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ZYTARUK: Pondering the cosmic interconnectedness of things

A Richmond provincial court case has given modern philosophers a new conundrum to chew on

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So let it be written…

A recent court decision has me pondering the cosmic interconnectedness of things. Like, where do I begin, and does everything else end?

I’m sitting at my desk, on a chair. Its wheels, of course, are touching the carpet which, several metres away, connects with the office door jamb, which in turn connects with the floor tiles in the hallway, which connect to the building’s door jamb, which connects to the sidewalk, which ultimately connects with land and sky and, I suppose, the rest of the universe itself.

Scientists tell us everything is an eternal dance of minute particles in perpetual motion, even the floor beneath me. At what point, then, does my shoe end, and the carpet begin?

Pantheists hold that god is everything, and everything is god. The ancient Greeks of Aristotle’s time wrestled with the Sorites paradox, which runs something like this: If you remove a grain of sand from a heap of sand, is what’s left no longer a heap? And if you take away a single grain at a time, at what point does the heap become a non-heap?

It’s kept philosophers busy through the ages.

Moving now from the laws of nature to those of human construct, a Richmond provincial court case has given modern philosophers a new conundrum to ponder.

It involves a motorist being found guilty of using an electronic device while driving in Surrey, despite his cellphone battery being dead.

The layperson might say, heck, how can you be using a cellphone that’s not powered up? You can’t – case closed. But the courts are a domain not always encumbered by the constraints of common sense.

Judicial justices serve part-time and mostly preside over traffic and bylaws cases, and offences ticketable under provincial law. One such authority in Richmond found Patrick Henry Grzelak guilty of holding an electronic device while driving on Oct. 12, 2018 in Surrey, contrary to the Motor Vehicle Act.

Mr. Grzelak had been driving home after a long day’s work. The court heard he had his Apple iPhone in a cubby hole in the dashboard, and his earbuds – one in each ear – were plugged into it with a wire. The cellphone battery was dead. That means the screen was not illuminated, there were no tunes, no conversation going on. Why he had the earbuds in, then, I won’t bother to hazard a guess.

READ ALSO: B.C. driver found guilty of using cellphone despite dead battery

The court found the salient issue here was whether the defendant was “using” the cell phone. Use, according to the Motor Vehicle Act, constitutes “holding the device in a position in which it may be used.”

A-ha.

The court, remaining impeccably loyal to the letter of the law, found the verdict must be guilty, despite the dead battery and that the defendant had not actually being operating it. Although the cellphone had not been in the defendant’s hands or lap, he was, however, attached to it by way of the earbuds in his ear, which were connected to a wire, which was connected to his cellphone.

“Since the earbuds were part of the electronic device and since the earbuds were in the defendant’s ears, it necessarily follows that the defendant was holding the device (or part of the device) in a position in which it could be used, i.e. his ears,” the Judicial Justice reasoned.

On the dead battery, he found, “simply holding the device in a position in which it may be used constitutes the offence, even if it is temporarily inoperative.”

And so Mr. Grzelak lost his court case, leaving us to muse over this concept that our ear holes can, akin to hands, indeed be holders of things, even if only by a thin wire connected to a cellphone that might as well have been a brick.

Who needs opposable thumbs, anyway. Just try picking up a cellphone with a little wire attached to a plug in your ear, though.

Betcha can’t.

So let it be done.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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