Most of my writing is of essay length and either didactic or expostulatory. However, every now and again I take off on a little flight of fancy and gin up something that might be called “creative writing”. Back on 2008 March 19 I was struck by just such a mood in responding to a question on the Dartmouth FMP discussion list. It was well received there, so I thot I’d share it here.
Before I launch into my little parable, you should be aware that Claris was originally the application-software arm of Apple Computer. It was eventually spun off into a wholly owned subsidiary. At that time, it still published Claris Works, Claris Write, and Claris Draw, among others. But its principal cash cow was its database manager, FileMaker Pro.
After a few more years, Claris dropped everything else in its product line to concentrate on FileMaker. In recognition of this, it changed its corporate name to FileMaker Inc. (FMI).
And now, the story.
Once upon a time didst the great god Claris smile upon his chosen people, and deliver up unto them a database manager. It was fair of mien, and easy of use, and flat of file.
And the people didst use it, and were content.
But there arose a voice from the scoffers (for the scornful are with us in every generation), saying, "But, Lord Claris, I have made me a house, and in the house are many cupboards, and in the cupboards are many shelves, and each shelf holds 1 thing of a particular kind, and 1 thing only. But I have several things of a particular kind which I wish to place upon this shelf, and I know not what to do. Canst thou not aid thy humble supplicant?"
And Claris didst frown and furrow and, after a time, spake thusly: "Thou raisest a good point. Let me ponder upon't som'at and we shall see what we shall see."
And a silence fell upon the land.
Bye and bye didst Claris return and summon the attention of his chosen people, and thus he spake: "Ahem. I have just returned from Cabo San Lucas, where I have been cavorting, ah, consorting with my fellow deities, and the consensus among them was this, that I should employ the type of miracle that is known among us, the gods of software, as a 'kludge'. And so it is, my loyal followers, that I grant thee the ability of the magic touch. Thou mayest touch any shelf in thy cupboards and utter the magical imprecation 'repeating field', and -- lo! -- that shelf will hold not merely 1, nor 2, nor 3 things of a particular kind, but literally hundreds, if thou so wishest."
And the people drew back in awe and went "Oooh", and "Aaaah", and "Wow", and "Way cool".
And the people didst use it, and were content.
And Claris looked down upon his work and saw that, if it was not precisely what you'd call "good", it faked it pretty well.
There passed, in the realm of the gods, an eon (which, to the limited mind of mortal man, was known as "a coupla years"). And during this eon, Claris didst grow in wisdom, and stature, and power, and functionality, and focus.
And when he spake again to his people he said, "Behold! I am thy god Claris, but I have grown in wisdom, stature, power, functionality, and focus, in token whereof I have taken unto myself a new name. Henceforth I shall be known as 'Fmi'. And in honor of this occasion, I have decided to grant thee, my loyal followers, a great new boon. Behold: RELATIONALITY!"
And the great god Fmi stretched forth his hand, and from his fingertips sprang forth a dazzlement of light, shining so brightly that all men averted their eyes from its glory and majesty. And when their vision had adjusted to the newborn eminence glowing in their midst, the people drew back in awe and went "Oooh", and "Aaaah", and "Wow", and "Way cool".
But there arose a voice from the scoffers (for the scornful are with us in every generation), saying, "But, Lord Claris, I mean Fmi, what about built-in E-R diagrams, and multiple tables in a single file, and ..."
"SILENCE!" thundered Fmi. "Ingrates! Showest thou me first that thou canst handle relationality in temperance and in wisdom, then we shall speak of further boons that I might bestow upon thee."
And a murmuring arose among the gathered faithful, along the lines of "Dude's got a point, man" and "Yeah, yeah, I suppose".
And the very wisest amongst the chosen didst soon discover that anything that could be done with repeating fields could be done even better with the new miracle of relationality, and, moreover, that with the magical implements newly provided by Fmi, they couldst convert all of the old repeating fields to shiny new relational files. And so they did, and never looked back, and thus were not turned into pillars of salt.
And Fmi looked down upon his work and saw that, if it was not precisely what you'd call "good", it wasn't half bad.
There passed, in the realm of the gods, several eons (which, to the limited mind of mortal man, was known as "about a decade"). And during these eons, Fmi didst continue to periodically bestow additional blessings upon the chosen ones, in return for which he asked only the annual sacrifice of a few hektobux, which all concerned agreed was meet and proper and not a bad price for what you got.
And it came to pass in those days that Fmi determined him to put forth a great compendium of all the boons he had bestowed upon his people, that they might be suitably impressed with how spiffy he was. And so he issued his compendium, which he called the Holy Book of Manuality, and gave of it freely to his people.
But there arose a voice from the scoffers (for the scornful are with us in every generation), saying, "Hey, what's this stuff about repeating fields? What are they good for?".
And Fmi, in his wisdom and patience, explained "Look there, right there on the next page in the Holy Book of Manuality, and thou shalt see examples of the utility of repeating fields, how they may be used of a thusness, and a suchness, and a soness."
And the scoffers didst indeed look, and determined they them that the principal organizing characteristic of the aforesaid examples was the halfness of their assedness, and they didst exclaim "Dude! Weak."
Whereupon Fmi drew himself up with righteous indignation and spake thus: "It is true that not all of the boons and benefits I have granted thee are of equal quality, value, and utility, but each has its place in the firmament. And besides, needst I remind thee of the great covenant which I entered into with thee, my chosen people, a covenant signified by my placing upon the skies the symbol of the rainbow labelled 'Backward Compatibility'? For I, Fmi, am a benign and generous god, and I wouldst fain not retract from thee any boon or benefit which I have previously granted, lest there be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth at its absence."
But there arose a voice from the scoffers (for the scornful are with us in every generation), saying, "Oh, yeah? What about the 'Save' button in ScriptMaker dialogs?".
"Hmphf," quoth Fmi. "Let us speak of this anon." And he turned away to repair again to his cave, wherein he would ponder and frown and think Profound Thots.
And as he did so, another voice arose, saying "And what about that tab-numbering interface? We've been waiting on that for a couple of epochs now."
"La la la la la," quoth Fmi. "La la la la la. Not LIStening to you."
So concludeth today's reading.