On the slim chance that my son does not one day become president, I
feel a moral obligation to impart to the free world the crux of his
life philosophy. To share his guiding belief, a conviction that can be
summed up in two words: Yes Chicken.
Yes Chicken is the result of
Zev's apparent allergy to any conflict that may arise in a fictional
story. When I read to him, he constantly instructs me to make quick
edits – hence, Goldilocks always fixes the Little Bear's chair and
whips up a new batch of porridge. The Big Bad Wolf eats a sandwich
instead of Little Red Riding Hood's grandma.
Often he commands
that the stories I tell him be made up; he'll say something like, "Tell
a story about Chewbacca riding his bicycle on the moon," and like an
improv comedian, I have to run with it. So the other day, when telling
him a requested tale about a rhinoceros farmer (that's a farmer who is
a rhinoceros, not a human into rhino husbandry), I said that the
hapless hero came across a chicken who refused to give up her eggs. Try
as he might, I told Zev, the rhinoceros could not coax the hen into
giving up the key ingredient for his morning omelet.
"Each morning, the chicken said no," I told him.
of demanding that the characters (or I) solve the problem, Zev sat up
straight in his chair, extended his tiny toddler hand and offered his
"I have a Yes Chicken, rhinoceros," he said. "This chicken says yes."
took the imaginary chicken from his hand, and thanked him. It may have
prematurely ended what (I thought, anyway) was a pretty good
made-up-on-the-fly story, but this Yes Chicken gave me so much more.
the face of it, the Yes Chicken is a cop-out – a little deus ex machina
designed to keep the rhino from having to either fail or use force. But
when I think of all the stories we heard growing up – the travails of
good vs. evil – I realize we all could have benefited from an
occasional Yes Chicken.
Too often we come up against No Chickens
and think, "That's that." Either you get that No Chicken to give up her
eggs, or breakfast is ruined. It comes down to win or lose. So rarely
do we stop and think that there has to be another solution. "Maybe I'll
have cornflakes," or "How else can I get eggs?"
So many times in
my life, I've found myself stuck in one way of thinking, unable to
recast problems in anything other than the starkest of black and white.
A lot of the decisions I've made were very No Chicken choices: For
instance, somewhere along the line I probably couldhave worked on a glass submarine in Hawaii for a year without compromising my journalism career.
Zev first presented me with the Yes Chicken a few weeks ago, I haven't
been able to stop thinking about it. Inventing a solution out of thin
air is not just the hopeful provenance of a toddler, but a
wise-beyond-his-age approach to life.
I read an article about
"The Death of Environmentalism," a book that claims the environmental
movement is its own worst enemy by being doomsayer rather than
innovator. And I find myself thinking, "What they need is a Yes
"This chicken creates as much energy as a coal-burning chicken, but without all the emissions."
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spews hateful nonsense, thugs in Darfur
give President Carter a hard time, and I say, "A Yes Chicken would
(Admittedly, I have no idea how in these cases, but I'm sure it would.)
managed to find its Yes Chicken. While the music industry wonders how
it's going to survive the digital age, the band just released an album
you can buy for whatever price you deem appropriate to pay. Maybe it'll
be a catastrophic failure, or maybe it'll be the chicken that laid the
I'm sure I haven't done justice to Zev's precious
philosophy. Americans will just have to wait until Jan. 20, 2040, to
get it in full. But until then, the next time you're faced with two
evils, don't just pick the lesser. Pick the poultry.