I read an article about European hedgehogs in the NYTimes this morning, and got to thinking about them because the writer mentioned they were ‘related’ to porcupines in the Americas. But they aren’t. Porcupines are rodents according to Wikipedia and Hedgehogs are, well, hedgehogs.
When my Dad was home, he liked to lead us kids in a game of “Animal, Mineral Vegetable” at the dinner table. Basically, the game goes like this: when it is your turn you think of an animal and then like the game 20 questions or charades, the others uncover the attributes of the animal by asking questions one by one until someone can identify it.
For example, Dad, trying to teach us about animals would always pick something unusual. His favorite mystery item was the Duck-billed Platypus. Meryl over at http://sixdecadesandcounting.blogspot.com/ reminded me of the Platypus in one of her recent posts on her trip to Australia, home of odd creatures including the Platypus
The person who was “It” at our dinner table could only answer with Yes or No. When Dad was It, we asked him questions (we three kids took turns) such as: Is it alive” to establish it was not a mineral like coal; Does it have fur? (an animal not a carrot); Does it give milk? (a mammal); Does it lay eggs? (bird or fowl); Does it have webbed feet? Dad fooled us for a long time until we figured out after many mistakes that he was thinking of the duck-billed platypus, which is poisonous, gives milk to its offspring, has fur and webbed feet, and lays eggs.
I think those moments around the meal table when Mom was urging us to finish our vegetables and Dad was acting like one of the kids, was when I was launched on my lifelong quest to find answers. I now know many answers, such as the series of mistakes that led to WWI in the twentieth century and subsequently WWII, but the more I know, the more I don’t know it seems. One of my undergraduate professors warned me about this.
My Advisor told me the point of a Liberal education was to get the student to think and ask critical questions. This is not an easy task when you live in a world where most of the folks around you are willing to accept what they hear as long as it reinforces preconceived notions. Furthermore, instead of questions, these days many college programs are about computers and logic.
One of the reasons for worry in these times is that some professors or teachers of young children come into the class room with preconceived notions. The history program at GMU was superb because I have not graduated knowing all the answers, but because I left with a thousand more questions. I can see I have much reading ahead of me as I continue to pursue knowledge until the day I die.
One question I won’t answer until the day I die is the hour the place the time of my death. I can visualize me sitting up on my death-bed and saying, “I always wondered when this would happen.” But even then I might not know I am about to die if I have slipped into a coma or died instantly in a car wreck, but it really doesn’t matter. (I want to be like Bob Hope and get off one more joke like, “At last I am playing to a full house.”)
You might wonder why I am thinking about death, but that’s what happens when you have a maniac driver for a husband. I don’t need to go anywhere but the grocery store with David to have enough excitement to last a lifetime. As for answers, I have books.