This is a Cautionary Tale, Part II : for Dads

I am going to tell you a story about a boy.

This is very bloody. And violent. And gruesome. Do you still want to hear it?

Johannes: Yeah.
Magdelana: Yes.

Do you want to hear the children's version, or the gory version?

Magdelana: What does 'gory' mean?

Gory means 'graphic.'

- What does 'graphic' mean?

Graphic means 'gory.'

- What does 'gory' mean?

Gory means 'graphic.'

- Aahh! Daddy, will you just tell me what it means!?

I am teaching you something that's called 'circular reasoning,' or rather, its cousin, 'circular definition,' where we use one word to describe a second word, and then use that second word to describe the first word, and we go round and round in a circle. Very frustrating. It's what people do when they can't explain something very well. Or when somebody is trying to tease their daughter.

- Daddy!

So once upon a time, there was a boy named Ivan. Ivan was incredibly strong, and he was incredibly good at doing something. Guess what that was.

- Climbing trees?

Yep. That too. But I'm thinking of something else. It starts with the letters "ch."

- Chopping?

Yes! You are correct. Ivan was very good at chopping with an axe. Technically, he was using a splitting maul. He was around eight years old or so. He was in the back yard. His dad had just gotten home from work, and Ivan was chopping wood. Did they have a fireplace? No, they did not. So why was he chopping wood?

- I don't know.

The question is not "why was he chopping wood?" The question is "why would he not be chopping wood?" I have to tell you that something tragic happens. Would you like to hear more?

- Yeah.

When you're cutting a big log, then you can use a splitting maul. A splitting maul is long and has a big blade and is for chopping big logs. So that's what Ivan was doing. Then he got to this smaller piece of wood and he wanted to make it just a little bit smaller. So do you know what he did? What he did next is what leads to something tragic.

- Okay.

He made the mistake of holding the little log with one hand, and then trying to chop with the other hand. Should he have known better?

- Yes.

Should he have been chopping wood at eight years old?

- No.


- He could chop himself!

There are a lot of dangerous things that could happen. You use caution, but you don't stop doing them. He was very good at chopping, but he's about to make a mistake, as you'll soon find out.

So he brought the splitting maul down, and he was having trouble getting it split, and all of a sudden there was a slurpling sound and part of his hand started to feel numb. Do you know what it feels like when something goes numb?

- No.

Numb is when you can't feel anything. And Ivan couldn't feel part of his hand. More specifically, his finger. His pointer finger on his left hand, because sadly he was right-handed so he was chopping with his right hand. So he's thinking he must have smashed his left finger. He starts dancing around, because he knew, even at eight, that when you hurt yourself sometimes, it's numb at first, but then you know the pain is gonna be coming.

So Ivan is dancing around, squeezing his finger, and all of a sudden, he thinks: is it raining? My hands are all wet. Is it raining? Is it raining blood? Why is there blood all over? He's still shaking his hand around. He looks down and there is blood gushing out, spraying out like a sprinkler from his hand. You can see it splattering all over. The bushes, his clothes, just these globlets and globules of blood. AAAAHH! He suddenly realizes that he may have done a little more than smash his finger.

He decides the best thing to do is to let everybody know how brave he is, by screaming and yelling as loud as possible. Because that way they would know that he was being very tough, and not crying. Instead of crying, he decided to scream.


What do humans have on the outside of our bodies?

- Skin.

Yes. And what do we have underneath our skin?

- Water. And blood. 

Yes. Skin on the outside. The epidermal layer. Another way of saying 'skin' is 'epidermis.' The outer layer. And inside you have blood, and the skeletal system, which includes bones and muscles and cartilage and tendons and joints.

So Ivan could feel the blood spraying out from his wound, and he could feel that there was actually bone and cartilage that had been crushed. Did you know that sharks' skeletal systems are actually made up of cartilage, not bone?

- Nope.

Yep. Not nearly as strong as bone. So his finger had gotten not only sliced, not only diced, not only cut, not only chopped, but also smashed, gouged.  What had happened was that the blade cut down the middle of his finger. This is pain that no one else in the world has ever felt, ever. Can you imagine anything else in the world more painful than this? Don't answer that. The answer is no.

So he went in, and his parents were in the living room, and they were probably talking about finances or trying to figure out how to raise a family or something like that, and Ivan comes in doing his silly little dance. And he's thinking "okay, I need to let them know that this isn't just my usual dance, so I will let them know in the bravest way possible…


His mom said: Well, get a band-aid. 
His dad said: Oh, are you okay, Ivan?
Or something along those lines. Ivan didn't remember exactly later on, because the pain was so terrible he almost fainted. He could feel his blood pressure starting to drop, because he lost probably 75% of his blood supply, but that's just an estimate. The blood was leaking out all over the floor, spraying out like a firehouse, coming out of his finger, if you can believe that. I almost want to say that it was spraying out of his finger onto the ceiling, and then he took his hand off his finger that was compressing the wound - compressing means "to squeeze tight," and he held up his finger and there's blood all of a sudden just dripping down everyone and it's everywhere and he says "I'll be okay, just give me Ibuprofen and a couple band-aids and I'll be fine…Daddy, maybe you could let me use one of your dirty t-shirts to mop up the blood with…I'm so sorry."

His dad almost passed out because it was so awful. His mom said: let's get you to the hospital.

Noooo! Ivan screamed. We can't afford that! We can't afford to take me to the hospital! I want my little sister and my little brother to get into a good pre-school and we can't do that if we have to spend money on the doctors and the hospital! Let's just take a machete, and take my finger off all the way, and with some duct tape and bandages I should be stable. I'll still have nine fingers. Whooo…breathe deep, breathe deep…AAAAAHHH! 

And then his voice went into falsetto from the pain, and he was probably the bravest person you have ever known.

His mom said: We'll homeschool the children.

Magdelana: I don't know about all that.

So his parents finally got him into the car, and he must have been just about passed out otherwise he wouldn't have let them get him into the car, out of concern for his family's financial security, but somehow they got him in, and somehow through a miracle there was somebody on staff at the hospital. Anyway, I'm just going to skip over all the scientific stuff, but they got him stitched up, and somehow, SOMEHOW they saved his finger. Somehow. 

He was hoping he would at least have a cast, so people would know how brave he was, but no, they just wrapped it in a bunch of bandages, and it didn't seem like there were as many stitches as he really needed. But they told him he'd probably keep his finger.

Ivan said: Is there going to be a scar?

Doctor: Yes, I'm afraid so.

Ivan: Yes. Yes! Yes!

Doctor: You WANT a scar?

Ivan: Why wouldn't I want a scar?

From then on, every time he needed to be reminded of certain things, he held up his finger and looked at it. Every time a storm system was 48 hours off, he could feel it throbbing. What do you think Ivan could learn from this experience?

Magdelana: You mean you?

I did not say it was me! What do you think Ivan could learn from this experience?

- I know it's you.

What lessons did Ivan tell himself he learned?

- You told yourself a couple lessons?

I will ignore that. Okay, first lesson that Ivan learned: Use the right tool for the right job. You don't use a splitting maul for a little piece of wood, you use a hatchet. Number two: if you're going to tell your parents terrible news, then make sure they're sitting down so they don't faint, because adults are not near as strong as you think they are, unless you're thinking of me. 

And number three: when you need to let somebody know something really, really important, then you scream really, really loud. That's why it's important that you don't scream other times. You save your screaming for when you're really in trouble. That's why it's important to not scream other times. Okay?

And number four: I will tell you a little secret.

- I know what the secret will be.

No, you don't know what the secret will be.

- Daddy, you were Ivan. That's the secret.

No, you do not know that. You do not know that that's the secret.

- I KNOW it. 

You do not KNOW it. 

- You are Ivan.

You do not know what the secret is

- You are Ivan.

You may THINK you know. But you don't KNOW. 

- You are Ivan.

Do you want to know the secret?

- You are Ivan.

Magdelana, you have no idea what the secret is.

- I know that you are Ivan.

If you want to think that, then fine. I guess you'll never know the secret. Do you want to know the secret?

- Yes.

Then I need you to acknowledge that you don't KNOW the secret.

- I do know the secret.

You THINK you know. 

- Do you want me to tell you what I think it is?


- You are Ivan.

Okay, you can think that's the secret. 

- Can you tell the secret?

Yeah, but I cannot have you thinking you know the secret when you don't KNOW. You may think you know, but you don't KNOW that you know. Do you want to know the secret? First you have to say "I don't KNOW the secret."

- I know the secret.

Then I'm not going to tell you the secret.

- Tell me the secret!

I can't tell you if you keep saying you KNOW the secret. Not unless you acknowledge that you don't know the secret.


Good. Are you ready? I'll tell you. That little boy? Ivan? Ivan was actually…me.


No, you THOUGHT you knew. Hey, why are you headbutting me? Are you headbutting me? Stop! Stop! Hey! I'm in charge! Let me think I'm in charge! PLEASE!


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