The Most
Over the last fourteen years, RALPH has offered up a Paradox of the Month --- statements, questions, bon mots and quips designed to turn our humdrum lives into a moil of doubt if not perplexity.

Here are six from past years that continue to receive the most hits from our baffled readers. They are listed in declining order of mystery.

Consequences of War
Asked about the historical effect
of the 1789 French Revolution,
Chou En-lai replied:

"Too soon to tell."
--- Quoted in The Los Angeles Times
the day after the fall of Baghdad

Al Qaeda & Norway
Q.Are you worried that we'll invade Iran or Syria?
A.The public thinks we won the war and that it is over. They don't realize we are going to keep more troops in Iraq than we thought. The deficit will grow. We are not going to win the peace. Iraq is so divided internally it makes Afghanistan look like one unified group. Do you think soldiers know how to straighten out a country? They know how to make war. Do you think the State Department has the people and the training to help the country rebuild? Do you think we have anything like that?...
Q. What do you expect to come Fall 2004?
I expect we will be sitting here and having the same interview. I don't see any change in sight. I don't see the Democratic Party trying to revolutionize itself. The Democrats have all become sheep. Young people have the expression about living outside the box. No one is living outside the box here. There is only one great country: Norway. I didn't come from Norway, but I lived there. It is monolithic. There are 3.5 million people. It is the most constructive country in the world. They're for peace and they were just named as part of the enemy by Al Qaeda. If you want a wonderful country, it's Norway. In my next incarnation, I hope to be born a Norwegian.
--- From an interview with
Seth Glickenhaus,
89-year-old investment manager
As conducted by Sandra Ward for
Barron's Magazine,
June 9, 2003

The transcript of a radio conversation between a U. S. Naval ship and Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland, October 1995

Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.

Canadians: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.

Americans: This is a captain of a U. S. Naval ship. I say again, divert your course.

Canadians: No, I say again, you divert your course.

Americans: This is the aircraft carrier USS Missouri. We are a large warship of the U. S. Navy. Divert your course now.

Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

--- As reported in Snowstruck
Jill Fredston

The Flag
The wind was flapping a temple flag. Two monks were arguing about it. One said the flag was moving; the other said the wind was moving. Arguing back and forth they could come to no agreement.

The Sixth Patriarch said, "It is neither the wind nor the flag that is moving. It is your mind that is moving."

--- From The Gateless Barrier:
Zen Comments on the Mumonkan

©2000 Shambhala

The Rainmaker
There was a great drought where the missionary Richard Wilhelm lived in China. There had not been a drop of rain and the situation became catastrophic. The Catholics made processions, the Protestants made prayers, and the Chinese burned joss sticks and shot off guns to frighten away the demons of the drought, but with no result. Finally the Chinese said: We will fetch the rain maker.

And from another province, a dried up old man appeared. The only thing he asked for was a quiet little house somewhere, and there he locked himself in for three days. On the fourth day clouds gathered and there was a great snowstorm at the time of the year when no snow was expected, an unusual amount, and the town was so full of rumors about the wonderful rain maker that Wilhelm went to ask the man how he did it.

In true European fashion he said: "They call you the rain maker, will you tell me how you made the snow?" And the little Chinaman said: "I did not make the snow, I am not responsible." "But what have you done these three days?" "Oh, I can explain that. I come from another country where things are in order. Here they are out of order, they are not as they should be by the ordinance of heaven. Therefore the whole country is not in Tao, and I am also not in the natural order of things because I am in a disordered country. So I had to wait three days until I was back in Tao, and then naturally the rain came."

--- From The Nature Writings of C. G. Jung
©2002, North Atlantic Books

The Primary Origin of
World War Two

At the beginning of the War, when I saw the painter Kokoschka again --- two or three years after our first meeting in Prague --- I hadn't been with him for more than half an hour when he made me his monstrous confession. He was to blame for the War, in that Hitler, who had wanted to be a painter, had been driven into politics. Oskar Kokoschka and Hitler were both applying for the same scholarship from the Viennese Academy. Kokoschka was successful, Hitler turned down. If Hitler had been accepted instead of Kokoschka, Hitler would never have wound up in politics, there would have been no National Socialist Party, and no Second World War.
In this way, Kokoschka was to blame for the War. He said it almost beseechingly, with far more emphasis than he usually had, and he repeated it several times, in a conversation that had moved on to other matters, he brought it back, and I had the dismaying impression that he was putting himself in Hitler's place ... It was impossible for him to be implicated in history without having some significance, even if it were guilt, a rather dubious guilt at that.
--- From Party in the Blitz
Elias Canetti
Michael Hofmann, Translator
©2005 New Directions
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