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The Straight Dope

Erratic Spume from the Psychic Finger of The Noosh

Nebuchadnezzar Frankenpresley
Chapters 16 through 27

Can you recognize the box?
Not if you are a Harrier,
raised by Harriers,
in the land of the Harriers.
How can anyone anywhere recognize the absence of what has been withheld since birth?
The walls of your box are made from the gifts no one ever gave you,
and the glories of the universe that no one ever showed you.
What is more,
without such gifts and glories,
you are marooned,
in a universe of Harriers.

What has been withheld?
Many things.
If I could, I would weep for the things that have been withheld from you,
but like all Harriers everywhere, all I can muster is a list,
and you will not comprehend my list,
because you already know better,
which is your legacy,
as Harriers.

It is not a long list,
and no one anywhere will agree with it,
but the word of an Ultra-Harrier is as good as anybody else's,
and so here it is:
and Home.

Of course.
Now show me how ridiculous.

Speak to me of your sense of Time,
you who were raised with a rapacious hunger for the new,
and a positive scorn for what is old or out of date.
Do your grandparents live with you?
Or in another city?
Or in a home somewhere?
And have you ever talked with them about things that happened in the past,
provided you know anything about what happened in the past,
and have you ever learned their slang,
or listened to their music,
or danced their dances,
or tried to see your world from their point of view?
Do you read old books for pleasure,
books written before you were born,
and before your parents were born,
before there were movies and records and telephones?
Do you ever talk with people who aren't about your own age,
and I mean really talk with them,
about events,
and ideas,
and your hopes and fears,
and the meaning of life,
and god and history and human accomplishment?
Do you feel a deep respect, or even awe, for a single old old person who has stayed alive through it all and acquired some wisdom along the way?
Do you ever just sit and wonder about the past,
and what it was really like,
before there were cars and TVs and electricity and hospitals and jet airplanes and rock and roll?
Do you ever ponder visions of the future,
and what it could be,
and what you could do to change the world,
if you dreamed and worked for it hard enough?
That's okay.
It's just that you are Harriers,
and Today is one wall of your box.

Speak to me of your love of Language,
you who were raised to use four-letter words,
to express all your deepest emotions.
And have you ever read something aloud,
just to savor the way that it sounds?
Have you hungered and hunted for words that give life,
to the subtlest distinctions you feel,
and felt your conscious space expand,
because now there were more ways to feel?
Have you prowled through the jungles of syntax and grammar,
to see just how much one sentence can say?
Have you felt the power that language can give,
to the building and thinking of thoughts?
Have you ever once felt that you said it just right,
and conveyed your full thought to another?
Have you felt brand new worlds take shape in your mind, from no other source than the spinning and spinning of words?
Have you acquired a different taste of life,
by trying another world's tongue,
and felt a new timbre enter your voice,
echoing Rome or the steppes of the Seine?
Have you seen how language, all by itself, can alter the nature of truth,
and twist and distort,
or distill and reflect,
the innermost essence of things?
That's okay.
It's just that you are Harriers,
and your muteness is a wall of your box.

Speak to me of your love of Knowledge,
you who were raised to do well on the test,
then go on to the next on the list.
Have you felt the world as a four-dimensional puzzle,
coming together as you add each new piece?
Have you wondered exactly which things one could know,
and arrive at understanding?
Have you ever been gripped by compulsion to know,
the truth of some buried event,
and then followed the trail of what's supposed to be known,
through the twisting and turning of guesses and maybes and might-have-beens,
till you know what is known,
and still hunger for more,
because no knowledge is ever enough to be finally final,
as long as there's more to be learned?
Have you ever discovered a miracle link,
between something you know,
and something you don't,
a link that taught more about both?
That's okay.
It's just that you are Harriers,
and your ignorance is a wall of your box.

Speak to me of Imagination,
you who were raised on color TV,
until books went as flat and black and white,
as the paper and ink they were made of.
Have you fought back-to-back with Alan Breck,
or come back from death with the Count of Calvary?
Have you seen yourself as a hero,
defeating the odds with courage and dash,
until you believe that your fate is a quest,
one that will merit all that it costs,
no matter how much that might be?
Have you ever fantasized a breakthrough,
a new approach,
a new frontier,
a new and fine idea,
a source of hope for all Mankind,
born from the deeps of your own mind,
a gift you'll give freely,
because no one else can,
and somebody somewhere has to?
That's okay.
It's just that you are Harriers,
and lack of imagination is a wall of your box.

Speak to me of Belief,
you who were raised to be smarter than fools,
and to say the things that are said.
Have you ever just known that they were all wrong,
because you knew your feelings were right?
Have you ever explained to your private self,
where the world and its mysteries come from?
Have you ever felt that deep deep down,
you were good and on track for a purpose,
and no matter what happened you'd learn from the worst, and follow the best to its end?
Have you ever once thought, I would die for this,
and I couldn't live if I failed to stand fast,
because that's how much it means?
That's okay.
It's just that you are Harriers,
and Unbelief is the lid of your box.

Speak to me of Home,
you who were raised in the City of Brotherly Love,
where your address is a token of dollars and cents,
and the young ones grow up to get out.
Have you ever sensed your homeland in you, when you were far away,
and felt that you were born of earth,
and bound to your place of birth,
by something deeper than love,
and stronger than life itself?
that's okay.
It's just that you are Harriers,
and homelessness is the floor of your box.

And maybe you think you know better,
but it doesn't matter how well you do,
on the tests they choose to give,
because you're already checking the list,
and doing what there is to do.
You'll graduate from where you are,
and go and get a degree,
then maybe you'll get another degree,
till your education is done,
and all that remains is sitting back,
and letting the world pay you,
for taking the time to go to class,
and all the rest of that stuff,
because you'll need bread to pay for a spouse,
and some cars and some toys and a house,
not to mention some kids of your own,
because it's all on the list,
and the list is your life,
if you know what's good for you.

But when you've worked down to this spot on the list,
and the kids are no longer cute,
you will need all you know about the Harrier Way,
just to keep from getting blamed,
for all the things no one else wants to do,
if they think they can hand it to you.
And when that day comes,
you won't have what it takes,
to fight back and show them your mettle,
because it takes a lot more than vague self-delusions to win against the Way of Harry.
You can try, of course,
but they'll take you out,
and sooner than later, if I'm any judge,
because if you have any principles,
they'll find them,
and chop them up,
and feed them to you,
till you burp to the tune they play.
They'll do it for sure,
because you are the smart ones,
and they know just enough to be afraid of you,
not because you are better,
or stronger,
or more virtuous,
but because you can make them look bad,
which is the very worst thing you can do,
to a Harrier.

[excerpted from The Boomer Bible, copyright 1991 R.F. Laird]

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