Wednesday, 30 March 2011
The Words of Wisdom this week are Consider whether you're a fox or a hedgehog. Foxes? Hedgehogs? What am I on about? Well, it started with an ancient Greek poet, Archilochus, who wrote 'The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.' This mysterious aphorism seems to belong to the age of myth, when we better appreciated the wisdom of the animals. So what does it tell us? Well, for one thing, it tells us about the animals concerned. Threaten a hedgehog and it always has the same response: roll in a ball and stick its prickles out. Threaten a fox and it will do any one of a thousand things, run in any direction, fight, jump, show its teeth, hide ... But what the Greek was really writing about was people and the way some of us focus on one thing in our lives, while others pursue variety; how some people base all their thoughts and actions on a single belief or principle, while others like to see all sides of every question. Hedgehogs need decisiveness and finality, whilst foxes may change their minds if the circumstances change. Politicians tend to be hedgehogs, sticking to principles even when their application has demonstrably failed, and the media love hedgehogs - they know what they're going to get. Foxes will always be in line for the latest gadgetry, they appreciate newness for its own sake, but it's difficult to get a definite opinion out of them. For actors, consideration of fox or hedgehog traits is a useful extra dimension in character study. But there is another way in which it applies. Some actors can take a great variety of roles, often bearing no resemblance to themselves. They are character actors: foxes. Others play parts very similar to their real life persona. Thay are hedgehogs. In our lives we can think about what type we are and hope to avoid the associated weaknesses. Hedgehogs may lack enterprise: foxes may lack solidity. We can try and absorb some of the strengths of the opposing animal and, hopefully, become a more rounded person as a result. And, by the way, if you have a garden, a hedgehog will keep down the insect pests. To encourage them, put down a saucer of pet food in the evening. When it is dark they will come out and eat it up - unless the foxes get there first.