By Rattus Scribus© 15 January 2010
I have a friend named Spinoza, positively a brainiac of a hedgehog of Jewish extraction whose family was from Portugal and had immigrated to Amsterdam where he was born. They say that one becomes what happens to them. If there is any truth to this, it is illustrated in my friend Spinoza.
When he was young, Spinoza had a terrible experience playing hide-n-seek. He started out as the seeker counting from 1 to 30, while his best mates scattered about in search of hiding places.
When the count to 30 was done, everyone had disappeared, and Spinoza began seeking. But after two hours, he couldn't find anyone! He kept calling out: "Come on, where are you? It's late and mum's going to be mad."
Nothing. Two more hours go by and now it's dark and Spinoza is so nervous his spines are clattering.
It turns out that an evil troll had cast a spell on all his friends, and he started a roaring fire and was getting ready to cook and eat them, to be followed by a fine apéritif. Spinoza saw the fire in the darkness and clambered up the hill towards it.
When Spinoza saw the ugly troll and all his friends bound and lying next to the fire, he let out a scream. The troll turned around and saw Spinoza.
"Yarrgghh! Come 'ere, you. I'll have ya for me desserts, I will."
But the troll's hideousness shocked Spinoza into momentary silence. So the troll came charging, and just as he grabbed him, Spinoza stepped backward and they both went tumbling down, down, down to the very bottom of the hill, a tangled heap of troll and hedgehog.
When they stopped, the troll had Spinoza's spines all through his body and poor Spinoza had a broken right front paw.
"Yarrgghh!" screamed the troll. "Ya kills me, ya miserable wretch."
As the troll breathed his last, Spinoza, now angry as a hornet, said: "That's Spinoza to you, you limburger-loving schmuck. That'l teach you to mess about with Spinoza the fearless, protector of the helpless, scourge of the heinous, bane of trolls!"
And with that, the ugly, limburger-loving schmuck of a troll vanished without a trace.
After that, Spinoza released and awakened his friends, who, due to the troll's spell, had no idea of the whole adventure. When he told them all that had happened -- how he had searched for hours and hours, and found the troll who was going to eat them, and how he fearlessly confronted the monster and did great battle and finally vanquished him, and broke his right paw saving their lives -- his friends said:
"Spinoza, you spin the craziest tales." And they all went home laughing.
As the troll had disappeared, Spinoza could not prove his story. But Spinoza knew. He experienced it with his own senses. His heart felt it with deepest emotion. They had all been under the troll's spell, and he had saved their lives. He was a hero. There was no room for doubt.
The next day, some of his friends paid a visit to Spinoza to see how he was doing. They knocked on his door.
"It's your mates, come to pay homage to our injured paladin."
He answered the door wincing in pain and hobbling, but proudly, a splint cast on his left paw.
They were sitting in his cozy parlor drinking tea when one of them asked: "Hey Spinoza, are you feeling better? You took a really nasty fall yesterday."
"What do you mean? You were under the troll's sleeping spell. You didn't see us tumble down the hill while I was bravely fighting that creature."
"Spinoza, don't you remember? After you counted to 30 and started seeking, you tripped on a twig, fell back and knocked yourself out. We were all there watching."
"I did no such thing," said Spinoza with much indignation. "I saved you all from a fate worse than death..."
"...and we tumbled down, down, down to the very bottom of the hill...and the troll had my spines all through his body..."
"Spinoza, your splint..."
"...and after the troll died he vanished, leaving no trace, and..."
"Spinoza, your splint is on..."
"...and how do you explain this?" he said lifting...
"...the wrong paw."
Spinoza's eyes grew big with shock, and he dropped his tea cup to the floor, breaking it in a dozen pieces.
He tore off his splint and moved his paw in circles and walked about freely. Nothing. No pain.
"Foul, foul deception, this," said Spinoza looking at his own body in disbelief. "Plato was right. Soma sema. The body is a prison."
Spinoza went on to become a noted philosopher of the rationalist school. He came to distrust human emotions and the physical senses, and believed almost completely in rationalistic and naturalistic explanations for all knowledge about the world.
He does not like to talk about it. But his philosophy surely has something to do with his experience that day. For that was the last time Spinoza played hide-n-seek.