Tuesday, September 28, 2010

a retelling of "the ant and the grasshopper"

Many of you are familiar with my little story here, but I am sending it out for those who haven’t heard it. It is my justification for my own view on work.






Let us consider the fable of the ant and the grasshopper:

            One summer an ant wandered far from her nest. She came upon a grasshopper eating a leaf of grass.

            "A riddle for you," sang the grasshopper:       

            “What eats sweetest grass, but sees no green? What drinks the deepest ocean but knows no blue? What last longer than calendars? What hallows her heaven, yet speaks no prayers?”

            The ant, however had no time for riddles. Presently, the grasshopper flexed her supple jumping leg and struck a song across her wing.

            "And what bread will fiddling find?" asked the ant. "Why play at all? A cold winter comes and will swallow you whole. Work for your winter or you will die in your sloth. But if you do not work, then your soul is already winter, if you foster sloth than you already sleep in your grave. Until you have known the sweetness of doing a job well, of putting your whole heart into your work, you will know nothing of fulfillment.

            "All this mumbling to yourself is meaningless––oh lazy do-nothing, don't smirk as if you understood. She who understands gives her understanding action. You are all flicker and no flame. You are all wick and no dynamite. Sooner bite the queen than think without action. And when action is needed, don't think. Will you who has no goals smirk? Yes, we ants have heard much of grasshoppers. They are the last supplies we bring in for winter."

            To which the grasshopper returned: "What bread do I find? The world is my leaf. Why sing my song? I sing for romance, and the romance of a singing heart. Do you really think an ant lives longer than a grasshopper? Or will 'your life' be your colony? Grasshoppers avoid numbers like a plague, but individually we will survive just as long as you ants. We grasshoppers do have a grind to ax.

            "Life is leaping, not crawling. Life is singing, not dragging. Love is a pale jade locust with summer eyes, not a slave-driving queen upon her mound. Yet what can I tell you of love and life? Each to her own. A worker who does not work, rots, but never rotting without work is a singer. She dreams.

            "What you call sloth, I call meditation. What you call sloth, I call inspiration. What you call sloth, I call transfiguration. Is life in the length or is life in the living? When the green goes, I go with it. Don't you see the poetry in this?"

            And the grasshopper went her way, and lived for summer; the ant went her way and lived for winter. As for the wiser of the two, who can tell?


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