What are you going to do? said Morton.
Me? said Chelsea. I’ve got a million things to do.
Today’s question, said Blurtso, is “Where does it lead?”
Where does what lead? said Morton.
The road? said Chelsea.
The river? said Glouster.
The question? said Emma Lou.
I suppose everything leads somewhere, said Frank.
Why? said Morton.
Because things are always moving, said Frank.
I’m not always moving, said Morton, sometimes I nap in one place for hours.
Why do you nap? said Frank.
Because I’m sleepy, said Morton.
Why do you stop napping? said Frank.
Because I’m no longer sleepy, said Morton.
Then napping, said Frank, leads to not being sleepy.
I suppose time is the answer, said Emma Lou.
Time? said Chelsea.
Yes, said Emma Lou, time is what makes everything lead to something.
“Time,” said Glouster, is “the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues.”
It makes motion possible, said Emma Lou.
What does time lead to? said Morton.
Death, said Frank.
And birth, said Chelsea.
And hunger, said Morton.
Hunger, said Frank, leads to the search for food.
And the search for food, said Chelsea, leads in all directions.
Like the wind, said Frank.
The wind? said Morton.
Yes, said Frank, the wind also leads in all directions.
What leads to the wind? said Morton.
“Wind,” said Glouster, is “movement of the air at any velocity.”
We’re back to movement, said Frank, or “motion.”
What sets motion in motion? said Morton.
That’s a good question, said Glouster.
Perhaps the question does, said Emma Lou.
Does what? said Morton.
Sets it in motion, said Emma Lou.
Sets what in motion? said Morton.
Everything, said Emma Lou.
“Blah, blah, blah,” said the schoolmarm, “blah, blah, blah, blah.” This lesson is so boring, thought Ditto. I wonder how the schoolmarm gets her hair like that? It’s almost like a block of clay… or a wasps’ nest… or a bunch of cowpies stacked on top of each other and glued with construction paste… I like the smell of construction paste… but I don’t like the taste… I prefer the taste of alfalfa… that’s an interesting word… alfalfa.. three a’s… two l’s… and two f’s… hmm… it’s almost a palindrome… aflafla… I wonder if it tastes just as good when it’s spelled backwards… or when you eat it upside down…
I spoke to the schoolmarm, said Ms. Johnson, about your difficulty with the Benchmark. What did she say? said Ditto. She said that it doesn’t matter why you failed the test, you’ll have to remain in intervention until the next test at the end of May. That’s fine with me, said Ditto. Good, said Ms. Johnson, I thought we might do a “read aloud.” I brought a book called, The Children’s Story, by a writer named James Clavell. James Clavell? said Ditto, the author of Shogun? Yes, said Ms. Johnson, have you seen the movie? No, said Ditto, but I read the novel.
Hello, said Ms. Johnson, I’m Ms. Johnson. Hello, said Ditto, I’m Ditto. Nice to meet you, Ditto. Nice to meet you, Ms. Johnson. I understand, said Ms. Johnson, that you had some trouble with the Dibels test. Yes, said Ditto, the words didn’t make any sense. Didn’t the schoolmarm explain, said Ms. Johnson, that the words were make-believe words? Yes, said Ditto, but even make-believe words have meaning. I don’t understand, said Ms. Johnson. Aren’t all words, said Ditto, make-believe words? All words? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto, the word “tree” has no ontological relationship to the thing we call a tree. We might invent any word and make believe it refers to a tree. In fact, that’s what we’ve done since the beginning of language—the word for tree is different in every language that exists—all the different words are simply make-believe words that we’ve agreed upon to refer to trees.
You’re exactly right, said Ms. Johnson. And if someone is asked to read a group of make-believe words, said Ditto, how do they know that the words don’t have make-believe pronunciations? They don’t know, said Ms. Johnson, because the group of make-believe words might constitute a make-believe language, with its own grammar, syntax, and pronunciation. Exactly, said Ditto, that’s why I had trouble with the test. Would it have helped, said Ms. Johnson, if the schoolmarm had said the words were “meaningless”? Meaningless? said Ditto. How could they be called meaningless if they’ve determined where I have to spend my lunch hour? Yes, said Ms. Johnson, the two of us are going to get along very, very well.
Welcome to “Who 101,” said Harlan. Today’s question is “Who’s responsible?”
Responsible for what? said Morton.
I didn’t do it, said Emma Lou.
Neither did I, said Frank.
“Responsible,” said Glouster, means “being the cause or explanation; able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations; able to choose between right and wrong;” and, “marked by accountability.”
It’s not always easy to choose between right and wrong, said Chelsea.
Why not? said Frank.
Because what’s wrong for me, said Chelsea, may be right for someone else.
Like what? said Morton.
Like the color green, said Chelsea.
The color green? said Frank.
Yes, said Chelsea, the color green looks terrible on me, but it might look lovely on someone else.
Sometimes it’s also difficult, said Emma Lou, to answer for your conduct.
What conduct? said Frank.
Instinctive conduct, said Emma Lou. How can you answer for actions that are performed without thinking?
That’s true, said Morton, when I see a pumpkin pie, I can’t be held responsible for my conduct.
Or a shiny worm, said Frank.
Or a minnow, said Glouster.
Is there anything for which we can be held responsible? said Chelsea.
We can be held responsible for how we treat our friends, said Frank.
What about our enemies? said Chelsea.
Jesus, said Glouster, said we should love our enemies.
He didn’t mean cats, said Frank.
What if our enemies want to hurt us? said Chelsea.
An “enemy,” said Glouster, is “someone who is antagonistic to another, often seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent.”
You can love your enemy, said Emma Lou, without loving what they do.
Maybe you can convince them, said Chelsea, to act differently.
Yes, said Glouster, to act responsibly.
Even if that responsibility goes against their instincts? said Morton.
Maybe, said Emma Lou, responsibility can inspire us to alter our instincts so we can get along with others.
That, said Glouster, is called “social responsibility.”
“Social responsibility?” said Morton.
Yes, said Glouster, the responsibility that enables societies to exist, that enables individuals with different desires to live in harmony.
I like social responsibility, said Morton.
So do I, said Chelsea.
I don’t think cats are capable, said Frank, of social responsibility.