Vignette:Of Mice and Men

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Of Mice and Men: The Water Bottle Incident of 1979
Duc City Speaking Hall in Duc, Tavaluda
March 19th, 1979


In the course of the creation of all beings, good sir, was reason and life endowed. To be alive in such a complex capacity as beast and man both are, reason and thought are not only necessary, but must be inherent! There is no picking and choosing, here, but a natural quality inviolable of complex life."

A Tavafalek man, adorned in a smart-fit formal shirt and khaki pants took a breath, locked in what was becoming an increasingly fierce debate with the Thomasian across the stage from him.

"And yet here we are, man and man, speaking of this issue, while the dogs and cats and crows of this city remain silent and unspeaking. They cannot know the glories of His Creation, they were not endowed with such capacity, such a gift, to see the world as it truly is, rather than simply what sticks and stone lie about them. They are ungifted, and as such are necessarily unworthy of this idea of equality between man and beast. They are as a part of His perfection, designed into inferiority below us men, who may think and praise, build and create, where they can only walk the lands."

The crowd in the auditorium stirred lightly, many Zovaz̄îso and a few Thomasian adherents looking from side to side during the already hour-long "Minds-talk" that had been the buzz around the relatively uneventful city for the last month. It was certainly living up to the hype.

Two up-and-coming theologians were having a debate tonight, the regionally well-known Zovatêle priest-philosopher Xlas̄k Ådofađîn pitted up against the popular Thomasian radio host, ex-monk and Austrasian émigré Ariaric Amal.

The topic? Whether or not living beings other than humans could be - or, in fact, were - sapient and capable of reason and understanding of the divine and the world around them.

What had initially been civil conversation and exchange of ideas resembling the back and forth between esteemed colleagues had quickly evolved into an ideological battle of wits, thought, and rhetoric, the two men making and countering each others' points with the surety of lifelong purveyors of truth despite their opinions' rapid and intense divergence.

"You say that these animals cannot see the world for what it is while making the assumption that you yourself can. Your faith, for all the respect I have for it, preaches of the world's beauty while elevating humanity above it. You preach of the world's beauty, of the machinations of many bountiful imperfections that make up a perfect creation, and yet you do not gaze upon the machinery you claim is so vital, so blessed and beautiful. Only in the realm of what you can be told, do you truly analyze. The world of men. While not looking and gazing upon those other worlds, and assuming them to be inferior, unreasoned.

Your blindness to the inherent worth of all beings as equals is discouraging. You are a smart man, but an unhumble one - this can be said of many of your faith. Humility is accepting, appreciating reality - appreciating the world around you and all within it for what they truly are - not placing yourself above it. You, I, we know nothing - embrace it, observe, learn."

The priest took a breath, taking a drink of the water he had placed on his podium at the start of the debate, the bottle half-emptied by this point as his opponent stepped forward to reply.

"My friend...what you said is marvelous, and very true, but only in the case of understanding and coming to terms with our fellow man. The beasts outside these doors, in the forests of this nation, they don't hold a capacity for such understanding. Even if they were simply an unspeaking sort, surely if they had any traces of this reason and understanding that you look for in them, they would have displayed it to all, it would be a common knowledge - there would be no room in the annals of history for my faith to have even come about in the manner it has.

The very existence, and prevalence, of this idea of animals as lesser, even by those who don't ascribe to Thomasian simply proves the contrary of your point. That God has revealed this fact to so many, even those who would wish to leave His arms, is self-evident in the canvas of our world - of what its peoples see in it. To lower yourself to the place of an animal is not befitting a man as blessed with thought as yourself, even if your thoughts are astray of mine."

The Thomasian crowd gave a few shocked mumbles and gasps. Had Amal just compared his common man to an animal? To do so, even in speaking with one who himself advocated for the distinction, was no less than a strike at the man's character. And upon a closer examination of the monk's face, it could be seen that there was a seething exasperation rising, however well he thought he was hiding it.

Ådofađîn, and even some others of the Zovatêle in the crowded hall, seemed to catch on to this as well, the man leaning forwards onto the podium as he looked his opponent in the eye. The room was tense.

"Is it that you think yourself superior to me as well, dear monk? Do you think your own soul so sublime and your own convictions so inviolable that to not understand those that conflict them is not a failure on your part to comprehend and engage, but instead a failure on the part of the other to stand up to your ideas of what is worthy of your discussion? Might I ask for what purpose you came here, other than to understand?"

Amal, having his faith and argument rebuked both, himself took a near-step off his podium, leaning to his microphone to spit a remark back at his counterpart.

"I came here to speak to a man with a soul of substance and a mind of learning, but all that has appeared before me is one with his mind in the wilderness and the soul of a rat."

The priest's invigorated response was cut off before it began by the sound of an open, half-empty water bottle hitting Amal in the side of the head, before falling to the ground, seeming to have come from the Zovatêle section of the crowd.

The man who had thrown the bottle shouted out at Amal, "Charlatan! How dare an outsider like you come an-"

The man's remark was silenced by a Thomasian patron of the crowd who had decided to avenge the disrespect shown to the speaker with a punch to the face, at which point the crowd exploded into argument and disarray, fights breaking out sporadically as some tried to leave, some tried to fight, and others hurled their abuse with their voices. In the chaos, Ådofađîn and Amal were escorted offstage by security.

Over the next few years, the townspeople of Duc would come to humorously know the event as the Watter Bottle Incident of 1979, "where mice and men did what they do best: fight, and flee."

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