The Importance of the Trivial

Ed Smith
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What did the Prime Minister do with the communion wafer?
(And other news headlines that drastically affect the way we live and breathe and have our being.)
If we looked in his coat pocket would we find tiny sacred crumbs mixed up with the lint and bits of chewing gum he had to discard in a hurry when being presented to the Queen or the Pope? Or would the floor on which he was standing at the time contain tiny telltale bits of wafer ground into it by the Prime Minister's foot when he stepped on it?
I know there are people who think these things are not important in the ongoing unfolding of the universe. How would these crumbs, they say, affect the interplanetary trajectory of a five million-tonne asteroid destined to collide with the Earth 233 years from today?
These people would maintain that whether or not the remains of the wafer are in Mr. Harper's pocket or somewhere out in Lake Ontario being nibbled at by little fishes has absolutely no bearing on the path of the asteroid or the destiny of the Earth. They see no correlation between the wafer and the asteroid, or the final end of either.
I'm afraid this attitude indicates a rather pitiful lack of scientific imagination unworthily of a child of the 21st-century. Imagination is as much a part of the scientific mind as the computer in the test tube. But one must be prepared to see beyond both.
It was this issue that Shakespeare's King Richard the Third addressed when he cried, "A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!" (Richard found himself horseless at the time.)
These same people would see no correlation between a horse and a kingdom. But Richard did and obviously felt one had a drastic effect on the other.
(In truth, I'm not terribly sure that it was Richard the Third who shouted that famous offer, but it was someone and it's the principle that matters. I'm not sure, either, whether anyone took him up on it. The same problem occurs with Shakespeare's Lady MacBeth when she screams, "Come, you spirits, and take my woman's milk for gall."
We are not told if the spirits took her up on it or not. Or if some kitchen boy hiding in the shadows decided to dress himself up as a spirit and take his chances. From what we know of Mrs. Mac, she wasn't exactly a seductive, sexy lady. Whatever, Shakespeare is full of problematic situations such as this.
You are no doubt familiar with the lines, "For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe, the horse was lost, for want of a horse, the battle was lost..." Etc. etc. etc. as the King of Siam would say.
Such unimaginative people would never see the connection between a square headed nail and the loss of a kingdom. Richard whoever obviously did.
Many great scientific advances have been made by people who dared to imagine, who looked beyond the known out into the unknown and began drawing lines between almost invisible dots. ( I think that's rather well said.)
So where does that leave us with the wafer crumbs? Hard to say, which is not to say impossible to say. Admittedly, it is difficult to be definitive with these things but when one is peering into the future it is often the same as looking through a glass, darkly. (Someone else used that same metaphor in case you think I'm trying to take credit for it)
Leave us say, for example, that the crumbs in question are indeed in the Prime Minister's pocket, like so many gutless politicians, and are discovered by a valet who happens to be a closet Liberal. He jumps on the opportunity to make Mr. Harper look like a scurrilous anti-Roman Catholic and telephones the first Roman Catholic newspaper he can find to tell them the good news.
I hope you're with me thus far.
This editor realizes he has a fortune in his hands in the form of little cookie crumbs and goes about making the most of it. Pretty soon the whole nation knows what Harper has done and Roman Catholics in particular, not to mention a few Anglicans, would be up in arms. The United Church would maintain that they weren't much concerned about what he did with the wafer; that was between him and his baker Maker..
The whole fiasco would blow up in Harper's face and an election would be forced by the opposition who would suddenly turn very religious with decidedly Roman leanings. The Conservatives would be soundly defeated and a new government installed on the banks of the Rideau Canal.
Now let us suppose that the Harper government had been working quietly but diligently for years to perfect a DEW line for the solar system with the express purpose of warning the earth about approaching asteroids.
In conjunction with this, the Americans were looking at ways to deflect such asteroids from hitting the earth before they got too close. An American-Canadian joint project. I don't think any of this is too far into the speculative.
But then Harper's government falls and the research into the VDEW (Very Distant Early Warning) line is quietly scrapped in a political move eerily reminiscent of the Arrow debacle. Since the Americans normally know nothing about what's happening in Canada, they have no clue that North of the border the whole thing has fallen apart.Meanwhile out in space - awaaay out in space - this girt big rock is headed straight for us, elliptically speaking, of course, with enough force to blow us to kingdom come. But no one sees it coming in time because of a few wafer crumbs in a prime ,inister's pocket. You see?
Lines drawn between invisible dots.

Ed Smith Ed Smith is an author and Telegram columnist who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is

Organizations: United Church, Conservatives

Geographic location: Lake Ontario, Canada, Springdale

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