Having contemplated the universe's duality through the Zen koan about the sound of one hand clapping, I immediately recognized the sound of one voice laying waste to solitude... my solitude.
In the on-again, off-again week of rain, sun, more rain, more sun, I'd come to the village to lose myself amidst the many, to wander aimlessly in a daze of warm sunshine and last night's Cornucopia wine, to force myself to finally make a decision about who I intended to vote for when I make my marks Saturday.
I was uncomfortable considering this election in any way similar to, and therefore solved by, my standard model for dealing with tough decisions. That model, best exemplified by a confrontation with a restaurant menu stuffed full of enticing dishes, all of which I'd kill to eat, amounts to waiting until the waiter/ress turns to me and says, "And what about you?" Snap decision time, under pressure.
Since this election is a bit more like being confronted by a menu at, say, Denny's, where I usually make a choice based on the medical model — do no harm — I thought it best to think long and hard before making an informed, whatever that means, choice.
Generally, when faced with multiple tough choices, I fall back on the Socratic method. This time was no exception. But since I was engaged in solitary reverie, I was working both sides of the give and take... out loud. This gave anyone who happened to notice me pause to appreciate how fortunate they were; after all, they too could be a crazy person walking around Whistler village talking to himself.
Perhaps that's why J.J. interrupted, seeing what he considered both a friend and a kindred lunatic.
"Bad timing, J.J. I'm kinda busy here."
"Don't look like you're doing anything in particular," he replied. "Except walkin' around talkin' to yourself."
"Well, it's kind of important. I'm homing in on who I'm going to vote for," I said, somewhat peevishly.
"Perfecto, Dude. Exactly what I wanted to talk to you about."
"You? Since when were you interested in local politics? Wasn't it you who once said the only politicians you were interested in were ones with enough power to destroy the world?"
"I might have said that. But I've seen the light. It's my civic duty to vote in local politics."
"Actually, J.J., I think it's your civic duty to become knowledgeable about local politics. Voting is what you decide to do after you get a grasp of the issues and candidates."
"Don't lecture me, Dude. I mean, how am I supposed to get knowledgeable (in air quotes) when there aren't even any freakin' signs on the highway?"
"Oh for chrissakes, J.J. If highway signs are the only thing that remind you there's an election on or, heaven forbid, help you decide who to vote for, well, you're just too fookin' stupid to vote. Better you just stay home."
"Hey, it's my right to vote."
"True. It's also your right to be an ignoramus. I'd sooner you not mix the two. It leads to the kind of voting we see in Toronto or the U.S."
"Whatever. So who do I vote for?"
"Whomever you believe is best qualified for the job... or at a minimum, least likely to really screw it up."
"Duuude... I mean who should I vote for. Names... names."
"I'm not going to tell you who to vote for. Figure it out for yourself."
"I'll buy you a beer if you tell me."
"Hmmm.... No. If I let you buy me a beer I'll wind up buying the next three."
"OK, if you won't tell me who to vote for, will you tell me who you're voting for?"
"There's a difference?"
"How often do we agree on anything?"
"You've got a point there, J.J. OK. I'm voting for Nancy for mayor."
"I really didn't need any help with that decision."
"I'm not willing to take anything for granted."
"What about the incumbents?"
"They're OK. They've learned a lot in the last three years. They seem to have a good working relationship with each other and with staff. I intend to vote for the three of them."
"Now we're gettin' somewhere. Who else?"
"Well, I said last week I'll vote for Sue Maxwell..."
"SHE'S NOT MY SISTER! Don't you ever read what I write?"
"No. Why her?"
"She seems to think well on her feet. She has some real-world experience getting things done working with people over whom she has no authority. That's a valuable skill when you work in a group and have to build a consensus."
"Yeah, now we're getting to the tough decisions. I'm going to take a header on Pete Crutchfield."
"Seems reasonably intelligent and keen to learn. His backstory shows a lot of determination and grit and discipline. He brings a different spice to the mix and that's generally a good thing. Let's put it this way, he hasn't done anything that's put me off."
"Leaves one spot open. What about it?"
"It gets tougher."
"Why not stop there?"
"Well, it's like I alluded to last week. There's better decision making in the wisdom of crowds and the law of large numbers. People who urge others to vote "strategically" by which they mean only vote for those they feel passionate about — generally themselves — do a disservice to the wisdom of crowds. By voting for six councillors, we'll come closer to reaching a consensus on the six most likely to do the best job. Doesn't always work but I'll go with the odds."
"So whose the odd?"
"Well, since you put it that way, Steve Anderson."
"Steve's got a lot of history in town. He's accomplished quite a bit and that testifies to his hard work."
"I hear he's a handful."
"Can't disagree. He's strong-willed and he's rubbed people the wrong way. He's opinionated and occasionally that gets a bit out of hand. But he's no one's fool. He understands the issues and, while I don't think I'd want six of him on council, I'm comfortable with one of him. As much as they seemed to accomplish, I was a bit uncomfortable with the whole kumbaya vibe of the last council. My old economics prof used to say, 'If you want to stir things up a bit, toss an eel in with the mackerel.' Steve's the eel."
"Are you calling the others mackerels?"
"Stop putting words in my mouth."
"You don't seem very excited about this election."
"I'll wait to see what happens. I can always get excited later. Right now I think you owe me a beer."
"Wow, look at the time. I've gotta run."