Friday morning morality play
First off: a few announcements. The book is due out in less than three weeks, so if you haven’t yet pre-ordered your copy, it will be in bookstores soon. And if you live in the Oakland area, I too will be in a bookstore, at least the night of April 18. Tell a friend and then come down and join us at A Great Good Place for Books, in the heart of Montclair. (If you would be interested in helping set up a reading or other event in your city, email me about getting involved with my street team. We have a limited number of free copies of the book as a thank-you to those who get involved.)
Secondly, if you’d like a break from my voice, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a column today that mentions the blog: “Sex rules are best laughed at.” Check it out if you’re looking for a funny read and a breezy digest of several recent sex studies.
In a study of a different kind, we did an interesting exercise in a training session yesterday that I thought I would share. I know: sounds dorky, right? But actually, I found that it provided an interesting barometer of the character traits we value. If you want to “play along,” find a piece of scratch paper and make a list with the names Ivan, Abigail, Gregory, Sinbad and Slug and prepare to rank the five characters on a scale of 1 to 5, least to most reprehensible.
The story: ‘Alligator River’
Once upon a time there was a woman named Abigail who was in love with a man named Gregory. Gregory lived on the shore of the river. Abigail lived on thee opposite shore of the river. The river that separated the two lovers was teeming with man-eating alligators. Abigail wanted to cross the river to be with Gregory. Unfortunately, the bridge was washed out. So she went to Sinbad, a riverboat captain, to take her across. He said he would be glad to if she would consent to go to bed with him preceding a voyage. She promptly refused and went to a friend named Ivan to explain her plight. Ivan did not want to be involved at all in the situation. Abigail felt her only alternative was to accept Sinbad’s terms. Sinbad fulfilled his promise to Abigail and delivered her into the arms of Gregory.
When she told Gregory of her escapade in order to cross the river, Gregory cast her aside with disdain. Heartsick and dejected, Abigail turned to Slug with her tale of woe. Slug, feeling compassion for Abigail, sought out Greogry and beat him severly.
Abigail was overjoyed at the sight of Gregory getting his due. As the sun sets on the horizon, we hear Abigail laughing at Gregory.
I know, I know: it’s not exactly up to the standard of Hemingway, but still it led to an interesting discussion. The assignment, you see, was for each of us to individually rank the characters from best to worst, after which we were put in groups to develop a group ranking. This was where the differences really emerged, however.
Whereas I thought Ivan’s hands-off approach was probably the healthiest of all of them, the rest of the folks in my group deemed him worst because of his passivity and lack of compassion. And whereas they all thought Gregory was cruel for spurning Abigail, I found little evidence of his love for or interest in her. To me, she seemed like a desperate, aggressive woman, unwilling to let anything thwart her efforts to get the fulfillment of her desire. Gregory certainly should have made it clear to her what his standards were, but it doesn’t exactly sound like he encouraged her to go so lengths for them to be together.
Another point of disagreement was the character of Sinbad. Once each group had reached their collective ranking, all of us compared our results. While my team agreed that Sinbad was rather mercenary, we did give him props for consistency and being very upfront about his ethical standards (perhaps this is why I liked 3:10 to Yuma). The other groups tended to rate him as the worst, however, because of his willingness to abuse power and take advantage of Abigail’s neediness.