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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Philosophies of Face-Offs

Sometimes, as I walk my woods and garden paths carrying only a naval whistle and a notably dull penknife, I think of the likelihood of encountering a bear, which could happen, because a number of them live in this area, and they're free to roam as they please.   More than anyone else on this road, I have personal experience with this, because back when I had a chickenyard here at home and also a beeyard, those efforts gave two different bears the excuse to pay us several close-up visits, about 10 years apart.

 Today, as in those other days, I have no fear for my own safety, at least nothing to compare with how I feel whenever I hear neighbors enjoying their target practice while I'm splitting or hauling firewood..   Instead I entertain myself with the purely theoretical (I hope) question of what would happen if a charging bear (grizzlies in the west, black bears around here) were to encounter a samurai of bygone ages armed mainly with his sword.   Not the short sword sashed to his midsection that those warriors seem to have used mainly to disembowel their own selves while committing seppuku, but the long one, the katana, meant to finish off their adversaries by the boatload.  You know, those fabulous blades interleaved and tempered with 40,000 hits of a swordsmith's hammer and said to be so exquisitely sharp and strong that they could easily cut through a 16-penny nail, which is a pretty substantial nail, almost as thick as a lead pencil.

I'm thinking that when faced with a charging bear the samurai ought to be able to get in the first lick before it gets too close.   He ought to be able to lop off a paw or put a truly serious gash in the bear's chest or belly, or he might even be able to relieve the bear of its head with a single initial swipe.   But would any of that be enough to stop the bear in its tracks, as the instant pain and shock caused it to realize that it had suddenly lost some absolutely essential part of its anatomy?   Or would the sheer momentum of the onrushing bear with its huge, flailing arms and its snapping teeth carry it into the warrior regardless and thereby cause lethal harm to his person as well?

This scene must've already occurred in ancient Japan many times, because as far as I know, bears have always lived there as well, but I've never read about any such encounters, nor has such an occasion ever fit in, I guess, with the dramatic intent of Akira Kurosawa and the others..

Meanwhile the same principle and question of reflex and momentum must apply also to those scenes that you see all the time in crime dramas on TV and in films -- those faceoffs in which two enemy parties are pointing guns straight at the foreheads of their antagonists, and they're sweating and breathing hard, suffused with tension.   But somehow I never feel that tension, because it merely makes me think that one or the other could easily win merely by squeezing the trigger.   Wouldn't the other person be hit so quickly that he would never know what happened and so would have no chance to respond in kind?   Or is it the thinking that the mere impact on the person being hit would cause his trigger finger to reflex just enough to fire his weapon as well? 

You will never see this question answered in films.  Instead, invariably both parties will back down.  We could never expect any such resolution to occur between a charging bear and a bloodthirsty samurai.


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