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The Crotchets of Equality
“The Gentler View,” Harper’s Weekly (March 29, 1913) : 23
link (hathitrust)   /   link (University of Michigan scan at google)

      It is a humiliating reflection that we meet each other more or less on the plane of our material possessions. There are, one hastens to admit, a wealth of exceptions. If the congeniality is sufficiently perfect differences of a material kind are radically minimized, though a balance so out of proportion as to cause much giving on one side and much receiving on the other is a problem of some prickliness. The humiliation lies in the fact that so sordid a truth is ever true. An idea held in common does not outweigh a motor owned by one and a street-car patronized by the other. It is a disgraceful proof of how frequently we reduce ourselves to our lowest dimensions. With one’s entire nature protesting, the facts still prevent one from indulging in the naturalness necessary to honest intercourse. If one is to express a heart’s desire one's auditor must not have the power to fulfill it if that power is denied to the speaker. If such is the case you are not giving a confidence, but making a request. It is infamous that honest folk should experience a shade of embarrassment at such an unworthy cause. Yet our possessions are our toys and one cannot expect the owner of a miniature gyroscope railway to share the modest thrills experienced by one who occupies himself with broken bits of shells picked up at random. When our possessions are not our toys they are our means of social locomotion, and, no matter what the mutual affection, a certain inconvenience is innate in the promenade of an athlete with a cripple. Enjoyable as their talk together may be, the athlete wishes he could go at his usual gait. He spurts ahead unconsciously, drops back guiltily, while the poor man on crutches is expending so much energy on accelerating his own slow pace that he is unable to do himself justice in the conversation. There are but two alternatives to this exhausting method of procedure. One is for the athlete to carry the cripple. This colors their otherwise happy intercourse with too frequent interjections of “You are sure I am not weighing too heavily upon you?” and the inevitable rejoinder, “Not at all; I’m glad to do anything I can for you.” With the final result that the cripple asks to be put down, the athlete complies with some willingness, and, when they have parted, their thoughts fly freer, only saddened by a wish that unburdened intercourse were easier.
      The other alternative, and the one most frequently chosen, is for them to limit their communion to a neutral time when they both sit quietly and pretend that legs do not form a part of this pleasant universe. At such moments the cripple may have his turn at being the benefactor, for perhaps sincere thinking is the chief treasure in his store of wealth. These moments are short, however, for we use our muscles more than our minds; and the athlete, having the means of excessive locomotion, feels that he must spend a considerable amount of time in using them.
      It is only when material things are shared evenly that they do not obtrude themselves unduly. If you have six motors and your friend has six you share freely your mutual inconveniences. If you lack the pittance for car-fare and your friend lacks it as well, you walk arm in arm to your destination, sharing your predicament gayly. In either case friendship predominates and possessions are in abeyance. People cannot hold any communications with genuine satisfaction unless they are at some point equal. It may be at but one point: manliness, prowess in swimming, a shared knowledge, or characteristic, is quite sufficient. They will choose that point at which to meet. They will respect each other and retain a shared regard if they do not attempt contact on other sides.

  1. crotchet (n.)
    early 14c., “small hook;" mid-15c. “a staff with a hook at the end,” from Old French crochet (pronounced "crotchet") “small hook; canine tooth” (12c.), diminutive of croc “hook,” from Old Norse krokr “hook,” which is of obscure origin but perhaps related to the widespread group of Germanic kr- words meaning “bent, hooked.”
    As a curved surgical instrument with a sharp hook, from 1750. Figurative use in musical notation for “quarter note” is from mid-15c., from the shape of the notes. Also from 1670s in now-obsolete sense “one of the pair of marks now called ‘brackets.’”
    Meaning “whimsical fancy, singular opinion,” especially one held by someone who has no competency to form a sound one, is from 1570s; the sense is uncertain, perhaps it is the same mechanical image in extended senses of crank; but other authorities link it to the musical notation one (think: “too many notes”).
    source : Online Etymology Dictionary : link
  2. crotchety (adj.)
    “characterized by odd fancies, eccentric in thought,” 1825, from crotchet “whim or fancy” + -y...
    source : Online Etymology Dictionary : link

12 November 2022