The long anticipated official reintroduction of the Neoplatonic ranking system known as the Great Chain of Being was interrupted today by a moment of awkwardness when someone in attendance at the gala ceremony held in Stanford University's elegant main reception hall wondered aloud why he wasn't seeing the common man on the newly modified Great Chain.
When the so-called little man failed to turn up after a quick double and triple check of the PowerPoint slide presenting the new alignment of the entities making up the known celestial and earthly world, a visibly embarrassed Tom Ridley, spokesman for the Hoover Institute's so-called Order of the Orderer, nonetheless deftly lightened the mood by quipping, "I certainly hope this unforgivable oversight doesn't get anybody dropped any links on the Greater Chain.
"But seriously though," continued Mr. Ridley, "to appreciate how honest a mistake this was, one would have to fully understand just how much shuffling was involved in bringing the scala naturae, or stairway of nature, up to date.
"In the centuries since the simpler times of St. Gregory and St. Thomas Aquinas, the divisions between the tidy descendingly ordered classes of beings and things in the nine-tiered system of assigning worth have all but dissolved.
"A certain tricky fluidity now complicates somewhat the great staircase where God, angel, king, nobleman, wild and domesticated animal, plant, and mineral are naturally arranged. Oh, and man too, of course.
"Where, for instance, does one place a Red Tibetan Mastiff or a show quality Pharaoh Hound or Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in relation to a white African diamond? Or a blue one for that matter? Or a pink one? Where does a white or blue or pink diamond stand in relation to the king whose land it was extracted from? Does that African king stand on a rung above or below a minor sheikh in a Middle Eastern land dripping with oil? Where does one place this oil in relation to all the above and everything else?
"Such puzzlers and many more just like them and many many more even more puzzling had a way of throwing the re-ordering of all things under and I suppose even over the Sun, not to mention the Sun itself, into a barely controlled disorder that kicked up quite a bit of dust--which itself by the way wasn't exactly a breeze to place on the Greater Chain, nor of course was a breeze exactly a breeze to find a spot for.
"At any rate, in light of all this upheaval, and I suppose you'd have to say downheaval as well, I hope the average man will not take his accidental absence from the Greater Chain of Being personally.
"And speaking of downheaval, the common man might do well, as he waits to find out where along the Greater Chain he belongs, to think about how God must feel now that the top link belongs to America's Makers and his new link is situated way down the line between the rainbow and a flammable variety of bush known as Dictamnus albus."
In a footnote to this story, one member of the Hoover Institute's Order of the Orderer told Shining City Gazette that he distinctly remembers the Order tabling the little man when an impasse was reached in a debate over whether he and she should be placed above or below the baser minerals he and she is made of.
According to this source, the Order must simply have forgotten to go back to the little man after they moved on to the tricky business of deciding how to order America's vast statuary of its Founding Fathers given the unbelievably complex relationships between the variable worths of these men and the various grades of stone and metal they were rendered in.