Saturday, May 28, 2016
"Not in jest, but in earnest"
There is a quote from antiquity that explains half the suffering in the world. It's one of my favorites, all the better because odds are you've never heard it before.
"Little boys throw stones at frogs in jest," the poet Bion wrote in 100 BC, "though the frogs die, not in jest, but in earnest."
In other words, the powerful do things lightly that have heavy consequences.
So why is this quote illustrated by a grainy photo of a mother duck and her seven ducklings in my backyard?
Our backyard is so wet it attracted ducks. I thought I would get their photo, and since I don't have a camera with a long lens—I don't have a camera at all—I stealthily crept out the back door to get a closer shot with my iPhone. I didn't want to scare the ducks by slamming the door, so I left it open.
What I forgot, padding across the wooden deck on tiptoe, was the dog, who saw the ducks, and bolted out the open kitchen door, shot across the deck and after the ducks, scattering them in a quacking cloud of confusion and duckling and feathers.
"Kitty!" I shouted giving pursuit.
I don't think she hurt any of the ducklings —I once saw her trying to get the better of an overturned cicada and, well, let's put it this way: the cicada won.
The inter-species scrum disappeared into the pine trees. I eventually tracked the dog down. The momma duck quacked mightily and assembled her charges, and stalked off, highly offended, to find a more hospitable yard. I felt very bad about driving them away. It wasn't my intent. But that's how it goes.
Little boys throw stones at frogs in jest, though the frogs die, not in jest, but in earnest. It also works for ducks, and lots of other things too.