Friday, August 27, 2010

Quote of the Week: Mules

"[A] mule knows its limits. It is characteristic of the breed to have an inviolable commitment to self-preservation, which is often misinterpreted as stubbornness. In truth, it is probably a form of genius. A horse will eat until it founders and dies; a mule will only snack, even if it happens upon an open bin of oats. A horse can be enticed to gallop, fatally, over a cliff. In 1942, the Army was researching ways to deliver mules to combat zones. Someone thought that teaching the animals to skydive would be a good way to do this. As an experiment, twelve mules were fitted with parachutes and taken up in a cargo plane. The first six, caught by surprise, were pushed out the door and immediately fell to their deaths. The next six survived. This is because they must have figured out what was going on and absolutely refused to go near the door.


Every mule, then, is sui generis; it leaves no legacy beyond itself, no radiating gene pool to mark its visit to this world. It is as if each mule knew that it had one shot at being here on earth, and risky behavior, such as jumping out of an airplane at ten thousand feel, would interfere with that."
- Susan Orlean, "Riding High," in the 2/15 & 22/10 New Yorker

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