When I was a small boy of four or five, my parents took me to the annual Easter Egg Hunt. It was quite the event in our little town, as what seemed like hundreds of kids all lined up at the edge of Cook Field, me among them, with wicker baskets clutched tightly in our hands. The air was electric as we gazed at the colorful plastic eggs scattered across the lawn, each with a prize inside. I remember the anticipation, like a racehorse at the gate, my father and mother standing above me, bearing witness to perhaps my life's first great moment. Seconds stretched on as I felt my leg muscles twitch in readiness, as I held my breath. And then, the whistle! That first step exploding with excitement! But an instant later I lost my footing, my balance, and I tumbled headlong into the grass! Looking up in a panic, I saw my empty Easter basket lying on its side a few feet away. And then I watched as the rest of the kids raced about and snatched up every egg in sight until there were none left. I stood up and turned to my parents, then burst into tears as I rushed to their embrace. I remember the look in my mother’s eyes, her expression so full of love and compassion, of sadness and sympathy, but also holding a glimmer of hope. And my father offered a half-smile, then gave my arm a reassuring squeeze as we walked back to the car.
“The Easter Egg Incident” became my first defining moment, and I have often looked back on that day. Life is many times disappointing. Success is not a guarantee, in spite of all our effort, our practice and preparation. And this is not a bad thing. It teaches us to never give up. And we find that we learn more through the ongoing struggle than from that fleeting moment of triumph. In the struggle we find what we're made of, and this is beyond winning and losing. I think of the old Brooklyn Dodgers baseball club. The perennial also-rans, they came so close so often that their motto was “Wait until next year!” Another World Series against the hated New York Yankees. Another heart-breaking defeat. And their fans in every bar in Brooklyn raised their glasses in a bittersweet toast to never giving up. We go on. We try again.
How much better is this, than to have what happens today, the Millennial Phenomenon; that of rewarding everyone with a trophy and a ceremonial lukewarm smile of acceptance? Imagine, if after I face-planted on the field on that long ago spring day, the organizers of the event walked over and gratuitously filled my basket with Easter eggs. “Because there are no losers here,” they would say. And I might wipe my tears and force a smile, but intuitively I'd feel that this was not right, that it was unfair to those who had succeeded. And for those who hadn’t, where was that inspired momentum rising from within as we absorb the loss, as we take that deep breath, nod our head, and vow to begin again? It was robbed from us, because now everyone gets an award, everyone succeeds because success has been redefined, watered down and diluted into something tepid, uninspiring, and undeserved. Our triumphs are as lackluster as our failures, somewhere between exultation and disappointment; this lifeless place beyond dedication, beyond effort and accomplishment.
And this reminds me of a recent story in The Washington Post. Apparently, there are scientists who want to reclassify heavenly bodies and designate more things as "planets". If this is adopted, there will be 102 more planets added to our solar system, some of them even smaller than Pluto. And of course, Pluto will become a “planet” once again, resurrected after its ignominious demotion.
I can't help but think that this is a result of the past few decades, of our politically correct educational system and the above-mentioned Millennial Phenomenon, where everyone is a “winner”, where everyone receives a shiny plastic trophy just for showing up.
Teacher to Pluto: "Don't you worry about Jupiter! Yes, he's a million times bigger than you. But what you have in here (pats Pluto reassuringly on the heart) can't be measured.”
THE PLANET PLUTO
1½ parts Citadelle Gin
½ part Crème de Cassis
½ part Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
½ part Noilly Prat Extra Dry Vermouth
¼ part fresh-squeezed Lemon juice
dash of Fee Brothers Rhubarb bitters
Shake over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with two Maraschino cherries on a pick.