Thursday, April 28, 2005

“Scorpion replies, ‘I can’t help it. It’s in my nature.’”

The Movie: The Crying Game, 1992 (Neil Jordan, screenwriter and director)
Who says it: Forest Whitaker as Jody, a British soldier kidnapped by terrorists
The context: Jody forgives his captor (Stephen Rea) for what they’re about to do to him.
How to use it: To comment on bad but unsurprising behavior.

The other morning, I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom mirror when I noticed a big bruise and scab on the underside of my forearm. I had no memory of having done this, and it freaked me out. Of course I immediately thought: "Unexplained bruising! A weird-looking scab! I have leukemia! I have melanoma!"

And then I remembered: I have a dog. The morning before, Dizzy had yanked me off my feet in pursuit of a neighbor's cat, and I'd knocked my arm against a post. I even said at the time, "Dizzy, you're going to kill me." But once the cat was gone, we kept walking, and Dizzy and I had both forgotten all about it by the time we got home.

My cousin Sheila calls this "doggie whiplash." Theoretically, Dizzy should be trained well enough that he is not distracted by squirrels or cats. He does leave birds alone, after a traumatic puppyhood experience (more traumatic for me than for him, but that's another story). But Dizzy is a hunting dog, and training can only do so much to override thousands of years of genetic programming.

A friend reminded me yesterday that this might apply to humans as well as to dogs. I was saying I'd been shocked by some recent behavior by a mutual acquaintance; my friend agreed that it was bad, but said, "Why are you shocked? Dizzy would knock you down to get a squirrel. It's how [our acquaintance] is."

I agreed, but now that I think about it, I've always been uncomfortable with that attitude. We are as God made us, no doubt about it -- greedy and insecure and envious and all the rest of it -- but isn't the point of civilization that we don't have to act that way? I seem to remember my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Holmes, saying something along those lines...

And anyway, even Dizzy wants to be good.

No comments: