Of Clydesdales & Kangaroos


For years I have used this animal metaphor to discuss issues arising from linear vs. non-linear thinking; and we will get there anon, but not before some digressions. [Guess whether my cognitive style is linear or non-linear.] A news item, posted on the BBC on 25 June 09, might have escaped your notice, so I will give you the website [news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/8118257.stm], and the title: “Stoned wallabies make crop circles.” Funny story. True story. “Australian wallabies are eating opium poppies and creating crop circles as they hop around ‘as high as a kite,’ a government official has said.” Turns out Australia is the source of “50% of the world’s legally-grown opium used to make morphine and other painkillers.” It’s a small world, after all.

As you may know, a wallaby is the slightly smaller, “sports model” of a kangaroo. Likewise, one might consider Hanoverian Warmblood horses the “sports models” of draft horses [such as Clydesdales]..except for this 18 hh individual, pictured with my 5’8″ self. “Owen” was his barn name [what we, his owners, called him]. Since his was the grandson of Bolero, and therefore in the “B-line” of German-bred Hanoverians, his birthname had to begin with “B.” Having run out of all the cool International-sounding names, like Brentano and Brentina, his German breeders saddled him with the dorky name, “Be Happy.” [If you want to look him up in the Studbook, his number is 254. But don’t get any ideas. Like this year’s Kentucky Derby winner, he came to us a gelding.]

Before we had Lili the dog, we had Owen the Hanoverian; and before we had him, we had Dusk the QuarterHorse mare [who may feature in a future post]. Just as Owen’s height exceeded his parents’, so our elder daughter’s height exceeded ours; and there came a point where 16hh Dusk was no longer “a good fit” for her. [Later, alas, there came a point where the charismatic, sweet-natured, and talented Owen was no longer a good fit for our family budget, so he is currently inspiring a wealthier owner to Be Happy.]

So, do all these tangential excursions drive you crazy; or do they mirror your own stream-of-consciousness thought patterns? If the former, then you are more of a cognitive Clydesdale. [As tall as Owen, but wider-bodied and with shaggier feet.] Metaphorically, here’s what’s “good” about Clydesdales: they work well under harness with their teammates, obeying the commands of the driver, and get the job done in a timely manner. [They bring the beer.] Most school curricula are made by and for Clydesdales, as are many of society’s regulated activities [such as which side of the road to drive on, and how fast, and where it is permitted to park].

If, however, you routinely fail to “follow the rubric” for a school (or work) assignment [or even know that there is one], if you can always think of alot reasons why the rules of the road should not apply to you, if you prefer to zig & zag through life, rather than follow the arrow, then you–my friend and fellow traveler–are a cognitive Kangaroo [perhaps, even a Wallaby]. It’s not awful, folks–only highly inconvenient. [And you’d better believe that Albert Ellis, who coined that phrase, was a ‘Roo.] Isn’t it obvious what’s “good” about ‘Roos? They’re quick. [Okay, so sometimes they leap to conclusions without being able to “explain how the result was obtained.” It just came to me.] They’re curious [“Ooh…red flowers…down the hatch.”], and are therefore more likely to make off-the-wall discoveries. Their non-linear cognitive style is the basis for all humor; and (as they say on Coronation Street), “You’ve got to laugh, entcha?”

“All very well,” I hear a Clydesdale objecting, “but what has this to do with your so-called blog topic, The Wolf?” Glad you asked, you lovable, predictable beast of burden. Clydesdales who are the parents, teachers, or partners of Kangaroos are often angered by the intrusion of that”Ooh-ooh! Have-to-say-or-do-whatever-pops-into-my-mind, even-if-it-interrupts-others” thing. Particularly, the parents of ‘Roos [even if they are crypto-Roos, themselves], fear the consequences of their offspring’s impulsivity, which might cause pain & suffering for the child, the parents, and the general public. So, the parents, teachers, and partners of ‘Roos say humiliating things to the “Didn’t-d0-it-on-purpose-just-the-way-I-am” creatures, which in turn provokes anger in them [the ‘Roos, in case you’ve lost the thread, through all my zigs & zags].

Ways to improve relations between the two cognitive camps will be taken up in future posts. Meanwhile, a bit of self-disclosure. Although I am a life-long, purebred Kangaroo, I was never a Wallaby (a metaphorical poppy-eater). I figured my take on life was already weird enough, without the addition of mind-altering substances. I discovered the joys of wine and beer when I was 23, though, so I’m not a total Goody-Two-Shoes. (More of a ‘Fraidy-Cat.)

Incidentally, in my brief blog-blurb, I say I learned more about human nature @ acting school than grad school; and here’s an example of what I mean. In a class on “How to Get Hired As an Actor (Without Losing Your Soul),” we were told, “Know your type, and love your type.” So, if the role is for an ingenue, and you look, um, sadder-but-wiser, don’t waste your time at the “cattle call” for a naive heroine. Show up for auditions where they’re looking for “the Auntie Mame type.” If you know you’re a ‘Roo, don’t expect to be hired, when the job ad says “Only Clydesdales Need Apply.” [Unless you are a Very Good Actor, of which more later…]

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Filed under altered states, non-linear thinking, sharks and jets

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