Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Don't Jump If You Can't Swim

For twelve years I worked at the local high school in the theatre department. During this time I began writing and producing social dramas for the schools and community. One such show was based on the book THE LEMMING CONDITION written by Alan Arkin. This little book for older grade school children quickly became one of my favorites. One I felt a need to share. One we took it to the stage.

Lemmings for some unknown reason migrate to the ocean cliffs and jump in. Certainly makes me happy that I'm not a lemming. In this book, Crow asks his friend Bubba, a lemming, if he can swim. Of course, Bubba doesn't know because he never tried. Crow takes Bubba to the pond. The lemming finds that swimming in a fur coat could be fatal. Crow saves him.

Bubba dashes back to his burrow yelling to his family to stop packing for their trip to the cliffs because their day at the beach isn't the holiday they expect. Of course, no one believes him. Generations of the adults in his family have trekked the same path. The babies stayed behind in the burrows continuing life as usual. The little ones didn't seem to notice that the parents didn't return with pictures or tans. They just didn't return.

So in spite of Bubba's warnings, the doubting adult lemmings migrate....all but Bubba. He races among them begging them to stop as they trek the same path worn by past generations. Defeated he returns to the burrows. Baby lemmings anxiously ask Bubba about the trip while they daydreaming of their future adventure. Bubba simply walks on realizing that he cannot altar this world in which he lives; he can only change himself.

In our world, Bubba would be the rebel, the odd ball and probably the protester. Maybe even the forward thinker. Hopefully, he would not fade into oblivion but perhaps change the world just enough to save it from oblivion.

A book for children? I think not.

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