Too Much or too Little

Would it be too much if I bring up Goldilocks again? She is such a looming figure of right conduct, and still has so much to teach us. Her venturesome spirit and her deep concern for rightness reminds us how we should want to be conducting our own lives.

Is it not true that some beds are too soft, some too hard, and others “just right”? If we don’t test a few and have the self-esteem to find something that is right for us, then we will just have to live with whatever we end up with.

And what about those bowls of porridge? We may think that she could have just waited for Papa Bear’s bowl of porridge to cool a bit, blowing on the spoon until the steam rising from the oatmeal no longer burned her tongue; or perhaps there was a pitcher of milk on the table, into which she could have dipped her spoon with some porridge, as my uncle did instead of sloshing milk directly into the bowl. But then I am not of the caliber of Goldilocks, or of Don Quixote for that matter, when it comes to unwavering dedication to the path of purity. Certainly, when we’re reading a teaching story, it would be ungracious to quibble over such things, or to project our own casual habits onto a parable that is showing us the way to a higher order of conduct.

I’m afraid that now I can’t get the image of a pitcher of milk out of my mind, and I know from experience that it will stay there unless I talk about it. So, will you please be so kind as to let me say a word or two about that cold milk? I’m not saying that it was an oversight not to mention it in the version of the story that has come down to us. After all, no one can say everything in just a few pages. Similarly, there is no mention of whether Popa Bear’s chair was a recliner. and that doesn’t bother me. Likewise, there is no mention of headboards on any of the three beds. As for what kind of curtains Mama Bear hung on the windows, that is rightly left to our imaginations. But I’m sorry, there should be a pitcher of milk on the table, since they were having oatmeal for breakfast.

You might ask why a family of bears living in the forest would have a refrigerator for that milk, which, unless they had a cow out back, would have necessitated that they were on the power grid or used a generator. But my uncle and aunt kept their milk in a metal container, with a secure lid, that they lowered on a rope into a deep spot in the mountain stream that ran next to their house. So, the Bear family could have had a jug of cold milk on the table and probably Goldilocks was just too impulsive to notice it. Like so many young people, it probably didn’t even occur to her to look for something that could have allowed her to stick with the first bowl into which she stuck a spoon. Instead, after going straight for the biggest bowl, she moved onto another and then another, probably leaving her spoon in each one, along with her saliva-saturated mouthfuls of discarded porridge.

Come to think of it, isn’t that her defining characteristic? Doesn’t she go with her first reaction and reject one thing after another—chairs, beds, bowls of oatmeal? Everything is too hot or too cold, too hard or too soft, too big or too small.

If Baby Bear is looking for a playmate, perhaps he should find someone who would be a better influence in his life, and not that shallow-minded Goldilocks.

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