Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Child's Play

As I shuffled along in early morning shadow, touched by a few renegade rain drops this morning, I pondered the origins of popular social and political frames of reference. Where did we learn to work together or reject the concept of working together? Are we naturally inquisitive, acquisitive, and combative? Are we programmed to destroy what we cannot control? Memories surfaced of a statement made by Paul Muad'Dib, Mahdi of the Fremen and the central character in Frank Herbert's novel, Dune. Addressing the Fremen before launching his jihad, Paul says: "He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing." He was referencing Spice, a substance that makes space travel, commerce, communication, telepathy, and much more possible in that universe. It originates only on their planet and they are in a position to not only stop its export, but destroy it altogether — giving them great power and ultimate control.

Hoarding limited resources and leveraging them for power — sound familiar? As I thought back over my 60+ years on this third rock from the sun, I remembered watching children play. Even as a child, I was nearly always the observer, watching from the sidelines, and storing those observations for future reference. Happily, I discovered some of those dusty old files this morning, or more likely tripped over them while searching about in my mind. I remembered, I was in third grade, and I approached one of the class bullies to demand some time with a toy dump truck he wasn't using, but kept protectively behind his rather ample posterior. He was alone at the time, so he wasn't feeling particularly brave and handed over the truck...but not before he grabbed the dump release lever and bent it outward — to make it unusable. I remembered his smile and how it disappeared when I grabbed a broken brick and hammered the lever back. It did not work well, but it worked. His name escapes me, but I wonder if he became a politician.

This story introduces the Great Teacher, my ambiguous observer and chronicler of humankind.


Child's Play

The Great Teacher sat on his porch one day,
Pondering matters beyond mortal kin;
Quietly watching young children at play,
Loving the laughing, the shouting, the din.
They played on silver-grey grass in the sun,
With beautiful, colorful, brand new toys.
Though so many toys, they each could have one,
Soon, most were stockpiled, behind a few boys.
They'd taken the toys, and kept them by force,
Rebuffing any who tried to win through.
They now were too busy to play, of course,
And watched those who still had toys, just a few...
When the disenfranchised became a mob,
And confronted the vanguard of the boys,
The rest of the boys did their final job:
Methodically breaking the hoarded toys.

Silent, the silver-grey lawn in the sun,
Abandoned to scattered toy parts and sere,
Testified to a struggle no one won.
The Great Teacher, whispered, shedding a tear:
"Their world is a toy they've learned how to break
Who'll fix it, for their children's children's sake?"

Mick McKellar
September 2012

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