The Claiming of Man: A Fable
When mankind was young, the beasts of the sky and of the land and of the deep blue sea took no notice of him. He was just another animal, perhaps a bit uglier than most, and a bit crazier, but nothing unusual. But then a most remarkable thing happened.
In a few thousand years, a mere blink of an eye so far as most species are concerned, man began to build cities, to farm, to write, to speak, and all those wondrous things that make us unique. And this began to attract notice, for the beasts of the sky and of the land and of the deep blue sea had never seen such a strange creature as man, one great enough to shape the earth and tame nature.
And so the beasts of the sky and of the land and of the deep blue sea decided to have a meeting to try to understand man, and what manner of beast this new animal was.
“Man is a wolf!” growled the wolf. “He hunts in packs, I have seen him: an admirable fellow predator. He works together with us, a single pack, man and wolf as one. The bond we have is unique.
“We eat together, he hunt together, we play together, we sleep together. Where man goes, we follow. Who can doubt that we are family?”
“Man is indisputably a corvid,” cawed the crow, strutting about. “He ambulates upon two legs, as we do. He flits about hither and thither, never staying in one place for long, as we do. He is far too hairless to be a mammal. It is far more probable that the hair he does possess is simply an outlier. Just as we hold parliaments and funerals, so, too, does he.
“From my own observations, it is evident that he is a fellow bird who has temporarily misplaced his own wings. For I have seen many a man look at the sky in envy at me and my peers, a look of wistful pining upon that small beak of his. Who else but a bird yearns to fly? I have never seen another beast try it, but he will spend hours watching the sky, missing his former life. If ever he finds his wings again, rest assured, he will join his avian brethren among the clouds once again.
“Why, he may even be as clever as a corvid, for I have seen man coming across problems and solving them with a deftness as near my own as I have ever observed. Now, tell me, what other beast is as clever as that? His corviditude is obvious.”
“False!” buzzed the bee from within her flower. “Man is a bee! He works all day. We work all day. He follows his monarch. We follow our monarch. He values flowers. We value flowers.
“Both man and bee construct our homes, not living in the air, but in hives. Both man and bee have castes. Both man and bee work together.
“But most important is this: no other beast works as we do. Cows and wolves and hawks find their food or take it. Only we make it, harvesting our crops, bringing it home, turning it into our meals: this both we and man do. Ergo, man is one of us: a good worker bee.”
“Ha!” barked the bonobo. “You’re a fool if you think that man is a laborer by nature. He only works through necessity, and if he ever gets enough to satisfy himself, he quits his work right away. If not for his hungers, he wouldn’t lift a spade!
“No, man is an ape, for his mind is always on the same thought as mine, only he is not nearly as good as I at actually getting it, and so while he spends all his time thinking, I spend all mine doing,” he boasted, puffing up his chest.
“And not only that, but look!” he demanded, holding up his hands and feet. “Are we not twins when it comes to looks? If not for his sickly lack of hair, you would be unable to tell us apart, I dare say. Only a blind idiot could deny such an obvious truth as this.”
But to this, none of the other beasts of the sky and of the land and of the deep blue sea could agree, and they argued and disputed and fought all night without coming any closer to an agreement, none of them considering that perhaps man was not one of them, but of himself.
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