Saturday, August 19, 2006

Milk and Cookies

Rating: General Audiences

Related Post: Fully Human

If you give a mouse a cookie, she’s going to want a glass of milk.

And oh! the shock, the outrage, the sense of betrayal, when the mouse dares to reach for a glass of milk. We never agreed to that! This is how you repay our generosity? Wait! …what if that’s MY milk you’re drinking? Well, no, I’m not drinking it now, but I might want to later…maybe…

You may be able to deny the mouse her milk for a while, but eventually she’s going to get some because that’s what goes with cookies. She may sneak it or buy it or take it by force or just harass you until you fall down from sheer exhaustion and she can scurry over your prone body to it, but she will have her milk. The only question is, how much are you willing to give up in order to delay the inevitable? How much are you willing to spend on locking up the milk or incarcerating the mouse? How much blood are you willing to spill, how many lives are you willing to destroy, how much milk are you willing to lose in the battle?


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So we keep at it. We reason, we argue, we march. We work by direct action and subversion and education and the daily demolition of embedded assumptions. We find strength in numbers, in the stories of those who have gone before and in the hope we tend, like a garden, for our children.

At best, we get slow but steady change, a stirring of the stew, the chance to live through the legendary Chinese curse of “interesting times”; at worst we get Laramie and Kent State and Auschwitz and Wounded Knee, and the resumption of the ancient determined litany of “Never forget” and “Never again.”

Ursula K. LeGuin, whose subversiveness seems safely tucked away in books categorized as “fantasy” and “science fiction,” tells us this:
Freedom is a heavy load, a strange and terrible burden for the soul to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made; and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward toward the light; but the laden traveler may never reach the end of it. (The Tombs of Atuan)

It is a dangerous undertaking, this enterprise of the enfranchisement of the human race, this proposition that Christ calls us to treat everyone as a neighbor, a friend, a brother, a sister. It means giving up the comfort and safety of being “inside” while those who are “less than” are “outside.” It means letting go of the whole idea of “inside” and “outside,” of self-definition by exclusion, of the categories that are so nicely sliced and packaged and handed to us like so many Oscar Meyer Lunchables. It means taking responsibility for ourselves. Danger, danger, Will Robinson!

I leave you with these words from people much, much smarter than I:

“Actually…the danger is not so great, for by falling a few times they would finally learn to walk alone.” --Immanuel Kant

“So what if your coat is torn, and you get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again; you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do things you think you cannot.” -- Eleanor Roosevelt

yours in the struggle,
Max

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