No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. - Heraclitus, circa 500 BCIt pays to be prepared. - Aesop
I was going through my coverless comics and found this old copy of Casper the Friendly Ghost published by Harvey Comics with the story The Abominable Slowman.
It's a beat up copy that I read as a kid and kept in boxes and closets ever since. I probably tore the cover off as a kid during one of the occasional re-reads. The comic may have been disrespected, but I never forgot the story.
In summary, it's not much: Casper's Uncle Slowman visits him, and after a while he decides to head home. But there's something about Slowman that is memorable. As Casper mentions, "He's got the slowest, most forceful mind I ever heard of in a ghost!" There are a couple gags that show how Slowman reacts to things (sat on a tack yesterday, yelled "Ouch!" today), then Casper decides to see him home. On the way they have to pass through "the weirdest part of the Enchanted Forest."
The weirdest part includes encounters wit a giant Frankenstein's monster, a vampire, and a giant ape, and Slowman reacts quickly to each of the threats, scaring them away immediately. Casper asks, "Tell me, Uncle Slowman! How did you remember to Boo those characters as soon as you saw them?"
The punch line is that it's a delayed reaction to events from the day before. Which is funny, taken at face value, but it makes me wonder what gave the author the idea for the story?
The French have a phrase for when you think of the perfect comeback, but it's too late - you're already walking away. They call it l'esprit de l'escalier, which might be translated as "staircase wit".
Sometimes I feel like Uncle Slowman. Whether at work, at home or seeing an item in the news, sometimes things happen and I don't react immediately. Partly it's because I don't know how to react. It's a new experience so my subconscious needs time to process the event. At heart, this is the nature of experience and learning.
We may experience something once without context. During this time we react slowly, or maybe not at all, because we don't know how to react. In subsequent times we have learned and can act more quickly. Whether practicing a piano piece, figuring out a math problem, or trying to learn how to cook a new dish, we have to live through it once to fully understand how to become more accomplished. Even in the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 we are learning how to react to this and our responses are delayed just like Uncle Slowman's.
I wonder whether whoever wrote this story thought about it in the same way? Were they thinking of a particular comeback after an argument? Then they thought: This might make a good story gag. Unfortunately, the writer and artist is uncredited. Given the time frame, the art probably by Ernie Colón or maybe Warren Kremer
The winning attribute for the story is Casper's description of Uncle Slowman. He has a slow mind, but it's also the most forceful. Once Slowman has had time to learn and internalize the situation, he doesn't deliver a weak response. His "Boo!" responses are both quick and strong enough to scare the monsters away.
We are products of our past, but we don't have to be prisoners of it. - Rick WarrenThe illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. - Alvin Toffler
According to Toffler's quote, I would say Slowman is literate for the 21st century. Despite his inability to move quickly, he still learns to adapt. When he and Casper set out on the return journey, he knows what monsters are waiting for them. But he doesn't fear the road. Instead, experience has helped him prepare for it.
Which brings me to my final quote:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana
Did Uncle Slowman forget the past? He doesn't mention the monsters to Casper, or even worry about meeting the monsters. But he didn't forget them - he was prepared and as they situation arose he was ready to react to the present.