Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dividing the Coconuts

“Governments are instituted among Men”

The Fourth of July.

Just an ordinary date for most of the people in the world, but special for Americans. It’s a holiday; the celebration of the day in 1776 that British colonists in North America refused to be ruled any longer by the government of Great Britain. 
A Child

The human child cannot exist on its own. Think of the baby Moses in the bulrushes—were he not found and taken into care by the Pharaoh’s daughter, he would have died. We owe our existence to other people, and, except for a very few, we live our lives among other people.
The Modern Hermit

It seems, however, that even the modern-day hermit has to be a social being. In Spain, Austria, and Switzerland advertisements for the position of hermit have noted that the successful applicant would have to “dispense wisdom and talk to tourists” (Switzerland), “greet and listen to the many locals and outsiders who come to appreciate the view from the hermitage and unburden themselves to the resident hermit” (Austria), and “welcome visitors to the sanctuary” (Spain). Customer service, the Spanish ad states is “essential.”*

One of the classic cartoon situations involves the raggedly-clothed shipwreck survivor on a desert island. He may not have answered an advertisement for the position of hermit, but he has swum into it. Living alone, he can do what he likes within his small domain and with his scant resources. He can be as arbitrary as he likes.

Until another ship sinks and another survivor crawls up on the beach. Now adjustments must be made. Ad hoc accommodations, tacit agreements, and/or debated assignments are necessary. Who will do the fishing? Who the cooking? Who will climb the tree and bring down the coconuts? 
Whether it be in the family, the tribe, the nation, or the empire, there will be some form of governance. Ultimately, the questions facing human beings living together are: How will the coconuts be divided? and How will that be decided?


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