Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A chat with a frog

By Bill Kirton 
Richard Dawkins, the eminent but controversial evolutionary biologist, is always being attacked for his ‘militant atheism’ and uncompromising rejection of things ‘supernatural’. A while ago, the accusation was that he’d claimed fairy stories were bad for children. It was a false accusation but I took the chance of using it to write a blog. It went like this:

(There’s a frog sitting on the wall outside my house, right on the corner, near the gate. He spends a lot of time there. I always say ‘Hi’ when I go out and when I come back. He doesn’t often reply and when he does it’s more of a grunt than a greeting. This week, though, he was looking around a bit. I thought he looked sort of anxious, so I stopped for a wee chat.)
‘Morning,’ I said. ‘You seem a bit … different today.’
‘I s’pose I am.’
‘Seen the paper?’
‘Yes, but…’
‘Bloody Richard Dawkins. At it again.’
‘Ah, right. The bit about not telling kids stories about princesses kissing frogs and toads.’
‘Right, he reckons it’s only feeding them more supernatural stuff, like the church does. Clever bloke. But he always sees the destination, not the journey.’
‘What d’you mean?’
‘Well, you’ve seen me here, haven’t you?’
‘How often?’
‘Well. Lots. You’re always here.’
‘And why d’you suppose I do that?’
‘I dunno.’
‘’s obvious, innit. Balmoral’s just up the road.’
(He’s right, I live on the road that leads to Balmoral, but it’s nearly 50 miles away.)
‘So what?’ I said.
‘Well, if I’m going to have any chance of getting kissed by a princess, I’ve got to hang out in the places they go to.’
‘So that’s why you’re here? Waiting to be kissed by a princess?’
‘Any particular one?’
‘No, I’m not fussy. I won’t be hanging around after the kiss.’
‘Why not?’
‘Well, I’ll have changed. I’ll be a prince then. I’ll have money, status, women. Why the hell would I want to sit on the corner of a wall?’
‘Hang on a minute. What are the chances of a) a princess seeing you and stopping? And b) actually giving you a kiss?’
‘That’s exactly what Dawkins said. It’s all statistics. No room for hope.’
‘Have you bought a lottery ticket this week?’
‘Well, yes.’
‘Right, so right now, you’ve got a chance of being rich next Wednesday.’
‘It’s true. And any minute now, some chauffeur-driven limo could pull up here, some woman in a tiara might get out, pick me up and kiss me. Just a peck’ll do. Doesn’t have to be tongues. And I’ll be a prince.’
‘No, listen. Is that theoretically possible?’
‘Is it?’
‘I suppose, theoretically, we …’
‘Right. But the trouble with Dawkins is, he jumps past that. Just focuses on conclusions, results. All statistics do is get rid of the nice bits.’
‘What d’you mean?’
‘OK, listen. There’s four mice living in your cellar…’
‘Are there?’
‘Yes, and every so often they get changed into horses and they get to pull a big carriage to balls and that. And the lizards down the garden, they get to be footmen. And that rat who lives in your garage, he’s a coachman. Brilliant.’
‘Yes, there’s always a “but”. Just think about it. The mice – all of a sudden they’re white horses and they’re big and beautiful, and they gallop away for miles. And the lizards and the rat are clinging on, having a great time. Carefree, all of ’em. Living the dream.’
(He really did have a dreamy look on his face as he described it. Then his expression changed.)
‘But all of a sudden, it’s midnight and they all change back. And they’re standing round by this pumpkin. And they’re bloody miles away. Takes them hours to get home.’
‘I don’t see what…’
‘That’s reality. Nothing wrong with the dreaming and the supernatural. It’s the “happy ever after” bit. That’s the real problem. Dawkins joins up all the dots. He wants everything to connect, make sense, mean something. Well, obviously, that’s crap. Never mind meaning, I just want the bit before the “happy ever after”. If I could…’

(He stopped. I looked at him. He was staring across the road. A Rolls Royce had pulled up. Something was fluttering on its bonnet. It was the royal standard.)


Jean Henry Mead said...

I love this story, Bill. Hope reins eternal and children do need fairy tales.

Bill Kirton said...

Thanks, Jean. I think adults need them, too.