Saturday, July 20, 2019

Russel Edsons Counting Sheep :: Edson Counting Sheep Essays

Russel Edson's Counting Sheep After British scientists had cloned a sheep called Dolly, people were asking them why they had done it and they said because they could do it. Last week it was anounced that the human genome had been decrypted. Although everybody agrees that this is a blessing for mankind, many people are worried about what scientists might do with their new toy, again, just because they are able to do it. Long before anybody even thought about cloning sheep, Russel Edson had them shrinked. His poem "Counting Sheep" is a subtle approach to the question of use and misuse of science. The ability to shrink matter certainly stands for a technically very advanced culture, in which scientists must have almost god-like powers. But after shrinking the sheep, this scientist "wonders what he should do with them." In a way, he resembles a child and the innocent atmosphere of the poem contributes to this impression. He falls asleep counting sheep. Like in Goethe's "The Magician's Apprentice", the creation overcomes its creator. However, when the scientist thinks of possible uses for his invention, he thinks about "a substitute for rice, a sort of wooly rice", but never about shrinking hostile armies and crushing them with the tip of a finger. Edson makes him look so naive, that we almost forget that we are dealing with a very serious issue. Even when the scientist rubs the sheep "to a red paste between his fingers," he doesn't do it on purpose but seems more like a bull in a china shop. What if it were not sheep but apes or even humans? He definately has the po wer to do that. We are reminded of the scientists who discovered nuclear power. It had never occured to them that someone might use it to build the worst doomsday weapon ever. By describing the minimum credible accident, Edson makes us think about the maximum credible accident. Like "The Death of an Angel", "Darwin Descending" and "The Automobile", "Counting Sheep" is partly a parody on our modern society's attitude towards science and technical advancement, which has almost assumed religious features. Edson comments on the way we treat our scientists like half-gods and on our blind believe in their seemingly unlimited powers.

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