his trial that Akasha, the vampire queen depicted in the film, had ordered him to carry out the murder.

In December, 2012, at the height of the craze over Korean pop star Psy’s hit Gangnam Style, 46-year-old British manager Eamonn Kilbride collapsed of a heart attack while performing the song’s signature horsey dance at an office Christmas party. At the time, a British cardiologist warned other fans to avoid undertaking “untypical exercise” as a result of the song.

Despite its name, Salman Rushdie’s fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, only makes a few references (non-blasphemous) to Islam. That did not matter to an aging Ayatollah Khomeini, however, who ordered the British writer killed. Although Mr. Rushdie survives to this day, Islamic extremists orchestrated a massacre of 37 people in Turkey, purportedly in an attempt to kill the book’s Turkish translator which they succeeded in doing.

As you can see, all of our lives have had some effect on the lives of others. Sometimes those effects can be beneficial and other times, disastrous.  But life being as it is, for the most part, we don’t know just how our lives have affected the lives of others. Perhaps, that is just as well.






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