Be More Guinea Pig

On almost the hottest day of the year, a friend found herself chasing her children’s escaped guinea pigs under a hedge. It would be fair to say she has a modest opinion of their qualities as pets, but, loving all God’s creatures as she does, and meekly accepting that Mom will always have to care for them, she set off in pursuit. When we had stopped laughing at her account of her adventure, she concluded, ‘No one ever says, “Be More Guinea Pig”.’ O rash young friend, how could I resist such a challenge?

All the guinea pigs I’ve ever known have been kept as pets. I’ve never had to deal with any being used for research purposes or, worse still, eat one. To an untrained eye like mine, they are quiet, rather unexciting, just like most human beings, but they do have some characteristics we share. They are social creatures, thriving best in groups of two or more, but can easily show aggression. They can learn quite complex paths to food (just as well since they spend so much time eating) but are easily startled. They can suffer from ailments familiar to us, such as scurvy or asthma. The little happy hops they perform when excited are known as pop-corning and are delightfully uninhibited. But, ‘Be MoreGuinea Pig’? Where does that come in?

Be More Guinea Pig

Those of us living in England could be forgiven for thinking that the Government is making guinea pigs of us all, in the popular sense of that phrase, as it lifts the legal restrictions used hitherto as a defence against the spread of COVID-19. No one can predict whether it will be a success or disaster. ‘Freedom Day’ may end up making lemmings of us all, hurtling over a cliff we knew was there but believed would not be a danger to us. It is to be hoped that individuals will not be reckless but give thought to how best to keep themselves and other people safe. For Benedictines, it is comparatively simple. The Rule urges us to do what is better for another, which reflects the gospel precept to love our neighbour. Whether guinea pigs can be said to love their fellow guinea pigs, I would not dare to say; but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

There is another side to guinea pigs that has impressed me more and more over the week-end. The guinea pig’s primary method of communication with other guinea pigs is via a complex series of vocalizations. If you look at the list of those given in Wikipedia, they are not language as we understand the term, but most of them seem to be positive. It has grieved me beyond measure that so much of the discussion of Traditionis Custodes has been fundamentally irreverent and negative. To speak of God and the things of God with hatred and contempt in one’s heart is not godly, no matter how ‘justified’ one may think oneself — and that applies to both liberals and conservatives. I hope later this week to share some of my own reflections on the document, but I am not ready yet. Knee-jerk reactions, a rush to let off fireworks, to curry favour with one ‘side’ or another, no, they are not for me.* Guinea pigs are more reflective animals. Be more Guinea Pig. Please.

*I won’t publish comments that try to kidnap the argument of this post into pro or anti Traditionis Custodes tirades.

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7 thoughts on “Be More Guinea Pig”

  1. Thank you I love guinea pigs and yes they are social animals their squeaks are adorable. and I can picture your friends scramble to rescue hers as I have been in the same position. I shall carry the picture of this seach and Be more guinea pig with me today, as I potter in the garden and meet my friend to talk about her chaplaincy role with the paramedics. Bless you for your words and sense of humour.

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  2. I did chuckle at that but the worst part of having guinea pigs is trying to comfort an inconsolable child when they die. They don’t live long. It does teach children about death and the impermanence of life but even so. Now cats – and I say ‘be more cat’ can live to 20 or so and give and receive affection but aren’t clingy. They don’t argue, they don’t answer back and they have an admirable independence.

    As for Traditionis I don’t have any learned or well informed thoughts at all, all thoughts are with my family as we are having to isolate atm as our eldest grandson has been tested positive and I’m shedding a tear for all his classmates and both his parents as this means that three schools are severely impacted. Talk about guinea pigs ….

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  3. I had two guinea pigs as a child called Nuts and Bolts. One rushed his food down, the other was crazy! As for Traditionis Custodes. it is unlikely that I will read it – life is too short. What I will say is that whatever the arguments are on either ‘side’, an aircraft needs two balanced wings to fly, and a pilot who knows where he is going. In the Church, if we let God pilot the aircraft, we’ll be ok, even in a storm. In case there is a need for a biblical reference for flying, I do believe Matthew 2:13-23 may help.

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