Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Circle

The cavemen huddle quietly around a fire under the stars, surrounded by a dark and mysterious jungle landscape.

At the center, closest to the fire, the Inner Circle is composed of children, guarded by the women of the tribe in the next ring, and the Outer Circle is composed of men, who are all on guard duty, listening to all the sounds in the jungle around them and glancing sideways at each other.

The men don't know what those sounds in the jungle are, they don't have any encyclopedias, they don't have a television with a Discovery Channel, sometimes when they actually see an animal its the first time they ever saw one of that type, and sometimes all there is to see is the reflection of the campfire dancing in its eyes, and the shadows it displaces when it moves, and the men don't know if its poisonous, or if it has retractable claws, or how far it can jump, and the only means they have to become more knowledgeable about the animals in their environment tends to be rather unpleasant, and even if they're successful in making a classification, unless there's a surviving witness, the knowledge tends to die with he who discovers it.

So the noises tend to really creep the men out after a while, and they spend much of their time worrying about invisible creatures and trying to imagine horrible things that they couldn't possibly imagine.

And so the men invent Comedy, and they joke with each other, to battle Insanity and Terror, and to relieve the tension of thinking crazy thoughts while being on guard duty.

But sometimes the women and children hear the noises, too, and sometimes they even ask the men, "what was that?" even though that's the last thing the men want to think about.

And so the men invent Comforting Bullshit, and they say, "it was nothing, baby, just a bird or something, don't worry."

Because the men don't really want to leave the fire and go wandering around in the dark jungle by themselves and find out which creatures can jump really far with poisonous retractable claws.

Sometimes that doesn't satisfy the women and children.

Sometimes the women and children want to break formation and see for themselves, and this would lead to chaos, and possible poisonous claw confrontation and classification!

So the men invent the first kind of story, the Scary Story, to maintain order.

"What was that?"

"Be quiet or it might come over here!"

The women, being no more or less clever than the men, adopt the Scary Story to their own purposes, maintaining order over their curious children in the Inner Circle, with tales of children-eating monsters with poisonous retractable claws.

Now the children imagine these monsters, and they are afraid, but they also imagine the Men of the Outer Circle to be heroic creatures who protect them and their mothers, and so its the children that invent Heroes.

And its the children that eventually invent Disappointment when they grow old enough to learn the truth and take their place in the Outer Circle.

But at least there's Comedy out there, in the Outer Circle, which sorta makes up for it.

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