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Monday, December 23, 2013

A Theory of Relativity. By John von Daler

                   My generation was the last one to have been punished fairly regularly. But even in our upbringing the concept of crime and punishment was on the way out. Often our parents found the lowest common denominator that could fulfill their requirements for justice.
                As a two-year-old, my mother punished me by tapping my cheek ever so gently with her index finger. This was enough to start me wailing. Actually, now that I come to think of it, it has not taken much more to get me started since then.
                My point is that our reactions to the world can be related to our vantage point in that world. Take heroism in literature.
                To my mind, the most heroic passage in all of adult literature would be in A Tale of Two Cities. Sydney Carton, a bad sort who wants for many reasons to make good, after having replaced through subterfuge the very good Charles Darnay at the guillotine utters the immortal words, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."  This is arguably the bravest passage in all of adult fiction.
                My point is that heroism can be relative according to the vantage point; what would be the relatively heroic moment in children's literature?
                My greatest hero would have to be Eeyore in Winnie-the-Pooh. Eeyore receives from Pooh a pot in which there used to be honey and from Piglet a busted balloon that used to be red, presumably the most miserable presents ever given to anyone. Only a great child hero could accept such presents with equanimity. Let Milne tell the rest:
                When Eeyore saw the pot, he became quite excited.
"Why!" he said. "I believe my Balloon will just go into that Pot!"
"Oh, no, Eeyore," said Pooh. "Balloons are much too big to go into Pots. What you do with a balloon is, you hold the balloon "
"Not mine," said Eeyore proudly. "Look, Piglet!" And as Piglet looked sorrowfully round, Eeyore picked the balloon up with his teeth, and placed it carefully in the pot; picked it out and put it on the ground; and then picked it up again and put it carefully back.
"So it does!" said Pooh. "It goes in!"
"So it does!" said Piglet. "And it comes out!"
"Doesn't it?" said Eeyore. "It goes in and out like anything."
"I'm very glad," said Pooh happily, "that I thought of giving you a Useful Pot to put things in."
"I'm very glad," said Piglet happily, "that I thought of giving you something to put in a Useful Pot."
But Eeyore wasn't listening. He was taking the balloon out, and putting it back again, as happy as could be....
                What heroism at the level of small children! Now that brings a tear to the eye just as easily as the tapping of any finger, doesn't it!

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