Frederick C. Hatfield, Ph.D
“That’s the magic of the word: We are left to imagine our own worst definitions. And in the process, we render the word more unspeakably awful than the speaker ever could — just as the monsters on the old radio horror shows, being products of our own dread, were scarier than anything TV could show us.”
I watched Deep Space Nine the other day. I love that mindless tripe. It provides an opportunity for escapism in its most elemental form. Sometimes, though, the scriptwriters outdo themselves, and create something really (well, “sorta”) profound. On this particular episode there was a race of people who referred to themselves as “Dreamers, Shapers, Seekers, Makers.” Obviously a super race of people, the likes of which are (practically) unknown here on Earth. Each, from that distant world, clearly a king in his or her own right. Any one of them would be Emperor were they here.
We — the world of Iron Worshippers — have such people too. But then, in comparison to the inhabitants of this planet — Earth — bodybuilders are a super race. Kings of their respective jungles, as it were. Come contest day, though they shed whatever monarchical robes they wear and place themselves at grave risk on the posing platform. In doing so, they defend nothing: Rather, they boldly — offensively — seek conquest. That, in a nutshell, is what separates them from all other beings in the jungle, most of whom merely react defensively as a survival instinct.
I enter my monthly column, then, with this thought: To be King, first you must have a kingdom. To have a kingdom, you must either have willing subjects or be willing to subjugate them.
Taking a stroll through the jungle the other day, as I am wont to do since it’s my natural home, I overheard a rather startling — yet, paradoxically, not unexpected — conversation between some of the species living therein. Before I get into the conversation I eavesdropped on, let me tell you a bit about these bizarre species, for I know them well:
“To be King, first you must have a kingdom. To have a kingdom, you must either have willing subjects or be willing to subjugate them.”
The Fierce Wannabee:
Big, brutish and fierce looking, this diabolical denizen of the deepest jungle has the most fearsome roar imaginable. Lower species quake in fear as he struts by, tossing his mien, guttural growls spilling into the silent jungle through bared fangs, daring all to cross his path. Yet, testicles he has none. You can tell by the conspicuous lack of bulge in his spandex pants. The incomprehensible “Gabbyscientists” — one of the more curiously respected (though often taunted) species residing in the jungle — believe this condition is the result of either 1) dysfunctional maternal upbringing, 2) a total lack of positive paternal influence, or 3) the overuse of jungle juice. He looks great, but hasn’t improved his appearance in years. That’s because he has no testicles, and hence lacks the wherewithall (testosterone) to grow. His eating and training habits are no different than those of his forebearers, so he has progressed no farther than they.
“…testicles he has none. You can tell by the conspicuous lack of bulge in his spandex pants.”
The Venerable Usetabee:
Venerated by virtue of his (or her, there’s no telling which gender, since a similar lack of spandex bulge, as in the case of the Fierce Wannabee, purports no clue) oft’ told tales, this grotesque beast is clearly subject to constant and intense pain resulting from his (or her, as the case may be) alleged battles with one of the greatest and most feared beasts of all — the “Gawdawful Heavyiron!” The mask of pain is omnipresent. These battles — real but typically exaggerated — are recorded immemorial, so there is little in the way of disparagement possible. See, the Venerable Usetabee is also very wily, and therefore careful about covering incriminating tracks, leaving behind only those that may tend to elevate others’ perception of him. As with all species residing in the jungle, tracks are very important to the Venerable Usetabee since his existence is largely based in the past. But his passion has long since extinguished. This explains his lack of spandex bulge; since losing one’s all-important passion in the jungle is tantamount to having no testacles. That’s probably good, since his training methods — which invariably led to a monstrously overtrained state — may have killed him rather than merely maiming him for life. Because he’s not related to the Pencilneck (a species to which further reference must be made unfortunately), and because he has vast gym experience (although never learning from it himself) he knows this in his heart, so he avoids helping others, for fear he’ll be found out.
The Lowly Neverwas:
This lackey bottom-feeder of the jungle, this son-of-a-jackal that has a very skinny neck resembling a common pencil, is also known far and wide as a Pencilneck Geek. Being nonpredatory, as are most of the lower beasts residing in the jungle, he slinks from cover to cover to shun the light of day (though not nocturnal by nature), fearing that he will be discovered for what he really is — NOTHING. Nothing, that is, of merit. Yet, paradodoxical as it may seem, he’s much-needed in the jungle — it’s truly a fearsome abode — so he’s somewhat protected by the greater beasts. A consummate shape-shifter, he may assume the personage of a western-style doctor, a politician, a lawyer, or (most often) a parasite. In the jungle, parasites are important. See, things die there. SOMEBODY’S gotta clean up the carnage! This creature habituates the jungle gym from time to time, trying to emulate the greater beasts that prowl therein. His efforts are disgusting, puny and laughable, as he does so with tight spandex pants and clean new sneakers on. He seems to have an inexhaustible supply of clean new sneakers. He dresses like this because in his twisted mind he believes that he’ll look like he “belongs” in the jungle gym.
“A consummate shape-shifter, he may take the personage of a western-style doctor, a politician, a lawyer, or most often a parasite.”
Anyway, this pestiferous triumvirate got into a discussion as to who was the TRUE king of the jungle. I was there, though unobserved. Downwind as I was, I quietly sat and listened. Do likewise. And learn.
In uncharacteristic openness (he’s used to talking behind the other beasts’ backs) and with flashing teeth adorning a fearsome visage, the Fierce Wannabee growls, “Who’s the King of the jungle?” His surprising candor startled the other two, but they responded nonetheless.
“Why, YOU is, Mr. Wannabee! YOU is!” quaked the Lowly Neverwas from behind a twig. “You IS the King of the jungle!”
“And you?” chortled the Fierce Wannabee, turning his mangy head toward the proud, but doubtful Venerable Usetabee.
“Yes, perhaps YOU is the king of the jungle for the moment” agreed the Venerable Usetabee, albeit somewhat hesitantly. “But I USED to be! So, maybe it’s time I made a comeback and took back what is rightfully mine, no?”
“GET A LIFE!” roared the Fierce Wannabee. “NOT A CHANCE!” The jungle fairly shook with the fury of the Fierce Wannabee’s mighty roar.
“Yeah! GET A LIFE!” piped up the Lowly Neverwas, now standing boldly on the tip of his twig.
“Listen!” lamented (that’s another word for “whined”) the Venerable Usetabee. Who’s done it all? Who’s put their butt on the line in mortal combat and came out victorious?” [Then, under his breath and with dulled claws crossed, he mutters, “Most of the time?”] “Who’s got the records to prove it? Who’s more dedicated? Who’s more capable of making this jungle, and it’s inhabitants, flourish? You? A mere WANNABEE, or moi? The ONLY jungle beast who’s BEEN there?
“Yeah!” offered the Lowly Neverwas, now perched on the edge of a leaf in mock bravery, knowing that it’s two against one now. “Who IS the King of the jungle?”
“I have the loudest roar, the biggest teeth, the most muscular body, and the balls…er…the GUTS to back it up!” responded the Fierce Wannabee. The Venerable Usetabee glanced down wistfully.
“But Mr. Wannabee!” objected the Lowly Neverwas. “Why then do you roar so loud? Why is it that… “ …and now he’s standing on his hind legs, despite their spindly structure … “…you never HUNT? Why don’t you HELP us lower beasts and give of your magnificent self to keep the ORDER in this jungle?”
“ENOUGH! ENOUGH!” a new voice roared! From the cover of the night jungle’s shadow emerged a figure, slightly bent but nonetheless powerful and dominating, yet curiously submissive. Enter the Stately Stillis!
Lest I confuse, let me tell you about this particular beast, as he is truly Lord of all jungle ground he treads upon.
The Stately Stillis:
Now, some of the other beasts mock this wonder of the weald, this tenant of the tangle. They mock him because of his discipline and single-mindedness. They do not understand how a beast can become so… so FOCUSED on something other than what’s belly filling. But then, it’s understandable since they are the lower beasts. They are the ones who quake at a loud roar. They are the ones whose tails (also tales) are truly short. Many are cousins to the Lowly Neverwas, and others distant cousins to the The Venerable Usetabee (inbreeding is common amongst the lower beasts of the jungle with everybody screwing everybody. It’s led to untold idiocy and an attendant mythology that’s utterly strange but fascinating to the greater beasts).
“…inbreeding is common in the jungle with everybody screwing everybody. It’s led to untold idiocy and an attendant mythology that’s utterly strange but fascinating to the greater beasts.”
Unlike another distant (then venerated, but now extinct) cousin, Leo the Lionhearted, he knows that his jungle, and subsequently it’s spirit, is inclined to lead its beastly inhabitants to places never dreamed possible to visit, if only they will let it do so. He knows that his survival, and that of every beast in the jungle–indeed, the jungle itself — dictates that there is no other choice. The JUNGLE is uncompromising in its demand for total EXCELLENCE! The Stately Stillis had become one with the jungle. He — and he alone — is KING!