Wednesday, October 3, 2012

To Burn Brighter

Same perp,  same bookcase, 15 years earlier
"Parents do their children no favors," my father once said, speaking in complete sentences as was his affectation, "when they protect them from the consequences of their own actions." As far as I know, mine didn't protect me from the consequences of mine, in spite of which I made it into my twenties. If there were consequences to be suffered, I was expected to suffer them. For instance, when I came home at age sixteen drunker than ten lords, pinballing off the walls of the staircase and into my room, with a brief stop at the bookcase I knocked over on the landing, where I scooped the books back into the furniture while trying to get them to quiet down, I was awakened promptly a few hours later and packed off to the bus stop for my summer job. I was a slow study on the alcohol lessons, but in thirty-one years at the post office I never once called in hung over, and not because I never was.

That's why it seemed sort of elegant and clean when a gentleman recently jumped off a monorail and into a tiger's cage at the Bronx Zoo. You've got your action, and you've got your consequence. His leap was deliberate. He admired wild animals, and he had expressed a desire to be "one with the tiger." He very nearly got his wish to be one with the tiger, for at least as long as it takes a tiger to process him and crank him out the rear end, say, a couple days. But zoo personnel intervened long enough to extract the fellow.

The tiger had to have been cheered up. It really doesn't matter how many bouncy-balls you throw into a tiger cage, he's not going to burn as bright as he would in the wild. Still, it was something. The tiger toy that projected itself over the fence and into his pen was damaged. He broke his shoulder and a hip when he landed in the enclosure, which was one consequence, and probably saved his life, because he didn't act like proper prey. The tiger just dragged him around by the foot for a while to get some spark back in him before he could feel comfortable pouncing.

One of the problems I think we're having as a species is that we've gotten powerful enough to push our consequences so far away from our actions that we can't make them out anymore. Not that long ago a simple task might take ten of us all day, fueled by porridge. Now we jam a plug into the wall and pull out the mighty Columbia River in an instant. Or, elsewhere, a thousand years'-worth of photosynthesis, all mashed down neat. We use all that power to grind coffee beans that grew on the other side of the globe and we think nothing of it.

We think our food comes from the grocery store. We think our water comes from the faucet, and we think it always will. People used to wrap up in blankets when they were cold. Now we pop over the ocean to go lie in the sun for a couple weeks.

That's how entitled we think we are. During the Democratic Convention, a group of undecided voters was polled for reaction after the President's speech. One fellow was peeved. "I didn't hear anything about what he'd do about gas prices," he whined. "And is he going to make us buy those squiggly light bulbs?" This was a man bobbing around in a bewildering sea in which nothing was connected to anything else, and he was adrift at the mercy of flotsam and jetsam he couldn't begin to identify.

But what if all our consequences could be hitched back up to our actions? What if every time we pulled our clothes out of the dryer, a dead salmon flopped out? What if every time we drove to the big-box store, our garden browned and withered on the spot? What if all our plastic shit came with a dead albatross packed right in? What if every time we hopped on a jet plane we had to land in a hurricane? What if every time the moneyed class staked us to an unsustainable energy future, the water crept ever closer to our noses?

I think most of us might make some wiser decisions. Not everybody, of course. There's a tiger-jumper in every crowd. But I'd never vote for one.


87 comments:

  1. Vicious, biting and right. Thanks Murr. (I feel a bit sorry for the tiger though).

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    1. I hear they shooed him away with a fire extinguisher, so maybe he was burning bright after all.

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  2. I agree with the elephant's child. Heal that boy up and give the Tiger a proper toy to pounce on before lunch.

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  3. Mostly, you can't fix stupid. But leaving that guy in the tiger's pen would have been a small step in the right direction.

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    1. Oh, those zoo people are probably trained that way. Because there would have been a lot less cleanup your way.

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  4. I read they didn't fault the tiger and left it alone. What a doofus! And EC said it perfectly: vicious, biting and right. Thanks, Murr...

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    1. Correct. And I think we can assume the fellow was a little cracked before he sailed in there.

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  5. And after all that, the guy still has the right to breed and raise children. You had wise parents!

    Ya know, we've been going to hell in a hand basket as long as I can remember, and the shit still hasn't hit the fan. Are we adapting to changing conditions? Like the frog in the pan, are we getting used to progressively hotter water till we're cooked? Do we need a significant human die-off to wake us up? I like your instant consequences.

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    1. You're just hanging bait out there for Pat Lichen with that boiling-frogs remark, aren't you, you little dickens?

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    2. The right to breed AND to vote.

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    3. Oh, why, Roxie, why must you try me so?! http://www.snopes.com/critters/wild/frogboil.asp

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  6. You're right, Linda; my usual comment is that there's no law against "stoopid." Murr, your dad was right, of course. A parent's job is to teach the kids to live in the world, as opposed to the fairy tale book.

    I never would have been late to school if I had a pair of seven-league boots. But, by the time I was in third grade, I had learned to get myself out of the house in time to be at school when I was supposed to.

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    1. Are you going to make me look up "seven-league boots," or are you going to chime in again?

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  7. But, but, but everyone knows it's downright un-American not to believe in having it all. And then having more ... And then maybe running for President, maybe...

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    1. What I hear, it's our RIGHT. Having it all is what most of us confuse with liberty.

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  8. That tiger fellow was an EXCELLENT candidate for a Darwin award!

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    1. Yuh. Too bad about the intervention, huh?

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  9. I was going to say, you have the cutest buns (still)!

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    1. Aw! When have you seen my buns? Oh yeah, about a month ago.

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    2. Were you modeling for a door knocker?

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  10. Is the word "enough" still part of the English language?

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    1. It's right there between liberal "elite" and Europe.

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  11. A commenter in our local paper once wrote: Global warming doesn't care if we believe in it."
    And that's the truth. Denial is a pretty silly/sad way to deal with how we mess up the planet.

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    1. Gravity, on the other hand, is still optional, right?

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  12. Problem is, it's so hard to spot the tiger jumpers until it's too late and they've jumped and taken you with them.

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    1. I am hereforth not taking anyone's hand on the monorail.

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  13. * Hangovers are the worst, I can't imagine having to go to work with one!

    *My mother was pretty strict, she raised me with the "I'm your mother, NOT your friend" motto, and as a result, I do believe I am a much better adult than I would have been, if I was allowed to get away with all of my shenanigans.

    * Um… I can't believe some guy jumped into the Tigers cage. That's TOTALLY insane.

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    1. He reminds me of that other insane guy who wanted to be one with the grizzly bears, and finally succeeded.

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  14. This--"One of the problems I think we're having as a species is that we've gotten powerful enough to push our consequences so far away from our actions that we can't make them out anymore."--is the smartest thing I've read in eons. I thank your father for teaching you about how effective full sentences can be.

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  15. Very well written. I'm wondering if that guy who jumped into the tiger's den was high on something.Your point about people being removed from the consequences of their actions these days is so true. I know people who fish the wonderful Northwest waterways only to throw out the fish without eating them. Such a crime.

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    1. Do they at least put the carcasses under their corn plants? No?

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  16. I saw the tiger story in the paper and just shook my head the entire time I was reading it. But then, there's a lot of that going around lately. One of my Facebook friends (Colorado) has been wondering about the number of black bears hanging around her neighborhood, and now she knows: it turns out that the woman next door has been feeding them. The woman will be cited; the bears, sadly, will most likely have to be killed. And another friend (Florida) posted about a woman photographed trying to ride a manatee. Fortunately, it doesn't seem that any manatees were hurt, and, the photos having gone viral, the woman turned herself in to the police. And yet, while these individual idiots keep trying to get up close and personal with nature, we collective idiots are destroying it. The air is thicker with irony than with particulates.

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    1. Just so I'll know, is "ride the manatee" one of those new euphemisms?

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    2. Sadly, no.

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  17. sooooo...do we have to buy those squiggly light bulbs or not?

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  18. Wonderful!

    People bizarrely view the Earth as just another, not v. compelling, screen. A middle-aged neighbor last week insisted that I view the "rare, tropical bird" in her birch. It was a cardinal.

    Acceptance of consequences is the hallmark of sanity. I've long fantasized a deployment of body-bags in front of gas-pumps. Of course, I also imagine them suffered with climate-change deniers: a consequence two-fer.

    Not only have the Romney signs started to sprout in my neighborhood, but so have whinging letters re sign-defacement. Imagine the ululation once the consequences of our actions become - even for the most dim - impossible to ignore.

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    1. Man, wouldn't you think we were there already? Apparently I underestimate dim.

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  19. Delightful post! Symmetrical tyger. Were there baby butts in Blake's poem? Should've been.

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    1. No, but the little dread feet are there.

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  20. Once upon a time in my youthful idealism, I believed there were no stupid people; merely people who hadn't been offered the opportunity of education.

    *Snork!* The younger me cracks me up.

    (Sorry, had to get a "crack" joke in there.)

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    1. Ya know? There are stupid people.

      I like to think of my photo as depicting more of a "cleft." I can't believe my Lutheran mom even took it.

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  21. Overprotecting children from their mistakes does help make them stupid.

    And children that have no boundaries because of no consequences just go looking harder for same.

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    1. I can think of a couple mistakes I wouldn't have minded being protected from, though...but I made sure my parents didn't know about those.

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  22. Hey Murr! Talking about cause and effect, action and consequence, makes me think of my old bug-bear: Rules. I don't like Rules. I like Order. Order is what we have when everyone considers their actions, takes responsibility for them, and ultimately knows to do the right thing; Rules are what we need when they don't. If we all had a better grasp of the consequences of our actions, we would have fewer Rules and a more orderly house. Thanks for making me think about this. Indigo x

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    1. Similarly, the financial sector could just sort of agree not to be dicks.

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    2. Yeah, Murr. That ain't gonna happen either. It's all that "free will" stuff that God thought was such a great idea. Personallly, I think he should have quit on Friday while he was ahead. We're a pitiful species. Not you or me, of course. :)

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    3. Heaven forfend, Jayne! Say, am I correct that neither one of us spawned?

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  23. Reminds me of an old Gary Larson cartoon. Father and son are standing at the fence watching wolves race around in the neighbors house. The father is saying to the son "Yes, I know you'll miss the Hendersons, but they were weak and stupid people and that's why we have wolves and other large predators." Probably would have exceeded the tigers RDA for idiot anyway.

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    1. I'd sure like to think that if the tiger got his full idiot complement for the day, the zoo personnel wouldn't have executed him for it. We'll never know.

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  24. Got the name wrong!

    It's the Wainwrights.

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    1. I like (I really do) your love of precision.

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  25. Well we could take this one step further and say this is the result of ignoring the mentally ill. After all they have the right to roam the streets now. And with budget cuts it won't get better.

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    1. Roam the street? Haven't you noticed? They run for office!

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    2. There is definitely something wrong with this fellow. There was a girlfriend involved too. She wasn't on this ride but she did accompany him earlier. She must have been inspiring.

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  26. It's true. There are a lot of clueless people out there...

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  27. "In like a dimwit, out like a light."
    Pogo

    "When the stars threw down their spears,
    And water'd heaven with their tears."
    Blake

    Good one, Murr.

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  28. I think we humans need an intervention...(gazing up)

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    1. Judging from history, then, we're screwed.

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  29. I applaud your action/consequences scenario and wish so hard that something - SOMETHING - would wake up those who deny, those who find reality distasteful to think about, those who just don't care ...

    Applause. That is all.

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  30. Applause once again for hitting the nail on the head and driving it home. Maybe you should run for office?

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    1. Washington would crumble under that kind of honesty.

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    2. My way or the beltway! I would crumble too.

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  31. As I began your post today, I was bursting into laughter; I ended in tears. Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright is dimmed by his reality. We are all living in dimming times when we don't recognize that we are all part of a fearful symmetry and ever so dependent each on the other.

    You are a master with finding these curious happenings and turning them in life lessons. You are a teacher par excellence! Into the class room with you!

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    1. ACK! -tually, that would have been a good choice, I think. I do have a great-nephew I intend to inflict a bunch of education on. Look out world.

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  32. No greater calling than to educate the young so that when they ascend to the positions of leaders, they head off in the right direction.

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  33. I can still hear my grandfather saying, "Consider the consequences. If you don't mind paying the price, go ahead. If you do mind, think again." That advice has saved me from a few stupid decisions (though why I didn't remember it when I chose to become an Independent thinker in a mostly Republican family is a mystery). I like your comment about liberty being confused with having it all. The elite mustn't have gotten that memo.

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    1. You became an independent thinker in a nest of Republicans by considering the consequences!

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  34. I've been chanting this same tune for a long time. Actions = consequences but not as eloquently or as hysterically funny as you just did. We are so removed from what's "real" these days. Paying the consequences seems to be a matter of reaching in your pocket for the almighty dollar. Thanks for stirring up this great potent conversation!

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    1. That's me all over--stir away, and hope someone else sees the dish to completion.

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  35. We cannot better the future because we dare not fix today's mistakes. We have been too well programmed into believing that our system can be fixed.

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  36. Great sermon, Reverend Murr. No one sleeps in your pews. And nice buns. Can we get a before and after?

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    1. AH HA HA HA HA! Yeah, it's probably on the internet somewhere. Best I can do is direct you here.

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    2. I trusted you enough to actually click. And was not disappointed. You are cheeky.

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