Archive Opinion The Orion

Hobbit skeleton a metaphor for life

August 1, 2004

Last year, we discovered midgets.

As a culture, we have gotten to be so amazing at piecing together how things should be that we can look at a skeleton and define a person’s lifestyle. I guess this makes us equal-opportunity morons.

Homo florsiensis was, according to scientists, about three feet tall, weighed 55 pounds and live on an island between Asia and Australia. They hunted giant rats, sleeping “dragons,” and elephants. They went extinct 13,000 years ago after a volcanic eruption.

They’re so amazing, they’ve been called “hobbits” after J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series.

Fourteen months later, we know everything there ever was about their lifestyle and we’ve even given them a nickname after movie characters — I mean, book characters.

All they have is a skeleton.

Their cute little nickname is the first big mistake. I don’t consider myself an expert on Tolkien’s work, but I don’t think hobbits were crazed little guys running after giant rats and dragons. They were more the type to run away. Their days were spent smokin’ it up and drinkin’ the day away. Hobbits? They were more like college students than Hobbits.

In fact, I am taking the liberty to rename them. From this sentence forth, they shall be known as Mighty Mega Mini Monsters or MMMM’s.

The next amazing discovery scientists messed up was the exact and precise sketch of the MMMM. They were able to get the body fat, muscle tone, hair coverage and even the eyes in exact detail. There’s only one problem. All of those are frail and easily decompose over time.

The only thing left is a bite-sized skeleton under a pile of mud.

Then again, this could easily be the Michael Jackson of the species; something that was just like everyone else, but wanted to be more like everyone else. We have no way of knowing, yet we know.

This is what I see happening on campus. Not Michael. So many people pass by so many people, barely noticing what the other person looks like on the outside and not even seeing the inside, as the hurry in their eyes causes them to dart back and forth. Students to other students to professors to police and the other way around all take part in this dance.

All they see is a midgeted skeleton.

From that one skeleton, they can tell whether this person is good enough for them, or feel frightened by their presence, or know they can do better.

In that split second of reasoning, they choose to look them in the eye with a smile or subtly dart their attention to something else. Then they pass ways, perhaps never crossing paths again, or perhaps they repeat this ritual on a daily basis.

Of course, it would be silly to assume either side is consciously aware of what they’re doing. That might be thought of as rude. Sometimes people are so dense, they barely notice another person walking by. Some people see a shiny object in the corner of their eye and whip their head around to look at it. I know I fall under both.

If only life were so cut and dried that we could know everything and never mess up our judgment. How drab and dull it would be, indeed.

All we would have is a 13,000-year-old midgeted skeleton of a 6-foot world.