The dodo and the dinosaurs have moved on, but Aesop’s Ant and Grasshopper will never die, as long as there are doers and dreamers. And I’ve heard that Aesop’s Fox–who asserted that the grapes were sour anyway, when he couldn’t jump high enough to grab them—has recently completed an unsuccessful run for the presidency.
Aesop admired how Ant gathered and stored corn in autumn, before winter snows kept everyone indoors, while he leaves Grasshopper standing on the frozen ground, completely out of options. Ralph Waldo Emerson gives a similar nod to “Prudence”, in his essay of that name.
My own daily life has more Ant than Grasshopper at the helm, but I have a soft spot for the notion that our lives don’t have to be nailed down by duty and expectation. Indeed, I suspect that a door to freedom can swing ajar when we question the value of what we have been doing and dare to try something different.
It seems that we need to protect ourselves from meaningless, deadening activities, especially when society pulls us away from our own fulfillment.
But might societal momentum and expectations be so powerful that we feel unable to resist? If so, then what are we to do?
Should we disengage from activities that conflict with our private aspirations? Or should we advance into the heart of those external forces in order to understand them—as a necessary first step toward harmonizing our inner dreams with our outer circumstances?
Is it possible that our day dreams arrive from an intersection between inner being and life in the world?
Dreams don’t come from nowhere. Perhaps dreams and aspirations wash up on the shores of a vast unknown sea—in which no wall could ever be erected—and break in upon our familiar home land. These dreams may provide intimations that can help us feel at home in a wider, more open realm. One thing is certain. We need another strategy than that of trying to fortify some imagined homeland, whose walls—even if not breached from outside—build a prison with us locked inside.
Just as a tree rooted on a hillside has formed–in the curse of many seasons– from nutrients drawn up from that hillside, so are we the result of a seed planted and nurtured in the field of our lives.
To feel that the world is our enemy, intrinsically inhospitable to our aspirations, is thus a form of self-rejection.
Perhaps we admire Ant for the wrong reasons. Perhaps Ant is not marching lock-step with some preprogrammed need to fill the larders of the colony. Perhaps Ant is actually exploring the field of his own being: constantly going forth and returning home, knitting together his experiences in the world with the building of an inner sanctuary.
Or perhaps Ant is a sailor; most at home when out at sea, who also feels a responsibility to return home with his catch of the day.