Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cornelius Muse

One of my life-long friends from college, Celeste (see post "how to kill a rattler," August and September 2008), wrote a short story many, many years ago about a character she named Cornelius Muse. Cornelius was an albino polar bear and since polar bears are white, an albino polar bear with the absence of his normal color, is black. I bring this up only because it inexplicably popped into consciousness today and I thought at the time she wrote it (and still believe it to be so) that it deserves mention SOMEWHERE for its sheer cleverness.

I never told Celeste this, but I had subsequently tried to expand upon her premise. In my story, because of his prominent color, Cornelius could not successfully hunt for food. Although he was not shunned by the other polar bears (for polar bears are remarkably sympathetic), Cornelius internalized this shortcoming. Although he could reason he was not to blame, it nevertheless stung emotionally and in the end, he could not overcome the feeling that he was a failure. As a result, Cornelius embarked upon a course of study fueled by overcompensation to combat his feelings of inadequacy. He studied with Balanchine for a time (this all took place many, many years ago), apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright (they bickered constantly due to Wright's monumental ego). He attempted to become the first bear ever to cross the English Channel, but was thwarted by poor timing and a complete disregard for weather forecasts), etc.

In the end, Cornelius realizes that one's worth is assessed internally, not externally by the accolades of others (for by that time he had amassed considerable recognition and awards).
Cornelius realizes that he has grown over the course of his many studies and experiences. He has above all, retained his good heart (I'm summarizing here) and as a result, touched many lives. Cornelius returns home to the warm welcome of his family and friends (who by now have heard of all of his accomplishments), happy and content.

Celeste, this is dedicated to you.

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