Sunday, September 16, 2012

Aristotle Chooses Generals (Face Reading Short Story)

How to Handle a Ruler

               Alexander the Great was pacing before his teacher, Aristotle.
               “Sit down, Alex, you’re making me nervous.” The huge elephant of a conqueror plopped down on his thrown.
 “I just don’t know what to do, Aris. It’s all making me crazy. We’re losing men in the Western province, and my feet are hurting. Just can’t find the right sandal maker.”
               “OK. OK. Well, let’s look at one problem at a time, like I taught you when you were a boy. You’ve conquered Mesopotamia by land and brought 8,000 men over the mountain ridge into Constantinople last week. How did the elephants fare? I heard there were rainstorms, and some of them lost their footing in the mud.”
               “Only lost three elephants out of 80, but, dang, those things are heavy when they go down! Have a good elephant man though, and he pulled them through. Seems like a trainer had cut back on their rations. That’s all. Just needed to feed them on the spot, and they were right as rain. Excuse the pun.” Alexander fidgeted with his crown.
               “So let’s go to our maps, and see where we need reinforcements this week.” Aristotle’s noble face turned to his friend and student. “You know. I can’t always be doing this for you. I’m needed at the Pantheon to do my gig at the Acropolis. Don’t want to spread myself too thin, if you know what I mean. But for you, Alex, anything.”
               “Thanks, my friend. I feel better knowing I can talk this over. Even conquerors need down time. Can your page here bring me some wine and bread? Haven’t eaten since breakfast, and I am used to my three squares. After all, I’m a growing boy.” Aristotle let his eyes roll, and both men laughed. Alexander’s massive body rivaled some of the elephants.
               “OK. So the provinces are done. Now, how are the captured peoples?” Aristotle went through their usual list of items conquerors need to attend to.
               “Just checking that all are being treated well. You know, it’s important for our image to be kind to the conquered people. Don’t let your men get sloppy and take food out of their homes. Doesn’t look good, and after all – your army is the highest paid in centuries.  They can certainly learn to act like gentlemen after a battle.” Aristotle reached for an herbal beverage. He wasn’t a liquor sort of guy. Tarnished his reputation as a thinker.
               “Aris,” the younger one looked up. “I need some new generals for the overland conquests. Some of our older men want to go home and be with their families. Say they’ve been gone too long and miss their kids. What should I be looking for in the incoming batch? Any new ideas for leadership?”
               Aristotle nodded. “The new scholars in Greece have been talking about something called “physiognomy” or “Face Reading.” It’s all the rave in the sun cities. And easy to understand. I’ve started incorporating it into my own work. Last week I met with Socrates who was really with it for once. He had heard of it, too. Sometimes he’s a bit too cerebral, but no one is perfect.
               “So how does it work, Aris? I want to choose the top of the crop of the men coming into the field, if you know what I mean.” Alexander liked to make farming references as he knew nothing about land but wanted to appear intellectually superior (as he wasn’t always the sharpest sword in the sheath.)
               Aristotle got out the writing board which he issued for visuals.  “For your uses, let’s see. You’d need a soldier that has these qualities:

               Brave and fearless in battle.
               Quick and mentally agile. Able to grasp complicated battle strategies.
Sort of rugged looking. Outdoorsy sort of guy. Able to enjoy living in
               put up tents all year round.
               Powerful looking. Looks like he would command leadership over the
               Able to inspire the men, so they follow and don’t take the camels      
                              out on picnics.
               Approachable. Can throw a mean dice and joke it up with the troops.
               “So what does a man like this look like?”
               Aristotle walked back and forth in front of the throne popping grapes in his mouth. “OK. Here’s what the Face Reading stuff says you’ll need. They are called “Facial Features.” Physical Patterns. And the best military man’s face should include these facial features.” He raised his chalk to write. Alexander sat up to pay attention. He had to memorize the information and burn it into his huge head. There won’t much papyrus to go around these days. Plus, his robe didn’t have any pockets. Direct recall was the best even if it hurt all his brain cells to think so much. Those metal helmets in battle had been too small, he told himself.
               Aristotle continued, “You’ll want a ‘big, broad wide forehead’ for the strategy part, so he will be clever and smarter than his commander.” He winked good naturedly at his friend. ‘High cheek bones’ means loves to travel. You’ll need that. A man on the go doesn’t take a lot of toiletries. ‘Full, thick beard’ shows an outdoors person. Those ‘sparse beards’ mean a man is immature. Might just stop into his middle of a battle and have an outdoor cook-out. Can’t have that. The key is the jaw structure. All great warriors and leaders, men of state who move the world have ‘huge jaws’ and ‘forward thrusting chins.’ That’s really the key, Alex. Look for the ‘huge jaw and forward chin,’ means dynamic leader with forceful presence. And I bet the other facial features will follow.”
               Alexander nodded. So much less to remember. He liked this Face Reading stuff better all the time. No need to cloud the mind with too many facts.
               “For the being a ‘guy’s guy,’ I’d go with the ‘big front teeth’ and a ‘wide mouth.’ Makes a man look strong and forceful with a tinge of rollicking laughter. Kind of adds a nice touch, don’t you think?  Also, ‘very small eyes’ and elephant ‘big ears’ help.  Creates a blend of someone who is watchful and listens well. That way you don’t have to pay the spies as much. They usually want too many coins for travel time. And they’ve been known to work on both sides if they feel they’re  not appreciated.”
               “Isn’t that the truth!” Alexander nodded.  “So we’ve got ourselves a visual picture of a great general. Thanks so much for the tips.”
               “And just remember that it doesn’t make any different what province or tribe the soldier comes from. These are universal facial features that apply to all men.” Aristotle put down his chalk and came to sit on his simple chair near the throne.
               “Righted, tighy then,” nodded Alexander. “So how are the boys at the Pantheon, Aris? What else is new?” And so they went on to talk of other topics.      

(c) Copyright, September, 2012. Barbara Roberts.  All rights reserved.

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