Long ago in Britain there was a King named Canute who became frustrated with his courtiers and advisers constantly fawning and flattering and telling him that his word was law and acting as if he could do anything in the world just because he was king.
One day when a courtier told him that he was so mighty he could command the stars in the heavens and the tides of the sea, Canute got fed up and told his courtiers to grab his throne and meet him on the beach at Southampton. He had them place the throne below the high-tide mark and then sat there in his finest robes.
As the incoming waters approached he commanded the sea to recede and respect his royal presence. As the waves lapped around his feet and soaked the bottom of his robe, it became clear that even though he was king, he was not all-powerful. Legend says that he then either renounced the crown and entered a religious order, or had the courtier buried up to his neck in the beach to experience the incoming tide first hand.
Regardless of which version of the story you like, Canute made his point. Neither a king, nor any other mortal, can command the forces of nature no matter how great he is and how hard he tries. This is a lesson which some contemporary politicians and celebrities might want to take to heart. In particular, former Vice President Al Gore comes to mind.
While watching snippets of the Live Earth concert it occurred to me that rather than broadcasting from 11 different cities around the world they should be trying to broadcast from below the high-tide line on the beach at Southampton and see how much respect the tide has for the commands of the likes of organizer Al Gore or participants along the lines of Madonna, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Xzibit, Snoop Dogg, Cat Stevens (Yusif Islam), Ludacris, James Blunt, Kanye West, and Snow Patrol. Even the incalculable ego synergy of John Meyer and Leonardo DiCaprio can't stop the tide, though it might be fitting to see Spinal Tap go up in a final shower of flame and sparks as the waves hit their giant amps.
I doubt they'd stay any drier than King Canute did. But unlike Canute, I suspect that the kind of sycophantic entertainment thickies Gore has drawn to his banner wouldn't get the moral of the story, even as the waters closed over their heads. For his part, Gore has become a monster of messianic ego, believing his own press and feeding on flattery to the point where he no longer knows the limits of his own power. In his mind he can turn the tides, stop the sun in its tracks, and probably part the Red Sea on demand.