Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Cautionary Tale: Promises Made on a Freezing Night

By Barry Rubin

For those who have just observed Yom Kippur and for readers generally (you can save this for New Year's Day) let us not be like Mark Twain and his prospector partners.

It was in the winter of 1864 and they were returning from their (hoped-for but ultimately unproductive) gold mine in Nevada. The men lost their way. The mountains were deep in snow and the situation looked grim. When it became too dark to go on, they camped for what they feared would be their last night. . They prayed and, trembling with fear and frost, threw away all their whisky, gambling cards, and tobacco, vowing that if the creator of the universe would only save their lives they'd never drink a drop of alcohol, smoke a cigarette, or play poker again.

When the sun came up, however, they found to their amazement that they were within sight of an inn. They were saved. Looking at each other, the men shrugged their shoulders; climbed out of their tents;  retrieved all the tobacco, whisky, and playing cards, and went on their way as if nothing had happened.

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