Thursday, May 23, 2019

“Kings Play Chess On Funny Green Squares”

     Carl von Linne, better known to us of the present day as Linnaeus, was born on May 23, 1707 in Rashult, Sweden. It would be only a few years longer before he started rearranging everything in his parents’ closets.

     The young Linnaeus drove his mother half crazy with his unending and unanswerable questions. “Why do you keep the dinner plates and the saucers in the same cabinet when they’re so obviously of different ranks?” “How can the dish towels belong in the linen closet with the bath sheets?” He was even more disturbed by having to keep all his playthings in a single chest, despite there being no discernible relation between the building blocks and the toy swords.

     Child therapists were mystified, but continued to take the Linnaeus family’s money for several years. They decided to desist when the young man entered grammar school. His teachers, they reasoned, would be better equipped to free him of his obsession. But it was not to be. The boy persisted in sorting his classmates by gender, height, and their relative interest in the sciences. He was often found pawing through the contents of their desks and clucking over the intimacy of pens and pencils in the same pocket.

     Relief would come only when young Carl was introduced to the horrid mess of pre-scientific biological classification. There he found a fertile field for his “gift,” and he exercised it to its fullest. In consequence millions of students of later generations have had to memorize the title of this piece, never grasping why it should matter to anyone…or what sort of absurd not-quite-chess, not-quite-checkers game is played on a board with green squares.

     Linnaeus’s later life was marked by a seemingly endless flood of arguments about whose wife belonged with whom and where to stand in line. Despite the many controversies attendant upon his erratic behavior, he was eventually recognized as a titan of sorts, to be classified (despite his estate’s posthumous but strenuous objections) as on the same plane as the nameless genius who wrote the Alphabet Song.

     Linneaus has been proposed as the Patron Saint of Obsessive-Compulsives. However, rather than pursue the canonization process, several popes have elected to “kick the can down the road” to a more orderly time.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

Mmmmmmmm. Popes SMART.