THE TOOLS OF PEERS
“Curiouser and curiouser’ cried Alice”
L. Carroll “The Pool of Tears”
The Tools of Peers
Alex found himself on a direction away from the “Grove of Circles.” As he peddled along on his bicycle he realized that this mode of transportation was quite deceptive. It appeared to be very efficient and loads of fun. In reality it was slow and repetitive. Alex accepted the deception with grace and promised himself to find another mode to reach his goals but (in another burst of reality) he knew he really had no goals.
And there Alex was, once again trapped between some internal (and unknown) desire to get someplace and the reality of knowing he had no place to go. It was as if he were floating through life subject only to the ebb and flow of whatever surrounded him.
Alex thought and thought but did not know what he should be thinking about. It was as if he were floating in a pool of water. His hands and mind paddled at an alarming rate but little progress was made. People that knew Alex noticed this extraordinary effort. Some thought him insane. A few considered him extraordinarily troubled. Others (including a beaver, a fish, and a moose) interpreted it as a sign of intelligence (if not brilliance). His acquaintances formed a committee and compared notes. The result was that he was deemed “vexing yet benign.”
Alex (floating along on this ungrounded thought process) met an Irishman floating in the same morass. But the Irishman was older and had more experience. Alex noticed that the Irishman was holding on to something to stay afloat. Every once in a while the object would tip and Alex perceived this floatation device to be a book. In fact there were several books; however, Alex could only see the top one. Once (when the Irishman was not looking) Alex strained his neck and eyes to see the title of the top book. The title confused Alex. He remembered the Homerics and was confused by the wanderings of Odysseus. Yet there was Odysseus’ alias inscribed on the spine of the Irishman’s floatation device; “Ulysses.”
Alex, always curious, waited for the Irishman to be distracted. Finally he was. Alex dove under the water to see what other secrets the Irishman had. Sure enough it was not just one book; it was several. There were “Animal Farm”, “Atlas Shrugged”, “The International Language ‘Esperanto’”, and several others including “The Code of Military Justice.”
Alex thought “if this is all that holds the Irishman afloat then I must also have these books. So he obtained them and soon discovered it was much easier to obtain them than to digest them. But digest them he did; chapter-by-chapter-by-chapter. He thought “This James Joyce is a strange character” and “Orwell is on to something” and “Rand has a great philosophy but why all the horse shit and gun-smoke at the end?”
While Alex was reading (pause for effect), the Irishman (see, if you didn’t pause you might think that Alex was reading the Irishman) had floated to shore and disappeared over the horizon. Alex admired the Irishman (to some degree) but appreciated him more for the books introduced. Books were tools.
Somewhat later, after Alex himself had floated to shore and disappeared over the horizon, others appeared.
Not “The Others” that you will find in those liberal Anthropology and Political Science texts. No, these others were not victims of someone else’s imagination. They were real honest to goodness flesh and blood and fur and fins others. There was the beaver whose work was done meticulously. The product of his labor could withstand misuse (which was to be expected) and the rigors of time (which was totally unexpected).
There, also, was the fish whose acuity to the political ebb and flow allowed him to avoid being dashed on the coral reefs. The fish was one of many in that school of thought. They watched each other and made their decisions based on each other’s movements. There was not a creative fish in the whole school. There was not a nascent idea between the lot of them; but they survived.
Finally there was the moose whose antlers were certainly unique. This comment is not meant to minimize the length of his legs or the breadth of his hooves. The legs and hooves were like that of the camel. The legs carried him swiftly and the wide hooves kept him from sinking in the muck at the bottom of the ponds he fed in. His unique tools (antlers) allowed him to harvest water cress and other vegetation from the bottom. The only trouble was that half of the time he had his head under water and could not see a thing. This petrified him because he never knew where his enemies were.
These were the tools that Alex adopted; the Irishman’s books, the beavers industry, the fish’s political adeptness, and of course the moose’s adaptability.
These were the tools of Alex’s peers.