Roxy Sorkin must have one particularly brassy guinea pig.
In his acceptance speech at last night's Academy Awards ceremony, Aaron Sorkin (who won the Best Adapted Screenplay OscarTM for "The Social Network") called out the little devil on the international broadcast. He finished his pithy, eloquent, and refreshingly humble speech with the comment: "Roxy Sorkin, your father just won the Academy Award. I’m going to have to insist on some respect from your guinea pig." The comment -- an admission of being stymied (if not bested) by a 2-1/2 pound furball -- only added to Sorkin's likability as he walked off stage.
Anyone who has lived with guinea pigs for any length of time can chuckle at the comment and make a few guesses about what Roxy's guinea pig must be doing to "disrespect" her father. Run away when he comes to the cage. Chews on his fingers. Chews on his shirt. Fidgets incessantly while he tries to sit with it. Poops on him. Pees on him. Sasses at him for a snack. A myriad of possible behaviors.
The misconception about guinea pigs is that they're simple creatures, that all you have to do is feed them and you're in like Flynn. But guinea pigs are not won over by superficial gestures. They cannot be schmoozed. Because they are prey animals, which makes them anxious and fearful by default, they're slow to trust. It takes time, calm effort, and gentleness to form a bond with them. It's a process that cannot be rushed.
Guinea pigs are actually a lot like horses in this regard. In her book "Inner Peace for Busy People," Joan Borysenko relates a story about an equine experience program she participated in. During the program, she learned that "...horses were like mirrors that showed you who you really were....[they] respond to our energy, mirroring our emotions and intentions." They pick up on frustration, impatience, anxiety, irritation, aloofness -- emotional turmoil of any kind -- and respond accordingly. "Horses are very sensitive to energy," Borysenko writes. "They respond to peaceful clarity of intention."
If you're trying to connect with a guinea pig, and it's not progressing to your expected timetable, frustration inevitably rises. Frustration begets more frustration. And, if you don't do a course correction and try something new, frustration begets irritation -- and the guinea pig will respond to neither favorably. It matters not to a guinea pig that you're formidable in the board room, hypnotically persuasive in a sales presentation, or capable of successfully pitching a screenplay in a town drowning in screenplay pitches. Success with human beings does not necessarily beget success with guinea pigs (though I contend that the reverse is true).
The beauty of guinea pigs (all animals, really) is that quality time with them forces you to get out of your head, snap out of your mood, slow down, and be fully present with them. And when you think about it, these are all things you need to do in any relationship in order for it to be successful. For Sorkin, who makes his living in a fast-paced and uber-connected industry, his daughter's guinea pig may well be The Universe's way of planting a reminder in his life to stay grounded and stay present in spite of the insanity and busy-ness swirling around him.
It's been said that daughters keep their fathers humble (maybe even moreso than their wives). Sorkin's comment at last night's ceremony suggests that there's a guinea pig in his life doing the same thing. And that, I think, is a good thing.