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The Cab Ride I'll Never Forget (zenmoments.org)
688 points by wolfden on May 2, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 188 comments

I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to interact with many people in a similar way.

I'm a volunteer EMT with the ambulance service in my town, with several 'assisted living' facilities in our district. My rough guess would be that 25-30% of the folks we take to the hospital are in the last year of their life, and likely will spend the rest of their days in the facility where we picked them up (with occasional 'field trips' to the ER).

While it's popular to complain about these sorts of calls (they certainly lack the excitement of a car wreck, or the glamour of saving a child), I generally enjoy them. Even in the grips of dementia, many of these people have fascinating stories to tell. We're stuck together in the back of the truck for 20 minutes... I can either get a head start on my paperwork, or I can engage them in conversation. In the past month, I've met a WW2 bomber pilot (who flew in a pathfinder squadron) and a former Rockette (plus a schoolteacher, a librarian, a surveyor, and several others I'm sure I've forgotten). I learned something from each of them (well... most of them... grumpy old people are still grumpy...).

The statement "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated," really rang home for me. I've heard that same sentiment (practically verbatim, just s/passengers/patients/) from several providers, all of whom I regard very highly. I think it's one of the best predictors of someone's ability as an EMS provider. While I know a few extremely capable medics who have a lousy bedside manner, every medic I know who seems to genuinely care about their patients is a top-notch medical provider.

Thanks for sharing and contributing in a positive way to this post, and the overall story.

Beats all the other grumps down below complaining about how this has nothing to do with hacking or technology.

I think the grumps should start thinking about where they'd want the cab driver to drive them during those two hours.

As long as we are dictating what other people should be thinking about here is a quote from the late great James Baldwin I think you should mull over.

'Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel...the mask of cruelty'

Funny, I consider the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious pseudo-sophistication as a mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel...the mask of cruelty.

Your use of Baldwin here begs the question[1]. We can all agree that "the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion" is bad. It's bad by definition, as indicated by "excessive" and "spurious" (and "ostentatious," to a lesser degree).

What we can't all agree on are absolute standards for excessiveness, spuriousness, or ostentatiousness. So what Baldwin wrote is irrelevant unless you first show how the article is an example of excessive and spurious emotion.

Otherwise, you're simply saying "It's bad because it's bad. Q.E.D."

1. The quote itself is not intrinsically question-begging.

What an interesting writer. I've never heard of him before. Thanks!


Sorry, I could have told you about him.

Can you give any advice in becoming a volunteer emt? I've wanted to do this, but have no idea how to start...

You have to get licensed as an EMT, I took this course, it's very good: https://www.cpc.mednet.ucla.edu/cpc/course/emt

You can transfer licensure between states.

A minor quibble... You're _certified_ as an EMT, not licensed.

Yes, the class certifies you, so you can get your license.

You have to be licensed to volunteer as an EMT, as I said.

Do you live in an area served by a volunteer agency?

In my case, I'm actually a volunteer firefighter/EMT with my local fire department, which also runs the ambulance.

The first step would simply be to call your local agency.

Where I live it's all professionals. And from what I understand they aren't amenable to the idea of volunteer EMT, for their own reasons.

What I took away from the story wasn't so much related to death, but rather its great visceral conveying of the point of the golden rule. The author says he treated her like he would want his mother to be treated. Many of us apply these sorts of rules, but we tend to do it much more rigorously with people close to us, because they are already more similar, and thus fit easier within the "do unto others" formulation (whether you use the positive or negative).

It isn't great moments that catch us unaware as he says, it's that our life is a constant stream of such moments, usually unbeknownst to us. It's only occasionally that we realize the sort of impact we have on those around us.

This story reminds me to continue applying these principles (within certain limits, the golden rule isn't a moral panacea) to every interaction, including the most incidental. The feelings expressed in the story are exactly the sort from which I derive my compassion and which I use as the intuitive component of my ethical reasoning. It reminds me to consider the side-effects of not just my actions, but also how I express my internal states to others.

I always preferred "The Platinum Rule": Treat others as _they_ would like to be treated.

That rule breaks down if it isn't qualified. What if the way they want to be treated isn't good for them? Especially in the case of immature people (and especially immature children). A simple example: always giving a kid a ton of candy whenever they want is hardly treating them well.

How we should treat others is rarely an easy-to-discern topic. Lot of room for error there. We could say, "oh, but it's assuming they know what they're doing; or, oh, it's assuming they're a normal functioning person; etc". But the fact is, in life, a lot of people don't know what they're doing. They struggle with their relationships, their finances, and their very purpose of life. Whether it's a high school sophomore desperate for friends or a successful, rich guy with a mid-life crisis, we all have moments of weakness where we make irrational decisions and have irrational desires.

Building on that point, further complicating matters is that people often don't know what they want, often including how they want to be treated. Oh, we know it usually means that people want respect, love, money, happiness, whatever. But what does it mean at a tactical level that actually gives us the insight for how to treat them well? Was my mom really jealous of me getting a box of cookies for a friend instead of her (long story), or did she just wish we could hang out more together before I left again for my new home? Well, turns out that although she was jealous of the cookies, she didn't care about the cookies at all. She wanted to spend time with me. Now, how is a normal person who sucks at conflict resolution supposed to pick up on that? It took me 30 minutes of talking with her.

I really think that this rule is useless, unless one is some kind of prophet who can see into people's innermost hearts. It offers little real-world tactical advice. You might argue that the Golden Rule doesn't either, but I'd say it's much easier to implement, and much more difficult to screw up. And as the other guy notes, this Platinum Rule would derive from the Golden Rule anyway.

The Platinum Rule only sort of derives from the Golden Rule (at least the name does). Useless? Really? For example, I hate to be waited on. Is that how I should treat others? Does it take a rocket surgeon to figure out who likes to be waited on and who doesn't? Wow. Useless, really?

I'm sorry, did you just apply the Golden Rule to yourself? Confused by that, if you're pushing this Platinum Rule (which I actually had usually rather heard of described as the Silver Rule, but that's besides the point).

My point isn't about how simple things are simple. It's that human interactions and relationships can be complex things, and we shouldn't take them lightly. And there have been plenty of times where I screwed up in even the simple things. If you never have, I applaud you. But I see Platinum Rule being difficult to implement with a high success rate, especially in complex scenarios, given what I've already discussed above.

A better way to refute me is to explain how I overcomplicate things and why life is really as simple as you describe. But I don't think I am overcomplicating things at all.

> did you just apply the Golden Rule to yourself?

Yes, as an example of how it commonly fails.

Of course I screw up simple things (or are you just being rude?). Sure, the Platinum Rule is harder to implement but that doesn't mean it cannot be a good rule or preferred to the Golden Rule.

The Silver Rule is the negative form of the Golden Rule.

Your whole comment seems ill-conceived.

I'm just asking you to respond to my concerns about your Platinum Rule. You haven't done that yet. Where in your example you say that the Golden Rule fails, I don't think it does if you understand the heart of why we're saying the Platinum drives from the Golden. I think you're oversimplifying these rules, and that they have more overlap than you're implying. It's why I see the derivation to be so easy to digest.

Email me if you'd like to continue the conversation. I do find it interesting and also important. My mind is full of this topic having finally gotten around to reading Speaker of the Dead. I love Ender.

And I'm sorry if you thought I was rude.

The Platinum Rule, however, derives from the the Golden Rule. The reason to treat others as they would like to be treated is because (1) you want others to treat you as you want to be treated and (2) you should do unto others etc.

The golden rule has a serious problem of enabling sociopaths.

Only help people worth helping.

People like to argue against the golden rule, saying that if you are deranged, it gives you license to hurt others. First, this is an edge case. Second, it is out of context.

The golden rule was given by Jesus secondary to the command "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

If you follow both those commands, you'll only do good to your fellow man.

The greatest commandment was two parts: what you said + "love your neighbor as yourself". The golden rule is kind of redundant if you follow greatest commandment.


This is the best chapter in the entire Bible IMO. It's funny how many Christian couples think they'll still be married in Heaven.

> People like to argue against the golden rule, saying that if you are deranged, it gives you license to hurt others.

You are shifting the argument. That has nothing to do with my comment. Straw man fallacy.

> The golden rule was given by Jesus secondary to the command "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

No, in the christian bible it says a man named Jesus gave a new commandment. The "Golden Rule" is a generalization made in more recent times to try to find a common ground across religions. And it's very vague as many religions are closer to what's named as the "Silver Rule".

> If you follow both those commands, you'll only do good to your fellow man.

That's not on the bible and even if it were, it's your dogma book. You provide me no proof it is that way. Not even a decent hypothesis.

Small problem:

alleco: The golden rule has a serious problem of enabling sociopaths.

lancefisher: People like to argue against the golden rule, saying that if you are deranged, it gives you license to hurt others.

alleco: You are shifting the argument. That has nothing to do with my comment. Straw man fallacy.

It isn't a straw man fallacy. It is a direct paraphrase of your statement. "enabling" and "giving license" are pretty much the same thing. As are forms of "sociopath" and "deranged (who will) hurt others" -- at least in common vernacular.

"The golden rule has a serious problem of enabling sociopaths" obviously means people following the golden rule helping indiscriminately are helping sociopaths. And sociopaths, by definition, do not follow the rule. Sociopaths thriving in society are very bad, obviously.

"People like to argue against the golden rule, saying that if you are deranged, it gives you license to hurt others", this vague accusation first generalices all criticism of the golden rule as the same. Second it states something that has nothing to do with my coments. I did not claim "if you are deranged, [the golden rule] gives you license to hurt others'. I wouldn't be surprised if that was made up on the spot by lancefisher.

Your points are hard-headed nonsense and a waste of time.

Edit: minor typos

"The golden rule has a serious problem of enabling sociopaths" obviously means people following the golden rule helping indiscriminately are helping sociopaths. And sociopaths, by definition, do not follow the rule. Sociopaths thriving in society are very bad, obviously.

Your claim of obviously is not true because you say so. You may have meant it the way you claim, but an equally valid interpretation of the term enabling is:

The golden rule allows sociopaths to justify behavior by claiming "I expect to be treated the way I am treating you". In a society that puts the golden rule at the top of social norms, this allows the sociopaths to do their thing while within the guidelines. Allowing something to be justified is in fact enabling it. This is why the term for codependent family who make excuses for their addict loved ones and who clean up the addict's messes is enabler.

It is important to note when there are multiple subtly different ways of defining words, it can lead to confusion when you think you are being clear.

Your comment is wrong in so many levels it isn't worth refuting. And you sound like a brainwashed individual who won't listen to reason, anyway.

you're making some pretty big assumptions that: 1) you can actually tell who is worth helping 2) even if the golden rule does enable sociopaths, that the overall benefits don't outweigh that downside

1) It's very easy to tell if you pay attention. Selfish people are trivial to spot. Also those who sweet talk others with compliments to use them and move on afterwards.

2) How do you know? Sociopaths break the trust of people and can easily break a working system. A classic real anecdote of mine:

We were about 100 people in a very large open space office. The vast majority of us were normal or nice. But two selfish idiots kept stealing/hoarding anything that was freely available. From coffee cups and plastic cutlery to toilet paper. This drove everyone to hoard all those resources, creating a bigger problem and masking the original culprits.

My point is a tiny fraction of the population can easily break a healthy system/society. Don't underestimate this.

A healthy system has a way of ejecting unhealthy influences. As in, "stop this crap or we're going to have to let you go."

You have to find them first. Most sociopaths take abuse as a full time job and usually are very good at hiding or excusing themselves. Sometimes they just say they're sorry, stop doing it for a while, but later resuming their original behaviour with some adaptation.

I don't see you responding very well to jwb's argument. You made a statement that the Golden Rule enables sociopaths. jwb made a counterstatement that your statement makes some assumptions that are not necessarily true. You address the first assumption with some logic and an anecdote of your own, but you by no means address the second, which seems to be the more important one.

Instead, you seem to (and if I'm misinterpreting you here, I'm sorry, but I see no other way to read it) say that the second assumption jwb pointed out is irrelevant because your anecdote demonstrates that the power of the horrible few can be larger by orders of magnitude. Not that I'm good at analogies, but it's like saying cats are absolutely horrible because 1 cat you used to have made 10 dogs go wild, while jwb is saying that whatever trouble cats may cause in our world, the world is still better off for having them.

And then ekanes responded to you with a statement that also reflects my own life experience. I can't think of a single time in my life when a small or large group of people have been unable to identify such similar culprits and then either reform or eject them. Aside from the fact that 1 anecdote does not a study make, I feel you're falling prey to anchoring bias, attentional bias, insensitivity to sample size, and belief bias all in one (the belief bias being the most ironic, given what appears to be your antagonism towards people of faith). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

edit: better word arrangement

I provide real examples behind my opinions. I don't have to prove or disprove vague statements made by others.


"the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically unfalsifiable claims rather than shifting the burden of proof to others, specifically in the case of religion"

The statements jwb made about assumptions you appeared to be making were not vague. And they had nothing to do with religion either. The only one who started making statements that included anything related to religion was lancefisher, and on a completely different thread branch. I think my original statement stands. You're not responding very well to jwb's statements. In fact, you're letting your opinion of lancefisher's statements influence your decision to respond to jwb. Again, jwb made no religious statements. In fact, the whole thread branch following jwb's comments is 100% free of religious language. I don't know why you're allowing yourself to do this. It makes you look unnecessarily obstinate.

edit: Looking at the lancefisher thread, you're not being just obstinante, but also dismissive. I don't think it's fair to complain that others aren't using reason if you're not willing to respond with reason. Whether you think of it as a waste of time or not, I think you lose the right to complain about lack of reason if you're not willing to display it yourself in detail like the way I'm trying to do now and the way others are trying to. If you think it's a waste of time, then it's better to just exit the conversation.

Wait, it's very easy to identify sociopaths one post ago, but they're good at hiding/excusing now? You might want to pick a side...

It's easy to detect a sociopath on a personal level. It's not easy to detect their sociopathic actions when they hide in groups. "Is Alice a sociopath?" is a lot easier than "Who are the abusers out of these 100?"

At personal level the work of detecting them is distributed, so it scales. If addressed at group level by controllers (e.g. HR) it doesn't. If the group follows blindly the Golden Rule, HR is lost.

Also knee-jerk solutions making strict rules trying to enforce the Golden Rule tend to make things worse, in my experience.

Meh. Only something like 5% of the population is sociopathic. As long as you take reasonable precautions, it's okay to treat most people you meet as if they're one of the other 95%.

Sociopaths drive people into cynicism.

I've had to work with sociopaths, and being used and abused ain't fun.

But I hope you'll get over it. For sure, cynicism, won't bring you happiness.

I never proposed cynicism! I clearly say you should be mindful who you help. That's it.

It's always hard to get the tone of a forum message. I thought that the contact of sociopath brought you to cynicism. Obviously, I was wrong.

Neglecting abusers perpetuates abuse.

It's nice to get the appropriate response when it's needed.

I once had a flat on my bike, and tried for about 20 minutes to flag down cyclists (on a busy route) that I could see had a pump (I didn't have one, but I had a new tube). Eventually someone that passed turned back rather reluctantly - then stated they'd go home and fetch me a pump as they'd experienced a good deed the night before. They left and then returned to assist when others just tried their best to ignore me. Kindness has a habit of spreading.

Thank you for the tl;dr review.

This is by the actual author though, at least according to http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/c/cabbie.htm

I'm going to guess this story has been Mike Daisey'd.

The author quite likely did work as a cabbie, did pick up an elderly woman on her final trip to hospice care, and did make an unexpected detour around town to look at some landmarks from her life.

It probably also happened in the middle of the day, only took about half an hour, and the patient probably didn't say "You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," because she fell asleep near the end of the ride.

This is sad, because, just like Mike Daisey's story, there's plenty of value in what really transpired, and by exaggerating it, it loses its believability. By becoming overly sentimental, bordering on mawkish, it loses the impact that a frank, thoughtful reflection on the actual event could have had.

> By becoming overly sentimental, bordering on mawkish, it loses the impact that a frank, thoughtful reflection on the actual event could have had.

Or it reflects how the event happened to him, as opposed to how the event just happened.

When writing narrative essays, remember that truth is subjective, and you have a choice between being loyal to how it impacted the narrator and how it 'objectively happened'. If you want the latter, you'll just end up with an overdetermined logfile.

I don't know what parts of David Sedaris's stories are true, and I don't care - all I know is that some of them are incredibly powerful emotionally, and that man sure knows how to nail the ending of a story.

Belief is subjective. Reality is objective. Since "truth" compares belief and reality, the output is not subjective. The belief that I can fly can make me expect to fly away when I jump off a cliff; only the truth of that belief can prevent me from hitting the ground.

We're talking about an inspirational story told as a personal narrative. I'm willing to suspend some disbelief in this case to get the larger picture.

I'm going to guess this story has been Mike Daisey'd.

Wow, is that seriously what they're calling it now? I guess that's genius. But I feel like that poor guy has been put to new lows just because he was out of his depth. Doesn't excuse him for what happened, I guess though.

What are you showing with that search? That the story (apparently true), has been posted in various places?

This is the second time I've seen this story this week, and this version is subtly different from the previous one I saw. This is making me wonder whether either version of the story actually happened. I wish I remembered where I saw the other one.

It's reads like a creative writing piece, and is taken from a book about living with the prayer of Saint Francis. I don't believe it's meant to have literally happened, so much as to convey a lesson.

If you ever sat through a sermon by a competent preacher, they're just loaded with scripted stories like this. No cab driver is going to throw away a day's pay out of sentiment.

I've seen it about a dozen times in a dozen different forms in as many years.

Meta question: how is this related to hacker news (related to technology or science)?

The guidelines quite clearly state that HN stories don't have to be related to tech/science:


"On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity."

on the other hand:

"If they'd cover it on TV news, it's probably off-topic."

Now that you know the criteria, I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions as to whether this story belongs.

This cheap feel-good fictional story did not gratify my intellectual curiosity.

And it sparked a religion flamewar in the comments.

You know what doesn't gratify my intellectual curiosity? Stories about beginner level Vim, or stories about programming iPhone apps. The first because I am a fairly advanced vim user. The later because I don't really care about iPhone dev. Perhaps that means they don't belong HN.

Or perhaps it means that not every story on this site exists for me. Many of the stories here do qualify for my intellectual curiosity. Many stories I would like to see discussion on are not discussed, and many that are discussed I don't care about. Perhaps I should go to every story about basic Vim and declare that they just don't belong here because my intellectual curiosity is not properly being pandered.

Or perhaps everyone should grow up a bit and not chicken-little every story they don't like but which gets major points. It always baffles me how:

If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.

a statement that implies in itself that it isn't the end-all-be-all definitive rule, gets turned into some sort of hard rule. And that hard rule application somehow ignores the fact that some people find different things interesting, if those things disagree with the reader's personal taste.

> a statement that implies in itself that it isn't the end-all-be-all definitive rule, gets turned into some sort of hard rule

I didn't say that. I just stated it was a shitty emotional story and it didn't find it intellectually interesting at all. Also stated as others it brought up the religious flame war. The comment doesn't say the story doesn't fit HN rules.

You are the one intentionally misinterpreting other people's comments. You are the one diverting the point of this thread to other cases to back your point.

So lets see... discusion:

1. why is this hn worthy?

2. guidelines about what is worthy including statement of intellectual curiosity.

3. counterpoint about not satisfying one specific person's curiosity (and another seemingly unrelated counterpoint about religion)

4. (ignore second counterpoint) focus on intellectual curiosity and how focus of it for one person is not the same as for the group.

How is my reply is misinterpreting? It certainly isn't intentional. Nor is it diverting the thread away from how it is HN worthy. It is an example of how one person's view of what is intellectually stimulating may not match another's.

I honestly found the discussion in this thread far more interesting than comments on almost all vim articles. This counts as satisfying my intellectual curiosity. Including the debate about religion.

Is your strategy to win arguments not by reason but by exhaustion? haha, I'll pass. I have a life and it's calling.

I feel that this article is suitable to HN, not for its actual content, but for the intelligent discussions that eventually spring out of it.

If you take such an ex post facto rationalization, you must conclude that there is nothing out of bounds for HN as long as it spawns an intellectual discussion. We could have an intellectual discussion about a blank page, cute kitten pictures, or pharmaceutical spam.

Are you joking? It brought up all the religious fanatics.

I count at least three poignant lessons related to entrepreneurship, concerning the value of persistence, chance encounters, and courtesy.

I can see that. It isn't explicit, but it is there.

Some hackers may come here to read stories similar to this one.

If this story doesn't nearly or outright bring a tear to your eye, please pause for a moment and ask yourself why.

[edit: it doesn't matter whether it's real vs fiction, it's a question of how you would react if you did something in the normal course of what you do, and then come to realize at it had a profoundly positive impact on someone else. Is not the romanticized part of the modern conception of a startup a blend of changing people's lives positively at skill via products that make the world better plus a dash of hopefully positioning yourself to there after only work on projects that capture your eye?

I will not dispute that the story here is cute and possibly fiction. But even if your day to do focus is building better tech in some domain, it's about building better tools for other people. ]

Because it isn't true. Because it's a hackneyed creation of a shallow imagination peopled with cardboard characters, made to press the emotional buttons especially popular today. Because real people don't say "You gave an old woman a little moment of joy". Because death and loneliness and loss and memory are all so much more than this Hallmark card of a story.

Because it's so fake, and so corny.

I agree that it at least seems fake. She's moving out her home at 02:30 AM to move into a hospice? They take a detour and she's two hours late, yet the orderlies are immediately around to assist her (presumably it's 04:30 AM now)? There are no details in the story, like place names, that would support the claim that it's a true story.

I'll also add that he claims he was a driver for Yellow Cab. His boss is going to be pissed if he spent half the night not collecting fares. Edit: As noted by tptacek he was probably an independent contractor.

Also he mentioned that impoverished people relied on the taxis. Impoverished people cannot afford taxis and taxi drivers are not big on giving free rides.

Impoverished people don't have any other choice.

It's part of how it's easy to stay poor. There was a while when all I had was a bicycle. When my bike got stolen I didn't have the money for another one, but over the next three months spent more than a bike would have cost on unavoidable and otherwise-impossible transportation. Mostly I walked (including three miles to work each day), but sometimes the cost of the cab was less than the money I'd loose by not being somewhere.

I was poor growing up. Rarely did we take a cab. We were lucky to have a decent bus system that was $0.50 and would take you all around the small town we lived. The fact is that we were so poor there is no way we could have paid the taxi fare & taxis don't take food stamps.

I do understand that public transit is not available for everyone, but for people who are impoverished, often the $10 - $20 for a cab ride isn't available either.

Honestly the inclusion of him helping the impoverished and old ladies just seems to be him buttering up his image for the story.

Clearly in a small town with good bus service, a taxi would rarely be needed for things you need a car for.

But there are plenty of large towns and cities that have terrible bus service.

I would still find it unlikely that a poor person could keep a regular taxicab habit going unless they were bailing on fares.

Cab drivers, including Yellow Cab drivers, don't work for "Yellow Cab". Each individual cab is a franchise operation with its own P&L. Cab drivers don't typically have "bosses".

It does look like you are right, though some companies do hire drivers to a more typical wage, that is not the norm. So I retract my assertion that his boss would be angry.

I'm going to take a moment to burn a little karma.

May you choke on your cynicism while you sleep.

Edit: what, no downvotes? Clearly I have no idea what motivates you people.

You seem like a nice human being, truly wishing death upon someone because they find your precious sob story hokey is the hallmark of someone who is empathic and mature.

EDIT: Oh wait, I see now! It was not your intention to actually emulate the hilariously 2D caricatures in the story and be sympathetic and nice to all comers, no that something you reserve for the safe idealized realm of fiction where there is no chance for disappointment by the messy and contradictory things we call humans. I've got your ticket man and you seem to be in good company with the majority of HN, I mean who would have guessed that the money hungry posers on this site would be into empty sentimentality?

You see the little gray triangles to the left of my post? Click the one pointing down and be about your business.

Edit: you talk too much.

He doesn't have enough karma to do that.

Cynicism mostly. One can hope for that as a prime motivator. Clearly, lazy sentimentality isn't good for recognizing the real suffering and injustice being experienced in this world.

The story brought to mind the movie Crash (2004). I remember thinking "wow, this is basically just manipulating me as a viewer to bring a tear to my eye" – and it worked, just as this story did.

I'm unmoved by this sentimental drivel, and I think your urging to "please pause for a moment and ask yourself why" is the most pompous thing I have read on HN.

It's pretty obvious by that this is some egotistical generic write up. Do good things, don't brag with them, at least thats how I learned it.

Because not all of us are affected emotionally to the same extent as you?

I can agree that the person telling the story did a good deed without feeling overly moved by the story.

because it probably is not true

edit: it seems to be true in the sense that the guy wrote it in a book years ago http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/c/cabbie.htm

I think it probably is true, but there's not enough evidence either way to allow that to be a factor.

Because I get email forwards like this all the time, written by some bored political pr email hack on his lunch break just sharpening his craft (you know the guys who create those shady emails about Obama that get forwarded around right-wing circles).

Seriously, #1 on HN and it's not even remotely about hacking.


Because its an overdone cliche? I think we've all heard this story 1000 times. I believe there was also recently a movie made about this story (or something like it. In the movie, it was an old man who was suicidal).

Not to discount it, just saying that not making you cry is t that bizarre.

This story just sold a book.

Off topic question: I know many here aren't necessarily religious (Though some would say they are spiritual)... Do the non-religious among us still find value in the writing of overtly religious authors? I'm not interested in arguing about religion. I'm just curious if the HN crowd find value in the words of people with differing opinions.

I am non-religious, in the sense that I do not follow any organised religion, nor do I believe in the vast majority of the superstitions of many religions. I don't believe there is a God as described by the christians, muslims or jews, or supernatural beings as proposed by Hinduism, etc.

However, I think that anyone who dismisses religion as worthless is blind or stupid.

Religion, religious texts, concepts of religion, and so on, have been a natural repository for boundless amounts of human wisdom accumulated over the centuries. Each religion, with all its flaws, is trying to grasp at an essential Truth of human existence. That they fail to quite reach it (for most people) is obvious, but that doesn't make the attempt worthless. Nor is it intelligent to ignore the fact that there have been numerous people throughout history whom one could call "enlightened", who touched on something beyond our normal existences.

There is a very deep well of value in religion. Those who spit in that well are to be pitied.

I'll close with an idea from Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher of the late 19th Century, who suggested that much of humanity's efforts (in the intellectual spheres) aim to reconcile the physical and the spiritual, to answer the question of how it is possible that there is matter and thinking (two apparently fundamentally different things), and how it is possible that there is such a thing as matter that thinks about its own nature.

He suggests that this striving to reconcile the two is split into three great movements: art, science and religion.

Dismissing one in favour of the other is like choosing to ignore your left leg in favour of your right. A complete human being will not ignore one of the three pillars of human thought.

"However, I think that anyone who dismisses religion as worthless is blind or stupid."

We've learned a great deal about our world and our nature since the primary texts of the most established religions have been written. People who dismiss religion are not denying the value and wisdom in it, but are bringing to our attention that this wisdom is discoverable, and maybe better understood, outside of religion. More importantly, religion comes with dogma, which causes a great deal of harm and suffering. Much more relevant than "worth" is the fact that religion can be a very dangerous weapon in the hands of people who cannot dissociate the wisdom from the dogma.

Without hoping to encourage any sort of flamewar, I couldn't agree with that statement more.

I used to consider myself 'agnostic', because I did not know, nor did I care to know, whether there was a God in heaven, or even a heaven at all. In fact, I would have accused any man that told me they did know (whether atheist, christian or whatever) that they couldn't possibly. Even the bible reiterates that statement, with phrases like "no man can truly understand God", and all the rhetoric about faith being unprovable, that's the point of faith, that you can believe it without proof.

I've since grown (or shrunk, depending) into the viewpoint that religion is a detriment to mankind, and now identify more with humanists than anybody else. I don't think that a belief in a moral system is wrong, but I think the reliance on anything other than one's self to get something done is naive, and I think that the biggest harm belief in a god does is to limit one's own potential.

Ignoring any of the myriad of issues I have with organized religion on the whole, that is the problem I have with the very premise of religion.

That said, to answer the great-grandparent, I do not have a problem reading works by religious people, and I consider them just as valuable as works by anybody else, except where the work is primarily religious and/or preachy.

There is a lot of dogma in the sciences too. To paraphrase Khun: A lot of scientific revolutions and advances happen not because everyone realized they were wrong, but because the old guard slowly ages out of relevance (and eventually die off).

You can see this in the current culture wars surrounding sustainability and factory farming. Arguably dogma about the best approach is hindering progress and perhaps even causing great harm.

The difference is that science at least eventually converges on the correct answer. Religion is basically a random walk that never converges on anything in particular. Modern science may not be correct, but it's almost universally more correct than science of 100 years ago. When it comes to religious topics, we can't even say what "more correct" would even mean, let alone say that modern religion is more correct than religion from the past.

Metaphysical beliefs notwithstanding, there is a decent amount of convergence on interpersonal interaction between the world's major religions (i.e. mutual respect, Golden Rule). From a non-religious standpoint, this could be because these teachings promote healthier societies compared to an alternative where similar teachings aren't promoted.

That BS religious propaganda. There are many good counter examples. And on the other hand, many wars current and past have intolerance from religious groups as a main component of causes.


I'm not sure whether to be upset or take it as a complement that my idle random thoughts would be called propaganda. Rest assured, I'm not trying to denigrate atheists, or Sweden for that matter.

The observation was that in less developed societies there are bad religions, good religions, and better religions that promote social cohesion. It was not a statement about modern society and religion vs. morality and lawfulness. Sorry if I offended you.

They might agree on vague general statements of things like mutual respect and the golden rule, but when it comes down to implementation, they don't seem to agree very much at all.

Progress is not the same thing as perfection. Praying does not a 3GHz CPU make, but people tend look for progress in terms of last year and ignore things that happened say before they where born. In practice a lot of published research is junk, but most religions are hundreds if not thousands of years old, on those timescales science is a wondrous new idea. On a long enough timescale we may run out of reasonable experiments to run, but should 'science' and 'religion' actually become indistinguishable it will be a lot closer to the truth than talking snakes.

What you are describing is simply human fallibility. There is no dogma in science. Science does not mandate that anything be set in stone, never to be questioned, doubted or disputed. And when the "old guard" is made irrelevant, that happens through the scientific method itself.

I'm sorry, but "this is the way it is, because it is the way it is no matter what you say" is dogma, whether on a short or long timescale. Just because it doesn't stick for hundreds of years in a row doesn't change that it is dogma for a generation or two. If it affects funding despite evidence, and what papers get published even if there is good evidence at odds with the model, how is it not dogma?

Does changing the label of the same set of actions make it better somehow?

Also, there is a bit of irony in the statement "there is no dogma in science" as it is a fairly dogmatic statement :)

What I mean is there are no articles of faith in science. There is no equivalent of "Jesus was born of a virgin". Science doesn't tell you that "E=MC2" is never to be questioned. The phenomenon you describe exists, but I don't think you will find justification for it in a scientific text. But you will find justification for religious dogma in the religious texts themselves.

The articles of faith can be looked at as axioms of the worldview. For instance "bible = word of god/statement of truth" is a basic axiom.

Similarly in science you do get certain axioms:

* occam's razor * reductionist analysis is the best path to truth * this new theory is more elegant even though it currently unanswers certain questions.

They are axioms without empirical proof, that are argued fairly strongly fairly regularly.

NOTE: I don't disagree with them, just pointing out that there are non-empirical axioms that are fairly dogmatically taught and followed. One frequently under fire is reductionism, particularly in medicine and other biological areas.

The difference is that science doesn't tell you to dogmatically follow axioms per se. For example, the constancy of the speed of light is an axiom of Einstein's theory of relativity. Evidence that disproves said constancy would eventually lead to revising the theory, just as Newton's axioms were eventually replaced by Einstein's relativity. That's not dogmatic following.

On the other hand, the virgin birth of Jesus (for example) is a dogma of Christianity. From what we know about our world, a virgin birth is not possible, not with the technology that was available at the time the Bible was written. Christians still accept this tenet of Christianity at face value, despite the ample evidence against it (evidence they would never ignore in other aspects of their lives). That's dogmatic following.

It seems like you are engaging in goalpost moving and/or strawmanning here. I explicitly listed non-empirical axioms about the method, and discussed some examples. You are replying with an example of empirical axiom as if it is the same thing.

I never denied nor tried to refute that there are many empirical axioms associated with science. I only stated that there are also a priori axioms which are structurally dogma.

Please stop changing the subject.

I misrepresented your argument, and I apologize for it.

Occam's razor it's simply a way to compare two theory's with IDENTICAL results. AKA for all test data A and B produce the same results however A takes 10 days on a supercomputer to compute and B can be done by hand, I will go with B.

It also has a strong theoretical basis. Add enough epicycles and you can smooth out any irregularity's. But, over fit your data and you lose predictive capability.

PS: Preferring the more complex theory is unworkable, because E=mc^2+(10^(-900))m is going to give the same results for any test you could actually carry out. Having no preference has the same basic limitation.

Aren't you describing philosophy instead of religion, in the sense that philosophy is thinking about it, while religion is extracting rules/guidelines and/or dogmas from those thoughts?

Also: Blind and stupid? Nothing against criticism, but i think something more neutral would be better, like short-sighted and willfully ignorant.

Philosophy and religion are really easy to draw a bright line between when viewing them from 30,000 feet. It's a lot harder to draw a bright line on the ground. Sure, there's some things that are pretty clearly one or the other, but there's a lot of really fuzzy stuff in the middle that's harder to characterize, especially down in the area of the axioms you take.

In this case by religion I mean the sort of things commonly associated with religion, minus the "clearly" religious stuff. For instance, consider utilitarianism. It's a "life-guiding philosophy", which is already treading into religious waters, but the real killer is, what utility metric do you use? Many people who claim to be one or another variety of utilitarianist often try to use some sort of global metric that accounts for not just their own subjective utility, but that of others. But... why? Why not just act based on your own utility? (Including an enlightened utility metric in which one understands that harming others is generally not the right answer due to retaliation or general degradation of the local environment, so not just stereotypical selfishness.) It's awfully easy to call that a sort of non-god/non-spirit religious decision, because there's no objective rational basis for that metric. (And there's not necessarily an objective rational basis for choosing any particular metric when it comes down to it.)

The split among three structures (movements), art, science, and religion, is entirely a human construct. There is no split in actuality.

> That they fail to quite reach it (for most people) is obvious, but that doesn't make the attempt worthless.

Most of them are way off. Not even close.

Who dismisses religion as worthless? It obviously has both costs and benefits...

I don't think it's important to discuss how much religion is "worth". How much religion is "worth" bares no relation to how true it is. How true religion is, is the much more important discussion.

> How true religion is, is the much more important discussion.

I'm with you until there. The point of science is to make testable predictions, to further our knowledge of the world. It's easy to single out creation stories and point to their falsehood to dismiss religion, but religion is not limited to an explanation of how the world is constructed, and it's also not built like a proof where it all hinges on whether or not this story is more allegory or fact. It's not about creating testable hypotheses. It doesn't have to be factually accurate to enrich lives. There is a wealth of truth about humanity that has nothing to do with our physical properties.

Science is tangible and real, and absolutely necessary for discovering and understanding the universe. Any emotional content or context you overlay on top of the application of the scientific method is essentially a religious experience. And that's perfectly fine; in fact, I think it would be weird to know much about science and not feel a sense of awe and wonder, but those senses, that emotional connection, is not science.

I'd say Mohammed certainly got one thing right in saying "there is no compulsion in religion." Either you appreciate it or you don't, like any other form of art. There's no sense in forcing it on people but there's also no sense in talking people out of it. Live and let live.

Some examples of the "new atheists" or commentators who dismiss religion as worthless: Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens

I would rather say they dismiss it as dangerous overall. Religion is many things, and some of the things are good: it provides community, a sense of perspective above the rat race, and an answer to the questions that don't really have answers, like "why are we here". But to do so it requires obedience to a lie, and there are those who believe that truth and reality are too important to allow a comforting lie to have primacy. For them, religion is not worthless, as in "having zero worth": it's worth less than nothing; it's harmful. I can see both sides, but I think I agree with the idea that ultimately it's easier to provide community and consolation to an atheist than to replace the understanding of reality that most religions deny to their adherents.

That is flat out untrue. All of the people you quoted are well aware that religion provides some value/worth alongside the costs. They're all highly intelligent people who are able to perform basic cost/benefit analysis like the rest of us.

What's the difference between an "atheist" and a "new atheist"? I've found that religious people use "new atheist" almost as a derogatory term, but I just don't get where the insult is supposed to come from?

[edit] Ah, I looked up "new atheism" on wikipedia and got: "New Atheism is the name given to the ideas promoted by a collection of 21st-century atheist writers who have advocated the view that religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises."

It's a bit of a signal in some religious/evangelical language. "new atheism" implies a few things - there's a renewed urgency, an implied "new" "attack" on religion, etc. It's not meant as an insult so much as a buzzword to signal to the faithful that there's a 'new' menace to ward against.

Also, 'new' atheism is viewed as actively oppositional - loud, proud, 'coming out' in public, etc. Being aggressively atheistic is a hallmark of those labelled 'new atheists'. It's probably more accurate to refer to this more aggressive public movement as antitheism, but that would be another label/word which would confuse people. Putting 'new' in front of the old word, I think it becomes easier to rally the troops, so to speak.

"It's probably more accurate to refer to this more aggressive public movement as antitheism"

I disagree that this "movement" is aggressive. It is only perceived as aggressive because people are not used to having their religion publicly questioned, and held to the same standards of rational scrutiny as other products of human thought. I also disagree that it is "probably" anti-theist. The "new atheists" sometimes ridicule theists, but concede that merely believing in a personal god is fairly harmless in itself. I think they are definitely anti-dogma.

Hitchens seemed pretty anti-theist, and I don't recall him ever saying that belief in a personal god was "fairly harmless".

I was using 'aggressive' from the perspective of those using the term 'new atheist' - should've been more clear on that. I don't think 'new atheism' is 'aggressive', except to the extent that it's being vocal vs 'in the closet' year ago.

Richard Dawkins calls himself a "cultural Christian" and agrees with teaching the Bible as a literary/historical work. I'm not too familiar with the beliefs of the others you mentioned, but Dawkins certainly does not dismiss religion as _worthless_. Unless you define religion as "willfully acting irrational" or something.

Not even just 'worthless', there's a growing anti-theist movement. Whether those above are a- or anti-theist, I can't say for sure, but anti-theists would claim religion is not only 'worthless', but indeed actively harmful to people and society.

Sam Harris believes in experiential religion - that is to say that he's had mystical experiences/unitive states of consciousness. He writes about the importance of spirituality(or esoteric Religion) in contrast to literalist, dogmatic religion on his blog.

Rational, literal, dead religion is often harmful but mystical, experiential, living religion is quite the opposite.

I think religion is very worthwhile. It fills the holes in the human soul.

However, I also believe it is not true.

A person's values and opinions are not inextricably tied to their religiosity. I'm about as irreligious as is possible to be, but two of the nicest most intelligent and genuinely nice guys I know on the planet are respectively a devout Mormon and a guy who's a serious evangelical Christian who does ethnic Chinese American rap and last I checked is planning to attend seminary.

Point being, say no to monoculture, say yes to having interesting caring people who enrich those around them.

First off, my own anecdotal findings are that atheists are some of the best read people on religious subject matters. So I would say many of them have no qualms with reading religious themed work.

Secondly, at its core Zen Buddhism is more philosophy than religion. I'm an atheist and can still agree with most of the concepts found in Zen Buddhism. It's not about worshipping gods but more about the philosophical teachings of Siddhartha who most Zen Buddhist regards as having no particular supernatural powers.

I would hope most non religious people have no bias against it and if they do I would recommend they give that a second thought.

Not just anecdotal. Atheists and agnostics score higher in tests of religious knowledge. See, for example, this:


Yes. As long as they don't sound arrogant and cocky (I would say the same for reading atheist authors)

I really enjoyed David Bently Hart's defense of Christianity a few years ago. Thick material, but it was fascinating to hear several popular versions of historical events challenged by somebody well-educated. ( Affiliate link: http://amzn.to/IupRsn )

But after thinking about your question a bit more, it occurs to me that you might mean reading religious authors writing about religion. The answer here is also yes, at least for me. A few years ago I completed an audio course in Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition and it included several religious authors. This makes sense. Modern western intellectual thought has deep roots in Greece, Rome, and Jerusalem. Can't study the ancients without understanding what they believed and reading what they said in their own words.

Checking out that book. As a proclaimed Christ follower, I've recently found myself in discussions in which certain historical "facts" (I hesitated to put that in quotes) were tossed my direction which I felt unprepared to answer. As one who believes history to be a small thing to get caught up on given Christianity is about a lot more than that, I think it's very relevant and is a needed piece to intelligently discuss Biblical truth.

I am currently going through the Greatest Books of Western Civilization (Still working on Plato's works), which I believe the audio sets are based on. I haven't gotten to the religious works yet and I literally cannot wait. If you have some writings, notes, that you would not mind sharing, please let me know.

I've done the tapes 3 times. I'm seriously thinking about doing them again this summer. An absolutely great series. It was one of my first from the Teaching Company and it started me on-track to be a raving fan of theirs.

I'll look around and see if I've written up anything.

An authors religion is irrelevant. If the content is good, it is good regardless. The only time I need to know an authors religion is if it's relevant to the topic at hand and I need to make a judgement on which way they might be biased.

The central topic of Buddhism is psychology, understanding that most of the reasons that life is painful are within ourselves.

It's not a religion. It doesn't describe a god, nor does it preclude one. It isn't even a philosophy, because it doesn't tell you what you should or shouldn't do.

It really is psychology. And as an old programmer from way back, who has always been cynical about life and laughed at the hypocrisy and dogma in religion, I can say straight up that Buddhism is the most intelligent thing I have ever encountered.

Well, that depends on the subject of the book. For example, "Ender's Game" is a great book that I really enjoyed reading, which had many good lessons in it. "Speaker for the Dead" on the other hand, by the same author, was one of the worst pieces of science fiction that I have ever read, largely because the author insisted on waving religion in the reader's face in a most unconvincing way. I've never met anyone as analytical and free-thinking as Ender that wasn't an atheist, so turning him into a practicing Catholic was really hard to swallow.

The worst offenders are self-help books. The moment the author starts rambling about spirituality, religion or other nonsense, it immediately destroys the author's credibility for me: how can I trust what someone is saying when they refuse to apply the rules of evidence to their world view? I'm forced to step back and evaluate what they are saying with more extreme scepticism, and in the end I'm left feeling like I may as well have just thought through the issues myself rather than reading the book (note, thinking for yourself is a good thing - but you don't need some dumb book filled with religious rubbish to give you permission to do it!)

> I've never met anyone as analytical and free-thinking as Ender that wasn't an atheist...

Some of the most narrow-minded fools I've ever met have been atheists, and some of the most analytical have been religious. The reverse is also true. I'm reading a bit of confirmation bias in your observation.

Some atheists are narrow-minded, sure. I didn't say anything to the contrary, although in my experience atheists on average are more broad-minded than their religious counterparts. I also know plenty of very analytical religious people, and even some that are free-thinking. They were all raised in the church, and didn't come to religion by any rational decision. I don't know any religious people that have the combination of being analytical and free-thinking, and converted to being religious as adults. I'm sure such cases must exist, but I'm equally sure that they are as rare as hen's teeth.

You might have heard of Shamus Young (of Activeworlds fame). He became religious (though admittedly not 'devout' in the traditional sense) as a teenager in an atheist household and eventually brought his family along for the ride, and even goes so far as to make the claim that it was a net positive for his life.

His 'autoblography' is fairly enlightening as to his reasons and experience with it (it's about more than just that, though). You can read about it here if you wish: http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=13918

Can you elaborate? I don't remember the plot too clearly, but I count "Speaker for the Dead" as one of the books responsible for making me an atheist, as opposed to not having an opinion on the subject.

Depends on what they're writing about, of course. If the writings are religious, I'm quite allergic. Religion is a system of society, I'm not interested in that. On the other hand, if the writings reflect truths that aren't limited to a single religion or only some religions, and that can be found without subscribing to a religion, then certainly.

Absolutely. Religion is a personal view, one that everyone decides. I can't fault anyone for their belief. I loved this story and I generally love whatever I read on this site.

For a non-religious person, death is an even sadder event than it is for the religious... because we view it as permanent.

Right. My comment originated by wondering, "How many HNers would buy his book". His book, that contains this story, is overtly religious in nature. Is this story enough to make you interested in his book even though you know some of the content will be in fierce opposition with your own beliefs?

>>because we view it as permanent

Given an infinite time and an infinite universes, there becomes a small possibility of existence again after death.

(I'm Christian, so I admit that I may be a bit more optimistic than is warranted)

I like this quote from Penn Jillete on the subject of the afterlife: "I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day."

I'm an Atheist, but I often find beauty in religious artwork, writing, or music. In fact, I find myself listening to Christian music fairly often. It's very difficult to divorce yourself from all things religious. We're constantly surrounded by it (next Christmas time, try putting yourself in the mindset of an Atheist.) As an Atheist I can either become embittered by that fact, or I can find value in it despite core differences. I choose the latter option. That said, I take issue with many religious concepts, hence the Atheism.

I don't care about a person's religion unless it negatively affects their words or actions. However, I don't see why you ask here, as I don't see anything religious in this story.

The Mythical Man-Month's Fred Brooks is a devote Christian.

So is Larry Wall.

Donald Knuth too.

The only time I take exception to a religion or philosophy is when either it commands one to do evil, or when its adherents use it as an excuse to do evil. As for individuals, so long as they reject all evil commandments and retain their humanity, I will not criticize their choice in religion or philosophy.

Yes. I believe in spiritual geniuses, like mathematical or literary geniuses. I believe that these people have figured out how, to put it simply, to get the most out of life, and I enjoy learning what they share. I believe Jesus and Siddhartha Guatama (Buddha) were two of these people.

I generally find religious writings to be either neutral to my atheist sensibilities, or (in the case of scriptures or apologetics) sometimes quite fascinating. The only time it dips into the negative end of the scale is in the case of glurge.

Saw a slight different variation being shared on Facebook. Wonder why the difference if its a true story and who modified it...

This story has been cut-and-pasted countless times: https://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&#...

and HN's signal-to-noise ratio is lowered once again

Agreed. Flag it.

Very moving story. There's something about death, about the ending of life, about the closing of a life, that puts things in perspective, that makes things which you normally consider important (like charging for a cab ride) seem so petty it is ridiculous to even consider them, and that makes simple anodine events take on what I can only call a divine aspect (without any connection to traditional religion).

These stories, these moments, are not just life, they're what life is about.

"A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It's the shit that happens while you're waiting for moments that never come."

Where is this from?

The Wire.

Every year I grow older brings a new understanding of the concept of nostalgia. Driving through an old neighborhood, even just 5 or 10 years later, can hit like a ton of bricks.

I can't even imagine what that taxi ride must have been like for her.

That's exactly what occurred to me as I read the story.

I graduated from college 20 years ago, and a few years back I drove through the old neighborhoods there and something just blasted me in the gut, or heart, or something. A flood of memories of friends and lovers and struggles and parties and fun and hurt and everything.

What is that? Is it a realization of time passed, or opportunities missed, never to be available to us again?

I can't imagine what it would be life after 80 years or so, and knowing that the door of life is closing quickly. Wow. Didn't mean to wax sentimental but I do love these ideas.

"Didn't mean to wax sentimental"

Don't be ashamed. It's appreciated.

I'm not going to lie, I teared up half way through the article. Rather than contemplate the fact of it being real or not, I'll spend some time drawing more meaningful conclusions.

Real or not, it's still a very powerful piece of literature. I think there's an underlying theme to the story - a lot of our history is being lost or superseded by the internet.

There's so many things we have left to learn from "The Greatest Generation" yet when given the opportunity, most would rather downplay the story, or simply go back their smartphones social networks.

For anyone who can't get to the site (I guess a bandwidth issue), you can get the article off google cache:


This guy posted it to his google+ page, without crediting original author. Let's make sure we +1 it so his friends know where his great ideas come from:


It's an incredible story and it moved me greatly. It also appears to have moved many more people around the globe once again. I've just noticed my mum share this exact story on Facebook and she's very far removed from Hacker News (it appears to be part of a note).

I'm certain that I read this or a similar short story in high school but i can't remember much else about it. it's funny how the short stories and books i read in high school are so much more recallable than things learned in the other classes.

What an interesting coincidence. Just minutes ago I watched a short film with a similar story: https://vimeo.com/40846220

Best story I've heard in a bit. Thank you for sharing.

Seems like the tl;dw version of "Trip to Bountiful"


I feel as though he should have taken the money from her. There was nobody to leave her money to.

There was nobody to leave her money to.

1. The beautiful moral of the story is a split-finger fastball that you never saw coming.

2. Maybe she had heirs who would receive her assets upon her passing.

I feel as though you missed the point.

This made me burst out in tears. I rarely post here, but i felt this had to be said.

Wow, that was way better than I expected. Damn onions.

You made me cry.

As the great Jack Handey of Deep Thoughts once said, "It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man."

Damnit. There's not supposed to be crying at Hacker News.

Very touching story. I got a chance to ride with a taxi driver for a night one time -- those guys have really interesting jobs. It's kind of like being a cop, except without carrying the gun (Though i think some do carry). Never know who you'll pick up for a ride.

Weird coincidence; by the end of the story something had gotten in my eyes. Excuse me.

Yeah, it's either really dusty or someone in the office is cutting onions.

Nice story

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