Κυριακή, 25 Ιουλίου 2010

What is it that separates human beings from the so-called lower animals?

“What is it,” Maestra had asked quite rhetorically, “that separates human beings from the so-called lower animals? Well, as I see it, it’s exactly one half-dozen significant things: Humor, Imagination, Eroticism—as opposed to the mindless, instinctive mating of glowworms or raccoons—Spirituality, Rebelliousness, and Aesthetics, an appreciation of beauty for its own sake.

“Now,” she’d gone on to say, “since those are the features that define a human being, it follows that the extent to which someone is lacking in those qualities is the extent to which he or she is less than human. Capisce? And in those cases where the defining qualities are virtually nonexistent, well, what we have are entities that are north of the animal kingdom but south of humanity, they fall somewhere in between, they’re our missing links.”

In his grandmother’s opinion, the missing link of scientific lore was neither extinct nor rare. “There’re more of them, in fact, than there are of us, and since they actually seem to be multiplying, Darwin’s theory of evolution is obviously wrong.” Maestra’s stand was that missing links ought to be treated as the equal of full human beings in the eyes of the law, that they should not suffer discrimination in any usual sense, but that their writings and utterances should be generally disregarded and that they should never, ever be placed in positions of authority.

“That could be problematic,” Switters had said, straining, at the age of twenty, to absorb this rant, “because only people who, you know, lack those six qualities seem to ever run for any sort of office.”

Maestra thoroughly agreed, although she was undecided whether it was because full-fledged humans simply had more interesting things to do with their lives than marinate them in the torpid waters of the public trough or if it was because only missing links, in the reassuring blandness of their banality, could expect to attract the votes of a missing link majority. In any event, of the six qualities that distinguished the human from the subhuman, both grandmother and grandson agreed that Imagination and Humor were probably the most crucial.

The finer points of their reasoning were vague to him now. There was something, to be sure, about how only those with imagination could envision improvements and only those with a sense of humor could savor a good laugh when those improvements backfired or turned to crap.

*from the book Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins
 extra credits to Skaboskini

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