Of Mice and Men

By Breda of The Breda Fallacy

One day last winter, I pulled on my boots, buttoned up my coat and went out into the snow to fill the birdfeeder. We kept the seed in a large bucket in the garage and when I went to scoop some out to carry to the feeder, I noticed that the supply was running low. It was dark in the garage and even darker in the bottom of the bucket. I tipped the bucket a little and was startled to hear a faint skittering noise inside. I looked in...a brown field mouse was trapped down at the bottom of the bucket! My first surprised thought was "eek!", quickly followed by "awwww, cute! mousie!" And as I squatted down next to the bucket to get a better look at my new furry friend...

...the mouse growled at me.

It was a small sound, barely audible, and if the world hadn't been so hushed and muffled under its thick blanket of snow, I might not have heard it. I went very still, holding my breath - I heard it again.

Trapped in the bucket and cornered by a large seemingly menacing creature, the tiny mouse, somehow realizing that flight was impossible, decided to fight for its life.

I was so impressed by the mouse's bravery that when I helped it get free, I left it a big pile of seeds on the garage floor and wished it luck.

The struggle for survival is natural. That fight or flight response is what allows all creatures to live to see another day, to pass on their genes to another generation. Humans have the ability to fear death, not out of pure instinct, but because we consciously know that we are valuable; that our lives, despite all sadness and hardship, can still be sweet. Something good could come as soon as tomorrow. That hope of happiness, that mere possibility of joy, is worth fighting for.

But have we gotten so far from nature that we have lost the ability to fight for our lives? Not too long ago, Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina ran an emergency response drill. A campus police officer posing as a gunman burst into a classroom, where he proceeded to hold the students hostage and terrorize them with a fake gun for 10 minutes. Not one of the students fought back. Not one thought to pick up a chair or a desk, or even a book, to defend themselves. They all lined up against a wall and passively waited for death.

One of the students said, "I was prepared to die at that moment." Several students say they considered leaping from a window.

My mouse had more courage than this. Against insurmountable odds, it growled at me and prepared to fight, even to its death. The college students who meekly bared their throats to those who wanted to rip them out are dead already - they just don't know it.

The will to live is life.

Breda is a reference librarian and artist who writes at The Breda Fallacy.

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