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The Marvin Syndrome

by rock oakeson

This is not only a parable for humans since the tragedies of September 11. It is a true story. I think it explains the events that are happening now in a way that few have realized thus far.

Picture it: Midvale. 1960. A sensitive young boy (me) finds that he is required to attend something called “kindergarten.” So he obediently goes with his mom the first day to a two-story building down the street with lots of rooms in it. Here he sees 35 kids his own age. (He didn’t even know there were that many people on the planet until that day) He is delighted! This means that he will get to know so many other humans his own age like himself. The possibilities are endless. Sharing, learning, discovering, respecting, making friends. He is in heaven!

Among this group of young humans is a beautiful girl named Penny. She has very long red hair. This sensitive young boy is especially enthralled with the fact that Penny is an artist in every sense of the word. During our daily “free time” (while most of the other young humans play with Lego toys, jacks, crayons, etc.), Penny creates magic. She uses the pastel chalks, the charcoal pencils and tubes of watercolor paints to form beautiful images on large construction paper. Penny has worked hard to save up her allowance in order to purchase these art supplies herself. And she is proud of the creations she is able to manifest into reality. A watercolor farm scene here. A charcoal mountain cabin there. And currently a breathtaking city skyline with two very tall buildings in pastels.

Instead of playing with the other young humans, all the sensitive young boy wants to do is watch Penny create. Even at kindergarten age, the idea of a human using her own talents and mind to build something unique with materials she has worked hard to acquire herself is the ultimate in human productivity for this young lad. So, he watches her. He admires her. He wants to emulate her.

One day, during recess, when all of the other young humans are outside playing, a boy in class named Marvin asks the sensitive boy if he would like to watch something “really swell.” The boy says, “OK,” thinking that he could discover how Marvin was as fascinating in his own way as Penny. Excitedly, he follows Marvin into the classroom. Marvin walks right over to Penny’s table and supplies. He picks up the miraculous paintings and sketches with both hands. Suddenly, he starts to tear them all into fragments and lets them drop over the table. The sensitive boy is panic-stricken. What on earth is Marvin doing?

Next, Marvin takes all of Penny’s pastel chalks and charcoal pencils and breaks each one into two or three pieces. Only the tubes of watercolor are left. He throws them onto the floor and stomps on each one violently until the broken tubes heave out the paint they contained only moments earlier. The floor is a mass of chaotic colors bleeding into each other. The table is covered with shreds of paper that were once-begotten miracles of skill, talent and personal responsibility.

“Why?!?!?” is all the terrified, sensitive boy can ask in a hoarse voice. He is stunned. His feet feel as though they are stuck in dried concrete. Thoughts of Penny’s reaction and the loss of such greatness make him immobile.

“I’ll show her,” replies Marvin with a meaningless grin. “Penny thinks she is such hot stuff, but she isn’t because I say so. And if nobody else will, I will show her. She thinks she is so neato just because she works hard to get the money to buy her art stuff. And she thinks she is so good because she can use that stuff to make things that other people think are so good and useful. Well, the rest of us don’t have her art stuff, and the rest of us can’t make the neato stuff she makes because we don’t bother. And we’re not even going to try to get what she has or learn how to use it. You know? She makes the rest of us look bad, and some of us are not going to put up with it any more!”

Then Marvin pours his orange juice from snack time over the remaining pieces of Penny’s creations torn and dropped all over her table. “I was saving my juice for this moment,” says Marvin with another meaningless grin. “I’ve been planning this day for a long time.”

Life was never the same again for the sensitive young boy. Except that, all through his life, he saw many people hating the good for being the good, just like Marvin hated Penny. No logic, no reason, no rationale. It was simply easier to destroy than to create. Rather than work hard to acquire the tools and materials needed to construct what other minds had believed and conceived, people seemed hell-bent on destroying what the real creators make. It erases the reality that some people are robbers and looters of what the real producers provide to humanity. It makes the fact easier to swallow that some people are simply wasting their precious time on Mother Earth. In the future they would watch the losers on Jerry Springer and Jenny Jones with a clearer conscious. They would subscribe to sacrosanct principles from the past that propagate their brand of mediocrity. After all, isn’t it wonderful to know that one is not alone.

That young sensitive boy is now 47 years old, and sees through the alleged jihads of those who simply hate the good for being the good. No other explanation is necessary. The Marvins are all around us. Be cautious.