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Monday, November 7, 2011

How To Disfigure a Peacock


According to the Book of Genesis, 1-20: "And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 
21: And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 
22: And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. 
23: And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. 
24: And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. 
25: And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 
26: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 
27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 
28: And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
No sooner had he done this, than human beings sought to dismantle the world around them like curious children left in a room full of Lego. They drained the lakes and razed the mountains, felled the trees and burnt the grass. They devised a hundred ways to undo the creatures they had been given for food. Then they came up with a hundred ways to describe these acts of butchery because Man is a creature who understands his world through language. Some of these terms are as beautiful as they are descriptive: to “unlace” a coney (or rabbit); to “allay” a pheasant; to “break” a deer; to “wring” a quail.

In the November 23rd, 1946 issue of the Spokesman-Review, appeared this brief commentary on a wholly new addition to our dinner tables: the canned turkey. You “open” it. This bit of linguistic comedy as well as his twist on words in the first two sentences, “They are also never eating things they ate before,” marks Weare Holbrook as whimsical a wordsmith as those good scribes who produced an English Bible for King James in 1604.
The word “carve” not only means to cut something, but to create something with skill. In order to produce something of beauty you have to destroy something else. You have to break what something else has made. 

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