Our foursome, that Friday, comprised Martin, Paul, and myself, and a young stranger named Steve who was playing Flemingdon for the first time. Steve didn't talk much but seemed a nice enough fellow when he did and we went out of our way to make him feel welcome. He could hit the ball a mile.

Play was slow that day and, as we waited to tee off on the backed-up fifth, Steve directed our attention to a couple of contrails being inscribed in the summer sky by two commercial airliners heading off in different directions from Pearson International. "They're spraying us with toxic chemicals, again," he said.

I didn’t know what he was talking about, nor did Marten or Paul, so he explained to us that real contrails dissipate quickly, which these clearly weren't doing. "So they're not contrails at all," he said, "they're chemtrails—they're spraying us with toxic chemicals."

Martin was shielding his eyes from the sun and squinting at one of the aircraft. "Really?" he said, "Air Canada is spraying its customer base with toxic chemicals? That’s got to be the worst business strategy ever.”

Paul agreed. He said he thought it more likely they were spraying us with something to put us in the mood to travel—tequila, maybe. He laughed at his own joke.

“All kidding aside,” he said, "I don't know who you think is spraying us or why, but I've flown planes all my life—fighter jets early on, then commercial jets till I retired a couple of years ago—so I know something about contrails and what you said about them is incorrect. Most contrails, it’s true, dissipate quickly, but some can last a very long time, and whether they do one or the other depends entirely on atmospheric conditions at the altitude of flight, nothing else. Check through some old aviation photographs—you’ll find that contrails have been acting this way for as long as there’ve been contrails.”

Steve made no response and we didn't encourage one. The tee was clearing and we were there to golf.

That was two years ago and I hadn't given chemtrails a second thought till urged, recently, to watch the "What On Earth Are They Spraying?" video, and there they were, front and centre, in what I could tell, within seconds, was another damned conspiracy theory.

Only because I’d promised to, and as painful as it was, I watched the entire video from beginning to end and learned, I think, that a clandestine cadre of power-hungry rich guys bent on world domination is spraying the earth with toxic chemicals in an attempt to control the Earth's weather and, thereby, its people. We are warned that, with targeted floods, droughts, and other manipulations of nature, these would-be conquerors, should they seize control, are prepared to wipe out millions of people whenever necessary to keep us in line. Meanwhile, these chemicals they’re releasing into our atmosphere are not only poisoning us and devastating our environment, they are to blame, as well, for a whole host of other ills, including increases in both Alzheimers and the ferocity of forest fires.

Believers of conspiracy theories are just that—believers. And challenging a believer of anything, I’ve learned, is a waste of time. But I had time to waste and a few good challenges to make, so I made them and, in short order, was reminded why I shouldn’t have bothered. He twisted and contorted my challenges to fit his beliefs and dismissed my reliable sources as being complicit in the conspiracy. He had no interest in getting at the truth, he already knew the truth and, though I’d more to say, I didn’t see the point.

“Mankind,” I wrote him later, “has never shown itself the least bit capable of controlling the weather and, in fact, is a long way, still, from even predicting it with any accuracy. So the notion that a group of otherwise intelligent rich guys could be stupid enough to attempt world domination through weather manipulation is beyond unimaginable and, even it it weren’t, have you asked yourself why men of wealth and privilege would want to exchange what they’ve got for the bother of having to conquer and govern a planet they're devastating with chemicals and must continue to devastate if they're to maintain control? Do they dream of living in heavily-guarded bunkers on a dead landscape? None of this makes any sense to me and I'm hoping you can offer some clarification.”

So far, none has been offered and, if history repeats, none will be. Many months ago, I was equally puzzled by the aims and claims of ‘The Venus Project’ and ‘Zeitgeist’ videos—which he'd also urged me to watch—and my questions remain unanswered.

The Venus Project envisions a leaderless promised-land run by computers—a drudge-free existence in which the planet's problems are all but solved, its resources are equitably shared by all, and where, because there's no want, there is virtually no crime and the peoples and nations of the earth live together in leaderless harmony, housed in a global network of structures resembling giant spacecrafts. In short, a More’s Utopia on steroids with a large side of mushrooms.

The Venus Project's activist arm, Zeitgeist, alleges the covert existence of that same bunch of power-hungry rich guys who, in the earlier scenario, were attempting to weather us into submission. In this scenario, their instrument of choice is the monetary system, through which, it is claimed, they have managed, already, to wrest control of our governments, our media, our legal and medical establishments, and pretty much everything else that matters.

Describing itself as a movement, Zeitgeist proposes, through stirring a global revolution against them, to vanquish this malicious power-hungry elite, dismantle its thieving monetary system and its wasteful earth-pillaging lifestyle, and replace the whole shebang, worldwide, with the Venus Project's leaderless computer-run Shangri-La. To help move things along, they've produced and distributed a movie which, here in Toronto, preached to the choir for a couple of screenings in one out-of-the-way theatre. On their website, last time I checked, they were peddling t-shirts and videos and talking vaguely of opening a theme park in Florida. Fat chance.

“I’m certain of very little,” I said to my young friend, “but I’m certain of this—the world’s nations are not about to be persuaded by some old futurist in the backwoods of Florida to set their differences aside and, working together, demolish and replace their cities with a global network of huge spacey-looking enclosures.”

He suggested, a little impatiently, that we agree to disagree and told me how proud he was to be a part of something so important.

I asked him how well he thought humankind would take to living in a construction zone for the century or two it would surely take to complete such a massive undertaking, barring complications. And how did he imagine they’d go about planning for so far in the future? And where did he think the money would come from to pay for it all? I asked him all kinds of things but he had no answers and little, if any, interest in my questions, and there comes a point when challenging an absurdity becomes, itself, absurd, so I don’t bother, anymore, except in golfing stories like this.

a golfing story