The Stubborn Swedish Cow

The following story was written for my “Write-Now” class which is conducted by Dr. Carolyn Wedin a retired professor emeritus from the University of Wisconsin.  Dr. Wedin gave us a short email message she had received from a friend in Sweden about a cow that would not give milk.  The assignment for the class was to use any element or perspective from the email to write a story.  My story loosely embraces some of the key elements from the email but is of course embellished by my own writing fancies and imagination.  Since I generally write social and political commentary, this story might seem a bit odd. However, if you reflect on it a while after you read it, I think you will find that there is a message or at least a few morals from this tale that you can take away.

swedish cowOnce upon a time there was an old farmer and his wife who had a cow that suddenly decided to stop giving milk.  It was a Swedish cow and you know how stubborn those Swedes can be.  The old farmer was going to go out to talk to the cow but quite unexpectedly he choked to death on a bone in a piece of lutefisk.  His wife now inherited the farm, the chickens, the pigs and the stubborn Swedish cow who would not give any milk.

The farmer’s wife went out to talk to the stubborn Swedish cow and tried to explain that without any milk, she would not be able to keep the farm and would have to sell everything.  The chickens would go to Kentucky Fried Chicken and become original crispy chicken legs.  The pigs would go to Famous Dave’s Barbecue and become hot and spicy pork ribs.  Last but not least, she explained the stubborn Swedish cow would go to Mc Donald’s where she would probably become a Big Mac with Double Cheeseburger Sandwich.

But the stubborn Swedish cow would not budge.  “I am tired of giving milk she thought to her-self” and being a stubborn Swedish cow she was not moved by the farmer’s wife arguments.

The chickens and pigs heard all of the arguments though and were quite perturbed.  The chickens nominated one of their own to go and talk to the cow.  “How selfish of you and inconsiderate” the delegated chicken argued.  “You don’t care that we will become fried chicken; all you can think about is yourself.”  This line of attack did not persuade the stubborn Swedish cow.

Next, the pigs decided to have a talk with the cow.  In mass they went though, as pigs like to do everything together.  In one voice, they pleaded with the stubborn Swedish cow:  “Please don’t let us become barbecue ribs at Famous Dave’s we don’t want to die. We know you have your reasons, but we hope you will change your mind and save us all.  You may be a stubborn Swedish cow but deep down inside you are really a good bovine.”  This line of reasoning also failed to persuade the stubborn Swedish cow.

mouseUnbeknownst to all, there was a small little field mouse that lived with his family in the great barn.  The field mouse had overheard the plight of the farmer’s wife and the arguments of the farm animals and was quite moved by their problem.  The field mouse was an avid reader and many of his kind would have called him an intellectual.  He was a follower of the famous Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg and also more recently the Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom well known for his work on existential risk, the anthropic principle, human enhancement ethics, superintelligence, the reversal test, and consequentialism.  The little field mouse decided to try explaining the theory of the Anthropic Principle to the cow in the hope that logic would prevail where pure emotion had failed.

“Listen please” said the little field mouse to the stubborn Swedish cow “The Anthropic Principle is the philosophical consideration that observations of the universe must be compatible with the conscious and sapient life that observes it.  It is well known that cows give milk and to be a conscious cow, you have the obligation to perform this duty for the universe.”  Now the cow had recently been reading from the writings of Dr. Niklas Boström and was quite impressed with this line of thought.  “Yes”, reflected the cow, “even though I am a stubborn Swede, I am also a creature of the universe with an infinite obligation to take my proper place in the grand scheme of things.”

“You have convinced me” said the once stubborn Swedish cow to the little field mouse.  “Hence forth, I will take my rightful place in the universe and give milk every day as long as I am able, thus fulfilling my role in the grand scheme of things”

And the farmer’s wife, the chickens, the pigs, the once stubborn Swedish cow and the little field mouse and his family all lived happily ever after.

Time for Questions:

What strategy did the Farmer’s wife use on the cow?  The Pig and the Chicken?  How effective were these?  Could they have been more effective?  What strategy did the mouse use?  Why was it effective?  In real life, which strategies do you think work best?  Why?  Which strategy would you have used?

Life is just beginning.

“Here and there and not just in books we catch glimpses of a world of once upon a time and they lived happily ever after, of a world where there is a wizard to give courage and a heart, an angel with a white stone that has written on it our true and secret name, and it is so easy to dismiss it all that it is hardly worth bothering to do. … But if the world of the fairy tale and our glimpses of it here and there are only a dream, they are one of the most haunting and powerful dreams that the world has ever dreamed…”
― Frederick BuechnerTelling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale

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