The Wisdom of the Moose, Part Deux

There's another reason I find philosophical satisfaction in "Rocky and Bullwinkle."  It's the perfect metaphor for life.

I just finished a grueling weekend of watching the first 13 Bullwinkle episodes on, and I realized (in a fit of Dunkin' Donuts coffee-inspired enlightenment) that this show mirrors life perfectly. 

The "plot" in the first 13 episodes concerns Bullwinkle and his rodent life-partner, Rocky, as they try to bake a cake, which turns out to be a potent explosive.  The government puts them to work developing a super rocket fuel.  Naturally, certain parties try to impede their progress (Boris & Natasha, the moon men, etc), and madcap adventures ensue.

That's the "plot," and very little of those 13 episodes has to do with it.  Each episode spotlights ancillary activities.  Bullwinkle performs poetry dramatizations, attempts magic tricks, and shares philosophy.  Also, we are shown other stories completely unrelated to the "plot": Mr Peabody and his boy, Sherman, travel through space and time, assisting historical figures.  Canadian super-Mounty Dudley Do-Right battles the sinister Snidely Whiplash, while Nell romances Dudley's horse.  Aesop spins moral-rich yarns for his son, who makes dreadful puns at the end, and veteran character actor Edward Everett Horton reads "Fractured Fairy Tales," putting odd twists on age-old stories.

That's what life is, honestly. 

The "plot" of Tom would be similar to most people's: Tom is born, educated, and employed; madcap adventures ensue.  The "story" would follow me through my alternately hilarious and hair-raising path through pre-school, grade school, "gifted" school, and a couple universities, before wandering through the past 20 years of "career."  Most of the details of my "plot" are pretty mundane: lots of early morning showers, lunches, cups of coffee, cat feedings, dinners, etc, life's persistent, tedious detritus.

Like "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle," what makes life interesting are the side features.  There was "Tom Breaks His Arm (Parts 1 & 2)," "Tom Takes a Voice Lesson from a Lady Who Tries to Recruit Him to Scientology;" "Tom vs. the Abyss," "Tom and the Devil-Bitch," "Tom vs. Dr Fournier's Gangrene," etc.  Bullwinkle repeatedly and disastrously tried to pull a rabbit from his hat, and I've repeatedly and disastrously engaged in relationships.  In the end, the great moose's attempts at magic didn't alter his rocket fuel escapades any more than my various relationships changed my career path or descent into the Abyss.  (I concede that the DB kicked me down a little more quickly than I might otherwise have gone, but I'd have ended up in the same place)  

In Lit Major terms, the "plot" of Bullwinkle's first 13 episodes is, "Bullwinkle and Rocky bake a cake, which the government wants for rocket fuel, while spies and moonmen confound their efforts." The "story" would have all the details, the cruise ship that can't find Pottsylvania, the battle for a mooseberry bush, etc.

In Bullwinkle's travels as in life, the plot is straightforward and simple.  The story–the exposition and anecdotal details–therein rests the pearl inside the oyster. 

After the first 13 episodes, Bullwinkle and his friend are no nearer success.  They are on a cruise ship bound for Lord (or Jay Ward) only knows where.  After two score and two years, I'm no nearer any real resolution in my plot either (like this episode arc of Bullwinkle, there's no clear point to the whole thing).  I have a job, two cats, and a nice apartment on the shores of Lake Tom.  Ten years ago, I had a different job, a different cat, and the same apartment.  Twenty years ago, a different job, no cat, a different apartment.  You get the picture.

What keeps "The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle" interesting is that, while the plot is simple and unresolved, we've seen Mr Peabody help Annie Oakley win a shootin' match, Dudley Do-Right foil Snidely Whiplash, and Goldilocks' encounters with the three bears.  My life is rich, too, but not because of any shower or pot roast or crossword puzzle I've completed.  The fascination lay in the story, the ancillary characters and woven threads.  I hope only that in the afterlife, I get to see the whole story of Tom, just with trumpet fanfares and Bill Conrad's histrionic narration.  That would make even cleaning the litterbox sound exciting.   

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5 Responses to “The Wisdom of the Moose, Part Deux”

  1. I love these posts.
    Imagine that Rocky and Bullwinkle had succeeded and the plot resolved, what would they do then?
    Maybe that's the point. Keep on plotting. Achieving absolutely everything you set out to achieve may not always be a good thing. This is the reason I dislike "101 [x] to [see/do/eat/try] before you die" books. The danger lies in the completing!

  2. I think you're right. What the great Moose teaches us is that true achievement is surviving what life throws at you today. If by some happenstance, you DO get the mooseberry bush, and you CAN make your grandmother's cake, and it DOES turn out to be a wonderful new rocket fuel, then YAY. Don't worry: The Writer will come up with another bizarre plot for you to follow. I wonder how many bucket-list warriors miss the true beauty on their paths, the brilliant waitress they ignore as they eat breakfast en route to skydiving.

  3. I heard a quote on QI ( a tv programme with Stephen Fry – a fabulous dinner guest, I imagine) from Ellen Parr "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity" Somehow it seemed to fit here. I think I could fit my life into Rocky & Bullwinkle or 'Tom's Story" (as could everyone, I guess) so for me, it is my 'curiosity's' that make me different – that add on the interesting snippets, the odd side stories… that come up with another bizarre plot for me to follow.So yeah, trying to complete a 101 list, I think stops you being curious (perhaps that's where I was going with this comment :o)

  4. Agreed. The best part of driving back to FSU after a break wasn't actually getting back to FSU. It was driving down two-lane country roads on a glorious clear day, eating hot boiled peanuts from a bag, and throwing the soggy shells out the window.

  5. Actually when I watched Rocky and Bullwinkle I thought most of it doesn't really make much sense (to the plot). If you link that to life, yeah… I guess Life doesn't make much sense.
    I guess I'm not as profound! Ha! 😛

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