- Doug Taylor and Rabbi Morton
I was cold, I was tired, and above all, I didn't want to be here.
A snow-covered branch, strategically positioned directly overhead,
succumbed to its extra winter weight and gave way, causing a
cascade of the cold white stuff to make a direct hit down the
back of my neck. I controlled the urge to smash my snow shovel
into the ground.
"Looks like you're having fun," said a familiar voice.
I looked up from the driveway to see my friend, the King of Rational
Thought, standing on the nearby sidewalk.
"Many descriptive words are possible at this particular
moment," I said, walking toward him. "Fun isn't one
"So why are you doing it?" he asked, after explaining
that he was out for a morning walk. "It's the weekend, and
your driveway is flat enough that you could get your car out
if you had to. Why bother shoveling the snow off? It'll probably
melt in a day or two anyway."
"Because of the neighbors," I snapped.
He lifted an eyebrow. "What about the neighbors?"
"Well look around," I said. "Every one of them
has already been up and shoveled his driveway clean. Mine's the
only one on the block looking unkempt."
He pondered that for a moment but didn't even glance at the neighbors.
Instead he looked right at me and asked, "How does a great
baseball player evaluate himself?"
Now it was my turn to stare. "What?" I said.
"How does a great baseball player determine that he's great?
What yardstick does he use?"
It seemed crazy to be discussing this in the driveway with the
mercury below 30, but I replied anyway. "Well, based on
batting averages, home runs, number of errors, stuff like that."
"I understand," he said, "but what is the basis
for determining that a given number is the yardstick for greatness?"
What was he driving at? "You look at another great player,"
I replied. "You measure your results against his."
"So the other player becomes the yardstick?"
"Sure," I said. "That's the way it works in almost
"Interesting," he said. "Has it ever occurred
to you that, once you set up another person as the yardstick
in evaluating yourself, you have made yourself subordinate to
that person? You're subservient to him. That's the basis for
competition. Whenever you go into competition with another person,
you've automatically set him or her up as the standard. Notice
that you haven't worked out an objective standard. You've just
arbitrarily set up another person as the standard and are measuring
your worth against that person."
He scooped up a handful of snow, began molding a snowball, and
continued. "The problem is, of course, that the other person
may not be a realistic standard for you at all. The standard
for your behavior should be set objectively and rationally. Not
on the basis of what someone else is doing."
"So?" I asked.
"So give me one rational reason why you should shovel your
driveway when there's no practical reason to do so and you're
clearly not enjoying it," he challenged.
I opened my mouth to answer. Then, like a dud missile that finally
connects with the fuse, I got it.
He didn't even give me time to respond. "Let me show you
something fun to do with this snow," he went on. "See
that tree over there?" He pointed to a giant cedar near
the middle of my yard, some 30 feet away. "How about this?
You're looking a little chilled and probably need a break. We'll
each throw a snowball at the trunk of the tree. Whoever hits
closest to the middle of the trunk wins. Loser buys lattes."
"You're on," I said, dropping my shovel and grabbing
a handful of snow. I hastily packed a tight one with my wool
mittens and sent it flying... almost through the front window.
I missed the tree by at least six feet.
Without a word, the King of Rational Thought drilled his snowball
dead center into the tree.
I stared. "How did you...?"
He grinned. "I played baseball in college."