Grasping At Straws

This evening I sent a friend of mine a picture of a glass of water and a glass of iced tea on a table, both of them with straws in them. The first response of my friend was a question as to whether I drank the liquid from the cups through the tubes. When I informed her that I indeed drink with straws, this prompted her to comment on a memory that she had of her being in charge of distributing straws as a first grade student, of distributing the straws while keeping some for herself, enough so that she still had straws decades later from this time of her life. This led to quite a bit of humorous banter about her hoarding straws for herself and being stingy about giving them to others. The true philosopher can draw lessons from any situation, so what lessons should we draw from this?

Let us note that we can draw lessons from the context of the story as well as its content. How does memory work, in that we may store a memory at the age of six of being responsible for passing out straws, but that the memory may lie dormant for many years, since we have few reasons to bring up such a memory, until someone communicates something about straws that triggers our memory and leads us to think about something that we had stored there a long time ago and had little reason to remember until straws once again became a subject of interest to us? What is the importance of having friends to remind us of interesting stories that we may not otherwise bring to mind? What is stored in such memories, and what is not stored, seeing as my friend could not remember her motive for keeping some straws back for herself?

This lack of understanding the motive can, of course, be viewed quite humorously if one so chooses. In our conversation, I invented a charitable motive for my friend to have had a youthful interest in storing straws with such enthusiasm, in that she may have been concerned about scarcity and shortages. It is natural for those who are both skilled and interested in matters of logistics to be concerned not only with the present supply of goods like straws but also to be sensitive to the possibility of future interruptions, and of course the possibility to profit from being responsible for distribution in increasing one’s own supplies of such goods. While this tendency is adorable in six year olds, it is less adorable in, say, Congresspeople or government officials or those running non-governmental organizations.

How harshly are we to view the tendency of a child to keep back much of what she was responsible to distribute? Multiple views are possible. On my e-mail signature for yahoo, I have a quote from Adam Smith from his classic work “The Wealth Of Nations” that gives the following harsh-minded view: “All for ourselves, and nothing for anyone else, has been at all times the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” Some people may think of the selfishness of a child as being signs of the evils of human nature that need to be overcome and repented of. Others may find children as being guileless and therefore endearing and adorable–at least so long as those behaviors are not continued beyond youth. Some may be inclined to split the difference–to see the open and guileless honesty of children as being evidence that no evil motives are intended but also seeing it as an opportunity for recognizing one’s selfish nature and bringing it to one’s attention as something to learn how to deal with successfully and to improve one’s nature.

Of course, there are some people whose thinking is always tied up with politics, and straws are of considerable importance in political philosophy. Those of us who are unfortunate enough to exist in areas dominated by Western leftists and their hare-brained political behavior have suffered through the promulgation of laws designed to protect the environment that have sought to ban plastic straws, only to have to deal with their inferior paper straw replacements that disintegrate into one’s drinks. It is fortunate for those of us who like using good straws that these laws, even if they remain on the books, are nearly entirely ignored and remain mostly dead letter. Of course, if leftists had their way, they would take everything that is worth having in life from us–from straws to guns to gas stoves to even rice, in their quest to make life miserable for those who manage to survive their misrule.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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