Our Professor of Physics was fond of explaining the difference between the Owl and the Pussycat. “The Pussycat” he would intone, “when cast into the middle of a pond, is powerless (once in flight) to avoid his fate. We see that an airborne Pussycat cannot react with his environment; he can merely act upon himself. Thus he may squirm so as to enter head first, tail first or feet first, but enter the water he will.
“The Owl, on the other hand, given only that he be not asleep, is well able to react with his environment through the agency of wings, effecting thereby the total avoidance of the pond.”
In fact, for the analysis to be complete, there remains to the Pussycat one more strategy to avoid the water. He can spontaneously explode in flight. Correctly executed, all of his fragments will then miss the pond, although the Pussycat’s Centre of Gravity, Pussy notwithstanding, will be true to its original trajectory.
Now, our Professor surely expected us students to see ourselves in the role of the experimenter, the one doing the casting; but was he perhaps missing the point of his own story? . . .
And when next we find ourselves hurtling towards a pond, what shall we do about it? We could start by taking stock of our anatomy. Are we Owls or are we Pussycats? Wings can grow when we least expect them. We might have become Owls without realising it, and wouldn’t it be a shame to be caught napping?
Of course, we might find that we are Pussycats after all. What then? Spontaneous explosion can damage our health. Better just learn to want a bath.