The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 10 (January 1, 1940)
The King of Boasts
The Ladder of Excess.
Leo, by his jungle feasts, Is always dubbed “The King of Beasts.”
Homo, in his teeming hosts, Is claimed to be “The King Of Boasts.”
Homo is always expanding his chest; Leo is content to expand his “tummy.” Leo doesn't become all “chesty” because he has draped himself round more antelope than his brethren. He is merely filled with digestive gratification that so few of his antelope elope.
On the other hand Homo gets all puffed up over his “kills” and loves to hear the fawns and does exclaim: “Isn't he just too killing!” So he climbs the ladder of excess, from “kill” to “kill” until he figures in the final “kill” as the whole works.
Although Homo thinks so much of himself it is doubtful if the animals think much of him. The indifference that permeates the peanuttian precincts and the bone-gardens of the zoo represents the true sentiments of the animal world. Any faint interest in man shown by the larger carnivora is prompted by appetite rather than admiration. The lions and tigers sometimes bat a somnolent eye at pinkchopped salesmen and the young of butter merchants but, otherwise, they are not interested.
And yet we must hand it to Homo that what progress he has made has been achieved with a physical equipment pitifully inadequate for his ambitions.
Arms and The Man.
The chief trouble with Homo is that he is obliged to get along with only two arms and two legs; and his teeth have grown quite useless for gnawing his way through a crowd, biting the tops off bottles, or supporting himself on the picture rail when the ladder slips. In any case, his teeth have usually become detachable long before he has lost the will to use them in self-defence, or for the purpose of putting the wind up his creditors by baring them through the parlour window. The modern creditor would, excusably, presume that their owner either was demonstrating his joy at having paid the last instalment on them, or was desirous of disposing of them as a going concern.
It is all rather pathetic. There is the tiger with a set of tearers which would make the owner of a steam laundry feel like a massage expert, and yet apart from natural satisfaction in a job well-chewed—the tiger confines any swelling to parts below the head. But Man, knowing his dental deficiencies, continues to hurl himself upon beef steaks and suchlike tooth-proof products of the family butcher.
And that is where Man puts it across the whole animal kingdom; it is his indomitable spirit that has put him where he is—wherever that may be. It is this spirit which laughs at lock-jaw, vanquishes revulcanised chops, and tears the armour-plating off threepenny pies. His spirit enables him to overcome the advantages of progress and survive the blessings of civilisation.
Down to the Sea in Strips.
It is his courageous folly that causes him to compete in spheres foreign to his original specifications. Take water! (No. not internally. No one takes water seriously in that respect; there are far too many competitive liquids). Man was never made for water, except as a mild refresher to pour over the pores. Had he been destined to inhabit innocuous liquids he would have been fitted with mackintosh bone-covers and a propeller abaft the steering gear. It is obvious from Man's bodywork and landing gear that he should keep away from water as much as possible. There are many who find this no hardship, but many others seem bent on proving that you can't keep a good man down any more than you can keep a good fish up. This amphibious ambition is the more remarkable when you consider that it is impossible for Man to inhale water without first making an appointment with an undertaker. Furthermore he possesses only hands and feet with which he moves clumsily by digging page 61 holes in the water and falling into them; whereas the fish flips a fin and the water is so tickled that it wriggles away and gives the fish a fair go. And yet Man, in spite of his handicaps, continues to go down to the sea in strips.
Even the seal with its two-element travel gear has enough sense to recognise that its evolution tends to oysterbeds rather than kapoc mattresses, and it remains in pickle as much as possible except for an occasional excursion among men to see what sort of mess they are making on dry land. But man either is too small-brained or too big-hearted to realise that he was never intended to make a splash in anything bigger than a bath. In the circumstances it is amazing to think that insurance companies are so broadminded that they allow policy holders to swim underwater, without an inspector in a boat to call them up before the bubbles cease to rise.
The Log and The Lag.
And, apart from water, what about tennis? Strangely enough, it has never even occurred to Man that tennis is a game which was invented by him in a mood of defiance against the law of probability. To attempt it with nothing more than a paltry pair of arms and legs is nothing less than an idle boast. It is, indeed, painful to watch a tennis player attempting to hold one ball, serve the other, hitch up his trousers and shoo the poodles off the court, all with one pair of hands; also, he needs at least two pairs of legs so that he can spring in all directions simultaneously without strewing his movable parts amongst the spectators or putting a permanent twist in his reputation.
But in spite of this we have Wimbledon as a monument to Man's genius for chewing more than he can bite off. The King of Boasts he is, but there are occasions when even the animals must admit that he is not such a ham as he looks.
And what about wrestling? In nothing more than wrestling does man resemble the worm who flung himself down in front of the lawn mower and cried: “Another inch and I'll bump you off!”
It is obvious that Man was never constructed to act like a high-compression ivy vine, and to tie himself up with his fellows in such intricate designs that it often requires a surveyor and a couple of plumbers to restore him to normal shape. Now an octopus is specially designed to wrestle for his living. He has no more bones than a Christmas pudding, he sports more graspers than a legal document and his temperament is, if anything, even nastier than that of many human wrestlers whose diet appears to be a hash of bitter aloes and raw hyena steaks.
It is plain that wrestlers are not students of octopussimism or they would devote their superfluous enmity to getting a half-Nelson on Old Man Work instead of trying to do, with a gorilla equipment, what an octopus can do so much better. But that's Man, the King of Boasts! Always striving to get one more bite from the apple of ambition; a victim of Cores and Effect!page 62