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agroundhogThere is a very rotund, very large groundhog living under our conference hall right now. Lately s/he has a routine of coming out and heading directly for the pear tree in the back yard. S/he doesn’t seem to mind that the pears are still very hard and (I suppose) unripe. I wonder at the quality of this amusing animal’s digestion. We also have an apple tree out there whose fruit is looking quite enticing. One of my housemates is eagerly awaiting the first frost which signals the moment of readiness of the apples for consumption. Since they have already begun to fall to the ground I suggested that they may have defied the usual moment of truth this year – but she tried one yesterday and only needed one bite to know the necessity of following the rules. So I wonder: would the groundhog get a stomach ache if s/he ate an apple today? Would the pears go down easily for us? Otherwise expressed: Does the same rule apply to all fruits and all eaters?

Life is complicated and it’s hard to know all the rules, even if you’ve lived a long time. The choice that we face most days is whether to risk being wrong once in awhile or staying safe by never testing the rules. At issue is our willingness to miss some tasty fruit in order to be sure we never have a stomachache.