Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sometimes Being a Bike Activist Feels Like Fighting Evil

I frequently re-read books as a child, whiling away Saturday afternoons with an L.M. Montgomery paperback or feeling again the excitement of little Princess Sara as she discovers that her drafty, ratty attic has been transformed into a luxurious, cozy room by some unknown magician. Over time, certain passages became such a part of my memory that I find myself, now, interpreting the world through the lenses of books I read many times.

Which is why I felt called to imagine what it would be like if Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum, in The Silver Chair, had been bike activists, and the evil power they fought had been suburbanization.

'What is this city that you all speak of? Do you mean anything by the word?'
'Yes, we jolly well do, ' said Scrubb.
'Can you tell me what it's like?' asked the Witch (thrum, thrum, thrum, went the strings).
'Please it your Grace,' said the Prince, very coldly and politely. 'You see this cul-de-sac. It is one of several that sits in the subdivision; and through the subdivision streets connecteth moreover to other tracts beyond. Now that thing which we call the city is like the cul-de-sac, only far greater and more diverse. It giveth creativity to the whole Overworld and hangeth from the urban grid.'
'Hangeth from what, my lord?' asked the Witch; and then, while they were all still thinking how to answer her, she added, with another of her soft, silver laughs: 'You see? When you try to think out clearly what this city must be, you cannot tell me. You can only tell me it is like the cul-de-sac. Your city is a dream; and there is nothing in that dream that was not copied from the cul-de-sac. The cul-de-sac is the real thing; the city is but a tale, a children's story.'
'Yes, I see now,' said Jill in a heavy, hopeless tone. 'It must be so.' And while she said this, it seemed to her to be very good sense.
Slowly and gravely the Witch repeated, 'There is no city.' And they all said nothing. She repeated, in a softer and deeper voice. 'There is no city.' After a pause, and after a struggle in their minds, all four of them said together, 'You are right. There is no city.' It was such a relief to give in and say it.
'There never was a city,' said the Witch.
'No. There never was a city,' said the Prince, and the Marsh-wiggle, and the children.
For the last few minutes Jill had been feeling that there was something she must remember at all costs. And now she did. But it was dreadfully hard to say it. She felt as if huge weights were laid on her lips. At last, with an effort that seemed to take all the good out of her, she said:
'There's the bicycle.'

I couldn't think of a concise metaphor for the Witch.