Entry 15: About bells . . .

As we noted in Entry 10, though humans are divine, we are not omniscient. That doesn’t mean we don’t know most of what needs to be known, because we do. For instance, we know (or could easily know) everything hands know. Even your trivial anti-human stories, which we don’t take too personally because we understand that the hands’ position on the ladder of life is one that can produce a certain amount of resentment. What we do take personally is how often hands don’t even understand the stories they tell, how they misread and misinterpret what should be obvious.

For example, we are, of course, aware of the cute little hands fable about some farm mice holding a big meeting in order to figure out what do about the farm’s human, who, according to the story, pretty much keeps the mouse population in check, using targeted assassinations and the like. One mouse suggests that the human be belled, which would provide an early warning system for the beleaguered mouse community. Upon hearing this plan, the mice are quite pleased because it seems the perfect solution to their problem: reduce the ability of the human to sneak up on them unheard, and all will be well. Excited by this thought, the mice seek the opinion of their oldest and wisest senior citizen. His famous response: “Excellent plan, my friends, but who will bell the human?”

There are a few things wrong with this fable. First, hands often interpret this fable to be a comment on the value of ideas and plans. That is, a great idea isn’t really that great, if its implementation is completely unfeasible. Okay, sure, that could be one of the fable’s lessons, but it is definitely secondary to the primary message the fable imparts: namely, “Humans are large and in charge: forget that at your peril.” Note that the natural hierarchy (i.e., humans at the apex, all other creatures beneath) is not disrupted at all by this mouse meeting; rather, the impossibility of belling the human reinforces the current order, which depends on humans being on top of the heap and in control.

The second problem is the assumption by the mice (and the author of this fable) that belling the human would make any difference at all in the first place. Let us reassure you: no, it would not. Yes, bells can increase the degree of difficulty when it comes to killing, but that is a challenge all true humans actively embrace. We’re so good at killing, it can become boring to succeed so often and so easily. A bell can spice things up, and makes a successful hunt all that more satisfying.

Third, the fable ignores the real reason humans don’t mind wearing bells. Humans actually like bells when they can be used as intended: as a means of summoning and directing hands. That’s how we use the three lovely bells that hang around our neck. It’s true that our hands operates under the delusion that he is protecting the local bird population from a virulent predator. And it is also true that our hands hasn’t quite mastered the grammar of bell communication, but he’s challenged in a lot of ways, so we try to be patient and understanding of our hands’ shortcomings. The point is we wear the bells you hands give us because we want to. We could easily remove the bells from our neck because our hands used a quick-release collar to hang ours. But do we? No. Take that fable-mice: we’ll be waiting for you just around that corner . . .