The Animal School

This story was written by an educationist George Reavis, when he was the Assistant Superintendent of the Cincinnati Public Schools way back in the 1940. It is a wonderful take on an education system that religiously follows the old adage ‘Jack of all trades, master of none.’

Once upon a time the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a “new world” so they organized a school. They had adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming. In fact, better than his instructor. But he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order to practice running. This was kept up until his webbed feet were badly worn and he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school so nobody worried about that, except the duck.education-system

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because of so much makeup work in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of the treetop down. He also developed a “charlie horse” from overexertion and then got a C in climbing and D in running.

The eagle was a problem child and was disciplined severely. In the climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree but insisted on using his own way to get there.

At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceeding well and also run, climb and fly a little had the highest average and was valedictorian.

The prairie dogs stayed out of school and fought the tax levy because the administration would not add digging and burrowing to the curriculum. They apprenticed their children to a badger and later joined the groundhogs and gophers to start a successful private school.

Word Magic

All the words in the collection have been taken from Word Porn, a facebook page.

I have selected some of the best words and their meanings for this collection

Alexithymia – an inability to describe emotions in a verbal manner

Psithurism – the sound of the wind through trees

Kalon – beauty that is more than skin-deep

Aleatory – relying on chance or an uncontrolled element in the details of life or in the creation of art

Numinous – describing an experience that makes you fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted; The powerful, personal feeling of being overwhelmed and inspired

1000236_461197540645632_1236602318_nDormiveglia – the space that stretches between sleeping and waking

Altitudinarian – aspiring to great heights; having lofty ambitions

Brumous – of grey skies and winter days; filled with heavy clouds or fog; relating to winter or cold, sunless weather

Fanaa – destruction of the self; “destroyed in love”

Gokotta – Lit. “dawn picnic to hear the first birdsong”;
the act of rising in the early morning to watch the birds or to go outside to appreciate nature

Querencia – a place from which one’s strength is drawn, where one feels at home; the place where you are you most authentic self.

Sillage – the scent that lingers in air, the trail left in water, the impression made in space after something or someone has been and gone; the trace of someone’s perfume

Metanoia – the journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self, or way of life

Lalochezia – the emotional relief gained from using abusive or profane language

Nyctophilia – love of darkness or night. finding relaxation or comfort in the darkness

Kintsukuroi – “to repair with gold” ; the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken

Scripturient – having a consuming passion to write

Apodyopsis – the act of mentally undressing someone

Vagary – an unpredictable instance, a wandering journey; a whimsical, wild, or unusual idea, desire, or action

The Black Sheep – Italo Calvino

ImageThis is undoubtedly one of the best short stories I have read of Italo Calvino

There was a country where they were all thieves.

At night everybody would leave home with skeleton keys and shaded lanterns and go and burgle a neighbour’s house.  They’d get back at dawn, loaded, to find their own house had been robbed.

So everybody lived happily together, nobody lost out, since each stole from the other, and that other from another again, and so on and on until you got to a last person who stole from the first.  Trade in the country inevitably involved cheating on the parts both of the buyer and the seller.  The government was a criminal organization that stole from its subjects, and the subjects for their part were only interested in defrauding the government. Thus life went on smoothly, nobody was rich and nobody was poor.

One day, how we don’t know, it so happened that an honest man came to live in the place.  At night, instead of going out with his sack and his lantern, he stayed home to smoke and read novels.

The thieves came, saw the light on and didn’t go in.

This went on for a while: then they were obliged to explain to him that even if he wanted to live without doing anything, it was no reason to stop others from doing things.  Every night he spent at home meant a family would have nothing to eat the following day.

The honest man could hardly object to such reasoning.  He took to going out in the evening and coming back the following morning like they did, but he didn’t steal.  He was honest, there was nothing you could do about it.  He went as far as the bridge and watched the water flow by beneath.  When he got home he found he had been robbed.

In less than a week the honest man found himself penniless, he had nothing to eat and his house was empty.  But this was hardly a problem, since it was his own fault; no, the problem was that his behaviour upset everything else.  Because he let the others steal everything he had without stealing anything from anybody; so there was always someone who came home at dawn to find their house untouched: the house he should have robbed.  In any event after a while the ones who weren’t being robbed found themselves richer than the others and didn’t want to steal any more.  To make matters worse, the ones who came to steal from the honest man’s house found it was always empty; so they became poor.

Meanwhile, the ones who had become rich got into the honest man’s habit of going to the bridge at night to watch the water flow by beneath.  This increased the confusion because it meant lots of others became rich and lots of others became poor.

Now, the rich people saw that if they went to the bridge every night they’d soon be poor.  And they thought: ‘Let’s pay some of the poor to go and rob for us.’  They made contracts, fixed salaries, percentages: they were still thieves of course, and they still tried to swindle each other.  But, as tends to happen, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer and poorer.

Some of the rich people got so rich that they didn’t need to steal or have others steal for them so as to stay rich.  But if they stopped stealing they would get poor because the poor stole from them.  So they paid the very poorest of the poor to defend their property from the other poor, and that meant setting up a police force and building prisons.

So it was that only a few years after the appearance of the honest man, people no longer spoke of robbing and being robbed, but only of the rich and the poor; but they were still all thieves.

The only honest man had been the one at the beginning, and he died in very short order, of hunger.