Imagining New Cheese
Anne Barbeau Gardiner on a Psychology for Utopia
I was recently a guest at a meeting of women educators gathered to discuss a book that had enjoyed a long run on the New York Times best-seller list: Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese? In the discussion, these fifteen or so well-mannered women congratulated themselves on overcoming fear of change when their “Cheese” had been moved, that is, when they had faced new textbooks and classes, and they were surprised when I observed that the author had, under the guise of giving psychological guidance for success, actually written a how-to book for opportunists.
The book is a little fable about adapting to change. There are four small characters who live in a maze and require Cheese for survival: two mice and two little people named Hem and Haw. The mice have simple brains and look for Cheese by instinct, while the little people have brains stuffed with old “beliefs” that complicate their quest for Cheese—which for them also means security and success.
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Anne Barbeau Gardiner is Professor Emerita of English at John Jay College of the City University of New York. She has published on Dryden, Milton, and Swift, as well as on Catholics of the 17th century.
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