Thursday, August 2, 2012

Frogology


        “Frogology” is my invention, my theory of life. The fairy tale of the Russian writer Garshvin comes to mind. It is my favorite story, Ligooshka-Puteshestvennitsa, or “Frog the Traveler,” with a moral lesson.     
        I was exactly like the frog when I decided to learn to "fly" high. The ambitious little frog bravely approached some geese one day and asked them to teach her to fly. The geese found a simple solution for the little frog’s dream: a stick. 

       The frog was asked to take that stick into her mouth; then the two strongest geese lifted her up into the blue sky on the stick. At first, the little frog kept her mouth shut. She observed the earth from the sky and was amazed how tiny everything looked compared to her; she was bigger than even her swamp.     
       The freedom made the froggy’s head spin. No one from her relatives and friends could ever even imagine how high she could fly. When the geese made a circle before leaving for a foreign land, they flew over the swamp. By that time the little frog got braver and attempted to tell her superiors how to fly. She forgot about the stick! At the moment when all her relatives and friends looked up at her, she fell into the swamp. 
       I fell and I fell hard.  I lost everything and had to start from zero.  
       My second hypothesis of “frogology” came out of a scientific experiment that was done also on frogs. A frog was placed into a pot with boiling water, and as you would expect, he immediately leapt out if it. Who wouldn’t! The paradox was in the same frog’s behavior when it was placed into cold water first and then the water was gradually heated up to the same boiling point. The frog remained still, oblivious to the heat.      
       I applied this experiment to human life and found some similarities to us slowly being boiled, but noticing little. We were all like hard-boiled soviet zombies, not only ignoring the misery but even enjoying it. My American friends would come to Russia to visit  and look at us Russians like we were insane, “Why don’t you ask for political asylum?”     
       “For what reason? I am not a Jew.”     
       “Economic! Ecological! Political! You name it! You have all the reasons to ask for political asylum!”     
       “Then the whole country should emigrate.”       
       Americans, as well as other foreigners, wanted to jump out right away when submerged into the Russian boiling pot, but we stayed there for life, because we were unable to see the gradual degradation and inevitable death from where we were. The problem is that frogs like their own swamp that is always warm and familiar. We don’t see much of a difference, because all the changes happen gradually, from one generation to the other.     
       When I first came to America, I realized thatpeople around me were afraid to express their opinion no less than in the Soviet Russia. They don’t even notice that the water is already too hot. Americans are afraid to step on somebody else’s toes, as if they will be physically persecuted for that. Creativity is choked, simply because people are more concerned about not sticking out their heads. Americans never had genocide like Soviets had under Stalin, Germans under Hitler, or Cambodians under Pol Pot. What did they fear? 
       It was my turn now to ask, “How, in this whole world, did you learn to keep your mouths shut? Why fearing?” I learned that “once bitten; twice shy.” People are afraid of conflicts, especially in the church, letting same leaders to control congregations for decades, rather leaving than learning new ways.     
       When Americans complain that they have countless immigrants and have to feed and educate us on their tax money, I want to argue, “You need us for our fresh perspective. We can save you as you saved us! And maybe together we can save at least something that can be still saved.”     
       My coming to Kansas City was exactly like that scientific experiment, a frog thrown into the already-boiling water. I felt everything with my skin: racial prejudices, social classes,  and county lines that separate the getto from affluent neighborhoods. If I had grown up in the Midwest, I would have missed lots of things. 
       "Frogology" is my invention, my theory of life. Thank God for the thin skin, and for my own opinion in spite of the stick.

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