Once upon a time there was a little pocket gopher named Kipper. He lived as all pocket gophers do, under the ground. He had just the right claws to dig, just the right eyes to see, just the right nose and whiskers, and all that, you understand; all that he needed to be a a great pocket gopher. Although his life was filled with struggles finding food, providing for his family, and earning a living, he was happy as any little pocket gopher could be.
And as time went by he got old. He aged. He became confused, not in any demented sense, but he was unsettled about himself, although he didn’t know it at the time. Until one day he met someone who opened his eyes to himself and his past. So he sat around in his burrow and re remembered his youth, his youngster-hood, his teen years, and all the rest of it. His life changed.
Things that were confusing or dark became light and clear with new positive meaning for the little pocket gopher. His spirit soared with the eagles, as Chief Dan George said in the movie, “Little Big Man.” He began to write his stories and soon he was writing his feelings, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes angry. He wrote them on scrolls and left them in the main tunnel for other pocket gophers to read and understand his journey.He believed he had new insights into himself and felt a new pocket gopher was emerging, a happy, positive, optimistic pocket gopher. His friends and family remarked on the change. “You are renegotiating your life,” his spouse said. “You have found your voice” his new friend said.There was something his daughter said also, but he forgot. It was along the same lines.
So the pocket gopher thought he had found his GIFT, the one that the Great Spirit had given him and he set about to use it to help the old ones to tell their stories. He felt great. He felt on top of the world. New interests abounded.
And then he got caught in a pocket gopher trap. Well not caught exactly, snared would be more like it. Snared by the opinion of others. His family.
When he felt good about himself, he wanted to try new things. But they said, “Don’t go out and look at the beautiful birds,” said one, “they’re dirty and if anyone sees you looking at them, they will come and paint you red, and everyone will know what you have done. What would your children think? or your grandchildren? or your great-grand children? I have to ask you not to do that anymore. And stop wearing feathers into the house.”
And another said, “Why did you paint such an awful picture, why did you copy such a hateful thing and post it where others can see it. Don’t you know how hateful it was? What were you thinking? Please take it down, now.” and her sister agreed. They felt it necessary to control the little pocket gopher’s behavior with stern criticism masked by affection and caring.
And a third said, “Please don’t post things you know nothing about. We didn’t say that, and you caused us a great deal of stress by saying that publicly in one of your poems. From now on restrict your thinking in the future to yourself, if you please, and think before you speak or write or anything.”
Finally, his favorite cousin wrote, “You have written on the wrong wall. Remember this is my public wall and not my private wall. Remove it before anyone sees what you have done.”
He was hurt and confused. Had he gone too far? Had his new personality led him to irresponsibilities? Should he quit or merely restrict his behavior? Didn’t they have the right to say so when displeased? Then why was he hurt by their comments. Could they have said them better? less critical or less damning? Was he hypersensitive in his new skin? Who else but those who loved him would tell him if he made mistakes?
And when the little gopher went out into the big deep dark tunnel to think quietly to himself, he recognized the feelings :anger, hurt, rebellion, pride, and hostility that were in him. He gave himself time to let them cool and he wrote this story. He knows they were right, but he was becoming. How do you take criticism from others when you are running way from a life of criticism toward yourself?
“Fuck it if they can’t take a joke!”, Murphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
[This story will never be posted due to fear of criticism.]