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THE PARROT

    Once a parrot became a bird of renown by mimicking others.
    The parrot held that this achievement wasn’t really a case of out-and-out mimicry. It was more a case of coincidence. And even if it turned out to be merely mimicry, that wouldn’t be the parrot’s fault, it believed. You simply had to copy others if you were going to make it in public life.
    The parrot had tried saying something original once, but soon gave up the attempt because nobody could understand a word of it. When the parrot started repeating what others said right back to them, however, it found the response was enthusiastic.
    Nor did it seem to matter what the subject was, so long as the parrot took care to repeat without variation what others were saying. With pop-culture fanatics, it could be the latest quiz-show patter or sit-com punch line. With daytime chat-show hosts, it could be a breezy chronicle of family dysfunction leading to life-changing self-discovery. With cyber-technology types, it could simply be a string of abbreviations. With those who described themselves as leading independent thinkers, it could be any multisyllabic word ending in “-ism,” “-icity,” “-itude,” “-inal,” or “-iotic.” With political advisors, it could be practically anything. 
    Once the parrot had the vocabulary down, its confidence mushroomed. There seemed no end to its virtuosity, and its reputation as a kind of latter-day Renaissance figure spread quickly. It moved with equal assurance among opinion leaders and the hoi polloi.
    The parrot soon was a regular on the lecture circuit, commanding five-figure fees per appearance. There were non-stop book signings and steady calls to serve as an expert consultant to commissions and news specials, at award ceremonies, and to deliver eulogies for the deceased at high-profile funerals. Regardless of the topic or situation, the parrot was among the first to be sought out for comment.     
    The only time the parrot experienced any difficulty was on those occasions when pop-culture fanatics, chat-show hosts, cyber-technology types, self-described independent thinkers, political advisors, and so forth all started sounding alike. But the parrot soon worked out the perfect solution for this dilemma. 
    It assigned each group an easy-to-remember number.