Once a hamster took an animal rights group to court. The lawsuit came as a surprise to many, and none more so than the group being sued. They had long considered the hamster to be one of their staunchest supporters. It had never failed to respond to their appeals for contributions or to sign and send one of their pre-stamped postcards to Congress and the White House. So when they launched their campaign to free the hamsters of the world from their cages and wheels, this one’s opposition to their efforts was a shock. It shouldn’t have been, though. The hamster might be unwavering in its commitment to freedom in the abstract, but when it came to its own cage and wheel, that was another matter. Especially when it came to its wheel. Others might view the hamster’s wheel as the very symbol of imprisoning, soul-destroying routine; however, it saw things differently. Not that it particularly enjoyed running endlessly in place. It was tedious, the hamster readily admitted. Tedium was not the point, though. Or rather, tedium was a small price to pay for the steady confidence-building that running in place brought. As far back as the hamster could remember, the wheel had played a defining role in its determination to make something of itself. All through its youth and right through college, it had trotted along with both eyes fixed firmly on what mattered. It couldn’t wait to be finished with child’s play, then with tiresome study, and take its place in the real world at last. When the hamster showed up bright-eyed and stoked for its first job interviews, the corporate recruiters had been impressed with how quickly it mastered the wheels they asked it to take a demonstration run in. So much so that it had been able to pick and choose among the many employment offers it received and even to make some demands about the starting size of the wheel it could expect. With each increase in the size of its wheel over the years, the hamster impressed all of its colleagues by its unflagging dedication and the long hours it put into coming up to speed on every challenge and staying there. It even found a secret satisfaction in the sympathy and worry for its health that coworkers might express as it drove itself to spin the wheel ever faster and longer in order to reach whatever goal had been set. If it ultimately died in the wheel, the hamster proudly thought to itself, the mere mention of its name might be an inspiration to others for decades to come. The wheel had become inseparable, thus, from the hamster’s hard-earned sense of self-worth. It was the measure of its past accomplishments and a promise of more triumphs to come. Deprived of the wheel, how would the hamster find meaning in its life? What was to save it, in short, from a demoralizing stumble into self-doubt? Or worse? And now here were these animal rights do-gooders it had thought were its friends trying to take from it the one thing it simply could not do without. “Can’t they see the obvious?” the hamster muttered between gasps for breath.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans