We are so far from denying there is any Unicorn at all, that we affirm there are many kindes thereof. — Sir Thomas Browne
I observed the tiny waves crash against the rocks, fixating my gaze on a single stone which jutted out of the water like the peak of some mighty mountain. But the waves fought in vain to cover the precipice completely, despite my mind’s resolution that the rock would shortly be covered. I listened as my companion sang a tune of I know-not-what, and though I comprehended not a word, her voice gave the lyrics a peaceful rhythmic tone which clashed with the sound of the waves violently hitting the rocks. The scene was interrupted when, not long able to resist, I found the nearest pebbles and heaved them upward and outward to join the waves. I gazed northward along the rocky shore and observed a young boy drop his fishing line and mimic my action, though I’m convinced he never saw me. No, I’m convinced that the natural and biological concept of “male” inevitably compels a man to throw rocks, and this spiritual desire is heightened when near bodies of water.
My gaze returned to the water as my companion continued her beautiful tune. She eventually joined me on the rock on which I was sitting and asked me if I was thinking of anything. To my shame, I had very little, if anything, significant to give. But I eventually mentioned how I loved gazing out on the water and pretending I was somewhere entirely different. To the south, the end of this lake, was a dam, but if one gazed westward and northward, they saw only the western shores, covered with trees and almost entirely green. To the direct north the lake continued on until the blue blended white with the horizon. If one compelled their imagination to overtake them, they could for half a second, turn those shores into forests and that tiny lake into an everlasting sea.
It is a common joke for a young boy, at the climax of his immaturity, to give those females around him a scare by either calling out “snake” in a moment of probability that one may be lurking or by placing an imitation of that lizard near their line of sight. As a child, I distinctly remember hiding a rubber lizard around the house to scare my mother, and I recollect owning a rubber snake, though I am uncertain whether it was used in the art of scare tactics or not. That the rubber lizard ended up melting in the oven, in a failed attempt at scaring my mother, is irrelevant. For it only proves all the more that a boy is naturally bent on the thrill of the scare and will sometimes go to extreme measures — even if the measure is illogical, such as placing a rubber lizard in the oven.
Now, with anything dangerous, it is the thing itself and not its imitation which should be condemned. A boy is more of a murderer when, hating his sister, he hides a snake than when he shoots the neighbors, be they the “bad guys,” with his toy gun. But, of course, deception by a rubber snake is perhaps worse than deception by a talking snake. The fact remains that my companion and I, after wetting our feet in the lake, took the rocky shore, heading north. The banks of this lake are walled up by large stones, rising roughly ten to fifteen feet above the waves. As we walked across the stone we observed how the wind blew with force as it had nowhere else to turn. Eventually, our own course took a slight easterly turn, and the wind and waves died down, nearly ceasing altogether. We approached a marina, located in a pleasant cove of the lake. A boat out on the water basked itself in the dying rays of a setting sun, playing music loud enough for the those on the shore to hear as they skipped from rock to rock.
Our way was eventually obstructed, and we took again to the rocks, consciously seeking flat surfaces on which to tread. It is common for the modern to assume no danger awaits his path, that all will proceed joyfully without pain or hardship. It was with this faulty ideal in mind that I let my companion, a female, lead the way. A man should always be of heightened senses when danger lurks, and this should be elevated to no end when a woman is present. Nevertheless, chivalry lost its daily battle with me, and I was hopping across a small canyon, observing the peaceful stillness of the lake’s waves and musing on God-knows-what, I heard my companion let out what I will call a squeal which, honestly, moved me very little at first.
I had been out on these parts a couple of times before, and, well, I had merely be outside many times in my life. Often one will come across a very small lizard whose name and origin I am not aware of. As any good modern, I perceive the little critters to have evolved from either a mothball or a falling star, but alas, I am no biologist. In any case, this lizard is a cute and, to my knowledge, harmless critter, more scared of us than we of him. But, when certain individuals come across these creatures, their natural inclination is to let out a squeal and flail their arms wildly. Thus, when my companion did exactly that, I naturally believed she had seen nothing more than a tiny lizard who had probably already sought cover himself. Thus, when she let out such a squeal and raced towards me in complete fright, I was nearly unmoved.
At various times I pretend to be a Marxist, raging and railing against the bourgeoisie; in other moments I am a feminist fighting against the horrible oppressors who happen to be my sex. But at all times I adopt the persona of the one people group whom I believe to be the most absent-minded people of our age: the eco-critics. As I skip around nature — “stumbling on melons… ensnared on flowers”¹ — I make lofty statements about how the trees did not just come before men but actually breeded men who, as they are wont to do, suppressed their voices and used them as commodity. Thus, when I heard my friend squeal and then saw the large black snake hanging over the rocks in all its glory, the pseudo-eco-critic in me would declare the snake a beautiful creature, some form of our ancestors in the grand scheme of things. But common sense prevailed, and my immediate reaction was my friend’s safety. For there is nothing altogether beautiful about a snake, and I believe there is a reason for this. The snake that so deceived Eve would not deceive again. There is something too obviously demonic about its look, something which appears to harken back to a time in the history of mankind when a beautiful day in the garden became a nightmare. Indeed, the glorious twilight at the lake that evening would quickly have given way to the darkness of night had my friend been deceived to pet the snake.
It is fair to say within proper, moral boundaries that boys will be boys. They are not girls anymore than they are trees. When a boy places a rubber snake to scare his sister, he is properly recognizing the frightful nature of that snake. His motives are another issue, for a boy does not need to be taught that a snake is scary any more than he needs to be taught that he is a boy and his sister is superior. It is a common fallacy to suppose that all boys play tricks on those they hate; it is more likely they play tricks on those they love and admire, on those they feel worthy of frightening. And whether it makes logical sense or not is besides the point, for ever since that first deception man has been fairly illogical. More than any of this is our modern mindset, for it is the fallacy of our age that men are no better than snakes or sticks. I fear nine out of ten modern eco-critics, had they been in my situation, would have cast my friend in the lake to save the snake, and their friends Marx and Sanger would have applauded judiciously.
¹From Andrew Marvell’s “The Garden,” a true eco-critic.