Part way through my initial training for my first job at the IRS, our instructors showed us a video called "Who Moved My Cheese." If you've ever worked a corporate job, you've probably seen the video or read the book. The animated short tells the story of four characters, two mice and two tiny mice-sized people, who each react differently to change.
In the beginning, they are all on a quest for cheese. They search through a maze and eventually locate some cheese. They return day after day to the same place, until suddenly the cheese is all gone. The mice had been keeping track of things, so they were not surprised. They knew the cheese would run out eventually, so the day it finally happened they just move on in search of new cheese.
The tiny people, on the other hand, had not put in any effort to monitor the on-going cheese supply situation. They arrived to their cheese stash spot brimming with expectation and instead find it empty. They are surprised and disappointed. Their initial reactions were the fairly common (and very human) responses of denying the situation and ignoring-it-and-hoping-it-will-go-away. Eventually reality seeps in for at least one of the tiny humans, who then processes their emotions and goes out to find new cheese.
The tiny people in the cheese story stopped paying attention to what was actually happening because they assumed what they had would always be there. They also assumed it would require no tune-ups or check-ins. I have worked the last few years to eliminate that assumption in myself and make maintenance of relationships and activities I care about a regular part of my participation in those relationships and activities.
This week I discovered one assumption I didn't know I had. I assumed the classic Dr. Seuss holiday tale "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" would exist in perpetuity, unaltered, just as I experienced it as a child. I have listened to Boris Karloff narrate the delightful anti-capitalist Xmas tale hundreds of times. I know most of it by heart and joyfully sing along to the song about how reprehensible and repulsive the Grinch is. I haven’t read the book in decades, so I decided I should buy copy and read along for fun.
But the brand new copy I got wasn't right. It was a different version of the story, missing a bunch of the zany Dr. Seuss vocabulary. Whos were hanging mistletoe wreaths instead of holly-who wreathes. The Grinch didn't puzz until his puzzler was sore, he puzzled for three hours. Not even a mention of the zu-zitta-car-zay ("a roller skate type of lacrosse and croquet!"). So I went on a hunt for the original text.
I found an image of a text from the 80's and was surprised to discover it was exactly the same as the copy I just bought. It was missing all the fun Dr. Seuss flavor that keeps me listening to the Karloff narration year after year. So which version is Boris Karloff reading? Maybe it was an even older original version than I could find online. Maybe it was an expanded version of the story written for the television special. Maybe for the last 20 years I've been listening to an adaptation I thought was the original.
I haven't finished my investigation into the origins of my favorite Xmas story, so I don't have a conclusion to share in this essay. But I can tell you why it matters, and why I will keep on searching until I figure it out. I have lived nearly four decades on this planet and most of what I was taught in school was at best only part of the story and at worst straight-up lies.
A great many truths I have taken for granted my whole life have turned out to be just a narrative some wealthy or powerful person or organization wanted me to hear. The most convenient truth for their interests; the interests of power and money. Once I discover something I thought was clear and solid was actually built on a shaky foundation, it's up to me to figure out what pieces I'm missing. Then I can put them all together into a more complete picture.
And that's what I'm after. I would like a more complete understanding of the world around me. That supports and is supported by a more complete understanding of myself. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is one small story I read once a year with much less impact on the world than many other things popular history has whitewashed or gotten wrong. But I still want to know who's version I'm reading, and why it's the same or different than the original.
Forces like capitalism are moving all our cheese all the time. We can feel it every day as long as we're paying attention. Like the increasing prices at the grocery store. The pandemic uncertainty persists, and the supply chain madness may never be resolved. Looking into my future is a lot less daunting when I know I am branching out from a stable root system. So I will continue to peel back the layers of how things came to be in the hope that I can better understand where we are headed and have some influence on how we arrive.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.