Robert Frost’s Italian sonnet, “Design” is somewhat similar to e.e. cummings' English sonnet, “When Serpents Bargain” (when serpents bargain for the right to squirm... (22) - Poem By E. E. Cummings - Read Classic Poetry Online) in asking questions about the nature of animals, humans, and the possibility of order in the universe. “Design” tends toward philosophy while “When Serpents Bargain” is a satire on the legal and commercial dealings of humans.
|Strangulation in High Places|
In my October 2 post on cummings’ “When Serpents Bargain,” I mentioned that I’d been a little cantankerous about the poem back on April 7, 2011. (No pressure, but it’s here if you’re interested:
Although I share cummings’ dim view of human wheeling and dealing, in which every serpent-of-a-person is trying to sell a used car in bad repair, it might be childishly romantic (reverse narcissism?) to think we’re crazier than critters in nature.
but animals solve their diplomatic problems by eating each other.
Also, when an animal fails, he dies alone in the field for lack of medical care or food. Birds fall out of the sky. The philosophizing, lawyer-izing verbiage that cummings mocks in “When Serpents Bargain” is our spastic effort to avoid eating each other or dying alone in a field.
Maybe the animals’ free-market way is good for Republicans, Libertarians and anarchists, but me, I’ll take the modified welfare state, yes, the Nanny state. What’s wrong with nannies? They’re paid to like us when our parents are too busy or too mean for liking. They're paid to be kind. When we get a haircut, we don’t bellow about The Barber State, do we?
I prefer the limited version of Nanny State that encourages earning our victuals and our pleasure, but let’s not go all Tea Party and dump people on the curb to bleed out if they fail or get sick. Alone. Except for the Tea Partier, who is the stranger standing over the fallen man and chanting Bible verses or Christian rock music. The guy on the curb needs macaroni, not a parable.
Maybe the heroic cardinals have it right. A couple of years ago I mentioned here my cardinal couple, who, for about a week, adopted and fed, beak to beak, an orphaned white-crowned sparrow chick, in my back yard.
|Steadfast but Pondering|
Tom, my most hard-core evolutionist friend, thinks I’m lying about that. He said, “But John, I don’t see the evolutionary advantage in [the cardinals’] behavior.” As gently as possible, I said, “That’s the point, Dumbass!”
I restrained myself from going all Hamlet-and-Horatio on him, but I was on the verge of reminding Tom that “there are more things in heaven and earth, Tom, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Everyone should have a friend named Horatio. Look what he did for Miami forensic investigations).
By the way, my friends and I regularly refer to each other as Dumbasses or worse. That’s one thing I like about us. We tell the Truth on those rare occasions when we can find it. On the other hand, each of us thinks he’s found Truth way more often than he has. I suppose that makes us pretty Tea Party-ish. Once again, irony thrives, even in a world full of blinders and misguided faux earnestness.
The fact remains, I witnessed those cardinals for several days as they fed the Other, the alien, who might grow up to compete with them for food. I called the local Audubon Society, which confirmed that such charity happens in the animal kingdom, and yes, cardinals are among the chief do-gooders. Nanny Cardinals. Baby sparrows.