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Monday, July 4, 2016

A Foolish Consistency: a Literary Digression...

Strange where one's head goes when pricked by certain stimuli. Take this morning, for instance, when Gladys and I rolled out into the mist for our constitutional in the Valley. Propped up at the entrance to Jim Cabe's driveway was a garish orange warning sign. I knew it was the weekend before the anniversary of our Grand Old Republic but thought it highly unlikely Jim would be hosting a celebratory Hell's Angels motorcycle rally: as if the Cabe residence is the Sturgis of Tualco Valley. Besides, if a biker can't navigate 200 yards of roadway without tipping his bike, he shouldn't be straddling one...unless, perhaps, it's a trike.

The County has been prepping the Upper Loop Road for resurfacing all spring. I first noticed the white graffiti highlighting pavement cracks. Then the serpentine black sealer cover up, (one looked suspiciously like a '60's peace symbol; County guys having a little fun?). Yellow plastic tabs next and the gravel overlay for the asphalt to follow. Thus the warnings for bikers rumbling (screaming?) devil-may-care through the Valley.

But propping a warning sign at the head of a long driveway seemed a bit superfluous and brought to mind a string of literary allusions, the first of which was Emerson's famous quote from his essay "Self-Reliance": "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds/Adored by little statesmen, philosophers, and divines."Another on the topic of consistency stated by Kenneth Roberts in the forward to his novel Lydia Bailey:

"...; narrow men who consistently upheld the beliefs and acts of one political party and saw no good in any other; shortsighted men who consistently refused to see that the welfare of their own nation was dependent on the welfare of every other nation; ignorant men who consistently thought that the policies of their government should be supported and followed, whether these policies were right or wrong...;"

And then there's the poem "Mending Wall" by New England's poet laureate Robert Frost in which his subject is a stubborn neighbor whose "foolish consistency" binds him to the old saying "Good fences make good neighbors." As he complies with the neighbor's stubborn demand they annually repair the stone wall dividing their properties, Frost maintains their labors are just "another kind of outdoor game...there where it is we do not need the wall:/ He is all pine and I am apple orchard./ My apple trees will never get across/ And eat the cones under his pine trees, I tell him." But the neighbor "...will not go behind his father's saying,/ And he likes having thought of it so well/ He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'"

Our County servants, in their defense, constipated by regs, codes, and guidelines would be the first to justify--consistently, of course-- the misuse of common sense and resources as "We're just doing our job." After all, Jim Cabe's driveway is a designated "County Road" (Christenson Rd.), thus must be posted with the cautionary warning. However should Gladys and I decide to visit the Cabes, we'll heed the advice and pedal carefully because Gladys is like William Faulkner's mule, "[She] will work for you patiently for ten years for the chance to kick you once."

Just one more allusion for you. No need for thanks. Call it literary lagniappe. Print this post

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