What's All This Then?
What's All This Then?
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Field-Tested by Jay Hathaway
at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington
When Paul Atreides, the hero of Frank Herbert's Dune, was fifteen, he set off to avenge the death of his father and rule a desert planet called Arrakis. When I was fifteen, I left home and traveled a scorching two blocks to Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo to face the solemn task of making sure little kids found the bathrooms before they pissed on the grass.
I hated little kids. I hated soccer moms who couldn't follow a simple map to the elephant house. I hated the stifling heat of the rainforest exhibit, the crowds at every gate, and the distinct fragrances of what must have been forty kinds of dung. I also hated the khaki vest I had to wear, a uniform that made it awfully hard to sneak off to somewhere quiet and take out my copy of Dune.
As Paul Atreides discovered that he was the Kwisatz Haderach, the universe's super-being, and effortlessly got the girl, I discovered I was a skinny, five-foot-nothing kid with a cracking voice, dressed like a park ranger. I had considerably less luck with the ladies. Dune taught me exactly nothing about struggle, romance, growing up, or taking responsibility. In the world of Dune, you're born a hero and you persevere. If you're not, then what?
Probably, you keep as far away from interplanetary conflict and hordes of day-campers as you can manage. You eventually get the girl, although never on your first try, and not because of a prophecy. You find out that deserts are actually quite pleasant, because nobody wants to walk all the way out there just to see the stupid prairie dogs. Sitting on the cool concrete, unpacking a paperback from the pocket of your goofy vest, you realize you're never going to be the Kwisatz Haderach. Thank the Bene Gesserit for that.