The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey; and A Most Pleasant and Diverting Contest
Do you know this fable? It’s attributed to Aesop. Here’s the Harvard Classics version:
A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”
So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”
So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”
Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor Donkey of yours—you and your hulking son?”
The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the Donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the Donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.
“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them: “Please all and you will please none.”
I was going to call this website, “The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey” until somebody objected that the title sounds like the beginning of a dirty joke. So I humbly sought to please by calling it something else and thought that “Matter Notes” was a good go. This title has brought two hortatory emails from an anonymous self-described “attorney” helpfully informing me that “matter notes” refers specifically to a lawyer’s work product and that unless I am a lawyer I should be careful about using that particular phrase. I could be using fiction to mislead people! Somebody could mistake my literary posts for legal advice! (Say what???) God, I love the Internet! You get to meet so many impossibly fascinating people!
Seriously. Here’s the thing.
I like the title. (Oh yeah, not that it matters, but I’m also an attorney). This website is for my other matter notes: my notes on writing, literature, imagination, the humanities, and anything that else that interests me.
So, along comes, wait for it – another anonymous somebody who wants to set me straight. Apparently, I’m not supposed to have a photo of a writing desk on my website! You see, the photo suggests that I actually write once in a while, and he’s never heard of me, so how dare I call myself a writer. Especially when I’m also a lawyer! You see, apparently there’s some memo I missed that says that as long as I make my living at one thing I can’t be both, because everyone knows you can’t be a “real writer” (whatever that means) unless you make a living at it. So, I “should just be happy to be a lawyer” because, according to this person, that is like totally what I am, and there’s “nothing wrong with that.”
Per my guidelines, I don’t post anonymous attacks. But I am referencing these because they’ve inspired the following contest. I’m calling it the MBD (Man, Boy, Donkey) contest, after the fable.
Gentle readers, it’s not that I can’t tell the difference between an Aesop’s fable and real life, but real life makes it really really hard. So how’s this? I’m holding a contest for the comments with the most inconsistent advice vis-à-vis other comments.
Here’s how it works.
- I will not post any submissions until the end of the contest, because then it would be too easy to create something that contradicts the others. The contest closes at 12 AM EST on February 24, 2013. I will post all submissions and announce the winners sometime later that day.
- Submissions must include a real, verifiable name and/or a link to the commenter’s website.
- I am not looking for comments on my blog title, header photo, what have you – because, well, I basically don’t care.
- I am looking for comments that concern writers, musicians, and other creative folk in general, because creatives live in a “man, boy, donkey” world. It’s good to laugh at these things. Submissions can be advice you’ve received from somebody else or advice you’d like to give other creatives or advice you’ve seen repeated in a lot of forums. Here’s a literary example of what winning comments might look like:
Sir, nobody but a blockhead ever wrote except for money. — Samuel Johnson
I should think it extremely improbable that anyone ever wrote simply for money.— P. G. Wodehouse
The two commenters that happen to really laugh-out-loud contradict each other each get a FREE signed book or CD (your choice) from me. Perhaps there will be more than one pair of winners, we’ll see. And – to show this is not done purely as a promotion gimmick (which of course it is, but what’s a writer’s blog for?) I’ll freely plug any book, CD, or other artistic product of the winners’ creation so long as it isn’t illegal or offensive to my generally tolerant sensibilities. If you don’t have an artistic product I’ll plug something else of your choice (a charity, university, cool idea, local business, your favorite pet, whatever you desire), so long as it meets the same standards.