There’s a new toy in my house. It’s a large, colorful pirate ship with ample moving parts- retracting gangplank, rising sails, battening hatches, etc. Predictably, a plastic crew mans this ship. A captain with frothy beard, barefoot deckhands, a loyal first mate with shiny epaulettes, and a marauding horde of skeleton pirates vie for position on deck
Shiny pennies provide perfect treasure. Secret compartments host stow-a-ways. The Jolly Roger waves from the mast. A plastic turtle emblazoned with a skull and crossbones paddles around the ship.
Who might vanquish these pirates of the high seas?
Two challengers step forth.
The first is a vintage Batman circa 1990. Pulsing with muscles, this Batman sports spiked wings, a utility belt loaded with serious weapons, and shiny armor suggesting invincibility. With a serious height advantage, Batman initially appears as a strong contender. One mighty kick from his retractable leg clears the deck. A head butt to the portside causes the tall ship to list dangerously. Batman’s moveable fingers curl wickedly around the anchor. For several minutes, it seems as though the pirate ship will fall to Batman’s superior size and obvious penchant for aggression.
At the final moment, as the ship tips frighteningly low, the crew rallies. A volley of plastic cannon fire pushes Batman away from the anchor. The loyal turtle hooks his fin around a loose piece of the utility belt and pulls Batman deep into another section of the carpet. Batman flails, but he cannot fight the momentum. The sturdy ship rights itself and the pirates cheer.
Their victory is brief.
A giant panda, nearly twice the size of the ship now threatens the victors. With lumbering resolution, the panda advances and slowly smothers the ship. Perhaps his good-natured grin and black eye patches trigger a kinship for the pirates. His motivation is unclear, but the outcome seems inevitable. The giant panda will surely destroy the pirates with his peculiar mix of affection and aggression. Drastic measures are required. Invoking a little used move in pirate defense, the ship becomes airborne as it bucks and sways under the enormous beast. The panda’s thickly padded paws cannot maintain a grip, and the creature falls with a plop on the floor.
Again, the pirates rejoices. Their dominion over Toyland seems complete.
Neither might nor size pose a threat to the tiny pirates and their unsinkable vessel.
Until, the plastic, average, middle-aged man arrives.
Only three inches tall, he wears a white shirt and dark green dress pants. His hair is combed into a tidy cap with a visible part on the left side. His small smile greets the world with deceptive innocence.
No tools, no weapons, and no vehicle accompany the tiny man’s arrival.
Yet, he casts a long shadow of fear.
His compact frame holds all the secrets for destroying Toyland. His is the forbidden knowledge of mortgages, compromise, and suffocation. The thin plastic grin reveals a world of precise balance between stultification and illusion.
The panda hides.
Batman crawls under a chair.
The pirates weep.
And the plastic, average, middle-aged man walks calmly into the fray and announces that it is time to start homework.