Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Skeptic

The Skeptic

He was 15 years old, in high school, and had participated in the program at school assembly that day. When school let out, he was walking toward the street where his mother was waiting in the car, and a voice called out across the yard, “You did good in assembly today, Frank”. He did not answer. When he got into the car, his mother asked, “Why didn’t you thank that girl who complimented you?” He did not have an answer. It seemed trivial to him. In later years he learned to see all such compliments as honest efforts to affirm and be supportive--not trivial at all.

Over the years, the memory of this experience led to some further self-examination.
 He recalled how, in those high school years, he had decided not to smoke or drink alcohol. This decision gave him a feeling of strength, and he felt no urge to do what his peers were doing in order to feel accepted. He saw smoking by his peers as a sign of a lack of self-esteem, an attempt to look grown-up and as a sign of weakness. He was “skeptical” of what was popularly accepted as “grown-up” behavior. He was probably seen by some of his peers as a loner--or at least different.

At age 18 he was drafted into the US Army and sent to basic training as an infantry rifleman, preparing himself to kill or be killed. In basic training, his superiors were a platoon Sergeant and a Captain company commander. His reaction to these trainers was that, if there was any way to avoid having to take orders in combat from leaders like these, he wanted to find it. Thus, when, during basic training, he was given the opportunity to volunteer for the paratroopers, he did so. He was also given the opportunity to be tested to see if he quaified for Officer Candidate School, and he passed the test and applied.

At the finish of basic training, he received orders to report to Ft. Benning, GA for Officer Candidate School. He never heard anything about paratroop school. About this same time, the war in Europe ended and his basic training buddies were shipped to the Pacific theatre where the war was still going on. He never knew whether any of them saw combat or were killed or wounded. Then, when the war in the Pacific ended in August of that year, he was just receiving his commission as a 2nd Lt. and never had to be in combat. He was sent to Germany to serve about 10 months in the Constabulary Forces (army of occupation), and was able to see some of the devastation in cities like Kassel and Munich and some of the beauty of untouched Bavaria. He knew that his being skeptical of his superiors and being assertive had probably saved his life by delaying his availability for combat. He didn’t plan it this way. It was just his good fortune resulting from the decisions he had made.

For reasons unknown, he has remained a skeptic about (a) information received which does not meet his standards of reason, and (b) people in places of authority (until they have proven themselves worthy of his trust). To his way of thinking, it was partly a lack of skepticism which made the German people susceptible to the rule of Adolph Hitler. On the other hand, it was due largely to their skepticism that thousands were persuaded to bring about the Protestant Reformation.

It is his observation that being skeptical is not without price. Historically skeptics have been branded as heretics, witches or infidels and have been persecuted or executed by the powers in existence at the time.

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