Sunday, April 10, 2005

33. The Art of the Chase

Fig. 33-1: One Half of a Hopelessly Flawed Metaphor

Last week in Bombay, as I walked along a very nice part of town, just behind the famous Taj Mahal Hotel, though closer to where I was staying—the less renown, though just as well knownSalvation Army guest house, I saw a sparrow chasing a cockroach across the sidewalk the same way that an overexcited dog would chase a squirrel through a park. Though the action was more frenzied than your standard animal-chasing-animal routine—cockroaches don't so much scurry when moving across uneven marble as they wobble, and far from providing a smooth chase, sparrows are given to hopping instead of running—it was still worth stopping a moment to watch the drama play out.

It is both accepted and expected that dogs chase cats and cats chase mice, while birds are supposed to poke around in the grass, and wait for cats to pounce on them, so that they can effortlessly fly to the branches of some nearby tree. These relationships are all based on the idea of the chase, though they're ultimately centered on the all-important act of not getting caught.

In fact, these chases are so storied that they're clearly clichés at this point—and for good reason: it seems to be human nature to identify with the idea of things being just beyond our reach. Like the cat that goes sliding into the wall as the mouse stealthily slips into its hole, people seem to take comfort in the fact that whatever it is that they pursue is just beyond their reach—especially when they find themselves crashing into the wall as the chase comes to a conclusive end. The entire metaphor has a tendency to supply meaning to failure, and who doesn't like a little meaning in their failure?

Perhaps accounting for why this mini-drama involving the sparrow and the cockroach made me laugh so hard, or maybe just giving justification to why that this sort of chase will likely not go down in the annals of hallowed metaphor, is the fact that when this chase was over, the sparrow actually flew away with the cockroach clenched firmly in its beak.

Then again, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that sparrows are not that cute, and cockroaches are downright disgusting.

Fig. 33-2: Cat and Bird Defying Cliché


Do you think you should add Indian tout chasing Westerner's rupees  to these scenarios? Stalk, approach, pounce.  

Posted by jecca

4/10/2005 2:48 PM  



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