Friday, November 18, 2011

Quote of the Day

I dreamed that a number of us bought a ship and hired a crew and captain and went to sea. We called her the State. And a great storm arose and she began to make heavy weather of it, till at last there came a cry "All hands to the pumps -- owners and all!" We had too much sense to disobey the call and in less time than it takes to write the words we had all turned out, and allowed ourselves to be formed into squads at the pumps. Several emergency petty officers were appointed to teach us our work and keep us at it. In my dream I did not, even at the outset, greatly care for the look of some of these gentry; but at such a moment -- the ship being nearly under -- who could attend to a trifle like that? And we worked day and night at the pumps and very hard work we found it. And by the mercy of God we kept her afloat and kept her head on to it, till presently the weather improved.

I don't think that any of us expected the pumping squads to be dismissed there and then. We knew that the storm might not be really over and it was as well to be prepared for anything. We didn't even grumble (or not much) when we found that parades were to be no fewer. What did break our hearts were the things the petty officers now began to do to us when they had us on parade. They taught us nothing about pumping or handling a rope or indeed anything that might help to save their lives or ours. Either there was nothing more to learn or the petty officers did not know it. They began to teach us all sorts of things -- the history of shipbuilding, the habits of mermaids, how to dance the hornpipe and play the penny whistle and chew tobacco. For by this time the emergency petty officers (though the real crew laughed at them) had become so very, very nautical that they couldn't open their mouths without saying "Shiver my timbers" or "Avast" or "Belay".

And then one day, in my dream, one of them let the cat out of the bag. We heard him say, "Of course we shall keep all these compulsory squads in being for the next voyage: but they won't necessarily have anything to do with working the pumps. For, of course, shiver my timbers, we know there'll never be another storm, d'you see? But having once got hold of these lubbers we're not going to let them slip back again. Now's our chance to make this the sort of ship we want."

But the emergency petty officers were doomed to disappointment. For the owners (that was "us" in the dream, you understand) replied "What? Lose our freedom and not get security in return? Why, it was only for security we surrendered our freedom at all." And then someone cried, "Land in sight". And the owners with one accord took every one of the emergency petty officers by the scruff of his neck and the seat of his trousers and heaved the lot of them over the side. I protest that in my waking hours I would never have approved such an action. But the dreaming mind is regrettably immoral, and in the dream, when I saw all those meddling busybodies going plop-plop into the deep blue sea, I could do nothing but laugh.

My punishment was that the laughter woke me up.

C. S. Lewis
"A Dream"
Present Concerns

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