The Trout and The River's Flow

Trout were swimming downstream in their river and a few began to complain: I wish this river flowed elsewhere, for as it is, we must weave and wind around all manner of hazards. Logs, rocks, noxious plants – all these block our way. And, worst of all, a choke point sits ahead where the greedy grizzly waits to easily slap us out of the water as we pass. We might as well be fish in a barrel.

One fat trout, contented with long life and great luck, spoke: but what are we to do? I agree that this river could be better, but we're stuck here like it or not. We're not beaver who can dam the river to change its flow. We're not ducks who can take flight whenever we wish. This river isn't ideal, but it nevertheless provides our home.

Another trout, young and dissatisfied with the senior's proclamation, replied somewhat cryptically: there is but one thing we trout can do.

A week went by.

This young trout reappeared and shouted “to the choke point!”. At those words, a large fraction of the trout crowded into the choke point where the greedy grizzly waited. So many filled the space that the flow of water was stopped. And even though the grizzly greedily snatched up trout after trout for its feast, the water began to spill out in another direction.

The Falling Snake

An eagle had captured a snake for supper. But as the eagle ascended toward her aerie, the snake, now far above the canyon floor that was its home, managed to wrestle free.

As the snake plummeted back down to earth, he realized that his doom was now unavoidable.

“Well,” thought the snake, “I might as well enjoy the view. After all, it is quite rare for a snake like me to see the world from up here.”

The Farm Chicken and the Wild Partridge

A chicken, while walking the edge of her farm, spied a wild partridge out in the tall grasses. The partridge was too busy hunting for beetles and seeds to notice the approach of the chicken.

“Ho partridge,” clucked the chicken, “I see you are looking for food. But my you do go about it in such an odd manner.”

“That is correct,” replied the partridge, a little startled. “I am looking for a meal. But why do you call it odd? I usually have great luck in this patch of grass.”

“Well well…” began the chicken, “we farm fowl have learned a better, more reliable way to get great quantities food with far greater ease than hunting. We do not even need to travel for our meals!”

“My, my, ” spoke the partridge, “ it sounds unbelievable!”

“It is really very simple. If, that is, you have been educated on the signs.”

“Educated? Signs?” quizzed the partridge.

“That is right, we farm chickens are schooled from a young age on the superior way to find food. That is why,” said the chicken, gesturing to the other chickens darting about the farm, “we are all so magnificently plump! You can see for yourself.”

“I am curious. Do go on,” pressed the partridge.

“We have learned,” continued the chicken, beaming with pride to share her advanced knowledge with this backwoods partridge, “to listen for a piercing ringing noise. When we hear this noise, we run to the front of our coop where, without fail, a large mound of grain will have appeared.”

“Amazing,” said the partridge, “ but I am not sure I know what a ringing noise sounds like – I do not think have heard one. Hence, I would not know when to run.”

“That is because you have not been educated! Education may take work, but the benefits are worth it,” boasted the hearty chicken.

Just then, the farmer clanged his triangle and all the chickens darted for the coop where they frenzied to peck for the corn he had left.

“That's it! That's the ringing!” exclaimed the chicken. “I must be off.”

The partridge remained obscured in the tall grasses and watched in horror. His friend the chicken, flapping and clucking madly, was snatched up by the farmer who quelled her panic with a single sharp twist.

Chickens not so well educated would have acted more wisely. (Burke)

The Farmer, The Desert Island, and the Gull.

A farmer, while traveling by boat to visit a distant dying sibling, got caught in a storm. The storm heaved the ship high atop a wave and dashed it down against an exposed rock, smashing it to bits. When the storm had cleared, the farmer awoke on a desert island with nothing save his clothes and a bag of seeds he intended as a gift for his sibling's family.

The island was small, just a few hundred feet across, and contained nothing, except for sand and one large rocky mound which, thankfully, provided some shade from the deadly heat.

At first, the farmer despaired and accepted the death that by all rights would soon come. But then it rained, and the farmer noticed that the rainwater collected in small divots that pocked the stony mound. “It rains frequently in these seas, I should have water for some time. Now only to fish for food.”

But fishing proved impossible. The farmer's sandals had been lost and all around the island were jagged rocks that sliced his feet to walk upon.

With nothing left to do, the farmer ate one of his seeds and planted the rest in the barren sand, stating “These will not grow in this sand, but I have nothing to lose. And besides, farming is all I know.”

The next day, the farmer awoke to the sight of a gull pecking at the sand where the seeds had been planted. Wasting no time, the farmer stripped off his breeches, crept up as quietly he could on the soft muting sand, and flung the clothes over the gull, ensnaring it. Once caught, the farmer got hold of the gull and twisted its neck, killing it. Next, using the gull's own beak, he skinned and sliced its body, cured its meat with brackish water, and dried it in the sun to jerky.

After a meal of gull jerky, the farmer said to himself “Well, I guess my planting bore a crop after all”.

With no reason to hope comes the freedom to be unreasonable.

The Philosopher and The Fool.

One sunny day, shortly after a war had torn through the country, one citizen decided to walk through the city to see what remained standing. It was on this walk that he encountered a most peculiar scene: a fellow citizen seemed to be chewing off his own hand.

“Ho there,” greeted the first citizen, “what, by the gods, are you doing?”

“I should think,” replied the second citizen, “that it is quite obvious. I am separating my hand from my arm by the action of chewing.”

“Your actions are evident enough. What I lack,” pushed the first citizen,” is the reason why. Why are you mutilating yourself thusly?”

“I have heard,” explained the second,” that animals caught in traps will sometimes chew off their limbs in order to secure freedom. I have recently lost everything, and I feel an additional loss as to what to do now. I am trapped up in the jaws of indecision and sorrow, knowing not the worth of what might follow this catastrophe.”

“But... but...” insisted the first, “animals do this with a physical trap, such as a rope snare or a metal vice...”

“Ah, you are mistaken,” rebutted the second, “for there is no such thing as a physical trap. All traps are metaphysical.”

In a man's pocket was a coin. This man owned next-to-nothing else – just the coin and the clothes on his back. At times, through luck alone, he found himself well fed or sleeping in a warm and dry place. But most of the time he huddled hungry and out in the open, clutching the coin through the chilling nights, squeezing it tight in his fist.

He never spent the coin, and when a bit of extra cash came his way he made sure to keep it separate from his coin. Even when near starving he would not part with the coin for the bread that might save him from death. Instead, he would roll the coin over the tops of his his fingers, back and forth, so that it caught the light and flashed on each rotation, his eyes fixed on it, until hunger subsided.

On warm days, he would walk by the shops on main street and look at what he could get for his coin: perhaps a modest but sturdy set of new clothes; maybe an ample supply of groceries; or how about a ticket for a long voyage? After such a day, having purchased nothing, he would head out to the edge of the woods and sleep easy under the stars. “The wilderness hasn't claimed me yet,” he would think before his eyes closed.

Years passed this way.

A war broke out and, when it was over, the town came under new rule. The old currency was banned and a new currency minted. When the man learned of this change, he took up the coin in his hand and kissed the worn smoothness of its surface, and, as tears welled in his smiling eyes, he tossed the coin into the gutter.

A shopkeeper, who witnessed this scene, approached the man and asked “If you had this coin, why did you not spend it when you had the chance?”

To which the man replied, “If I'd have spent it, it would have simply been gone. The clothes it purchased would have worn way, food it afforded would have been eaten, the voyage come and gone.”

Having said these words he left the streets of his town and entered into the woods, where he soon died.

The two cubes of sugar.

There were two cubes of sugar wondering what to do with their sweetness. One cube thought, “I am so delicious, I want to share my sweetness as widely as I can.” This cube, spying a tub of water from which the animals drank, leapt into it, where it promptly dissolved. And indeed, animals drank the water and each thought “hmm, this water is a little better today.”

The other cube then thought: “I could do the same as my sibling, but I will not. Once dissolved I would no longer be the well formed cube I am. Better that I end up the prize of a single tongue, that I might be known and loved as my true sweet self, than to end up watered down for the vague enjoyment of many.”

The Coin and the Sculptor.

A sculptor fell into a rut and could not decide what form to reveal in a block of marble. From the sculptor's pocket, a coin was pulled, and the sculptor whined: “Coin! I envy your decisiveness. I can toss you into the air and you always make a decision, heads or tails. This marble, on the other hand, torments me with its possibilities!”

“The case,” replied the coin, “is not so simple as you make it seem. For I do not always decide on heads or tails, but occasionally on my edge. What happens then? I roll away, usually into some unseen place, often never to be recovered. At least your choices stay where you can see them.”

Apparent dichotomies ignore real possibilities.

The Sunflower and the Sky.

A sunflower, late in its life, just as the chilling tendrils of frost began to coil around its body, shook in the wind and let loose its petals — tears of sorrow, but also of gratitude to the sky, to whom the flower credited its life.

“Oh sky!” exhorted the sunflower, “Long before my seed sprouted did your magisterial dramas unfold across the infinity of your stage, and long after my shoots atrophy to dust will you continue. Your shining rays gave me life, your sapid rains nourished my bloom, and I followed in deepest admiration your glowing heart each and every day, from the moment my shoots breached the earth. Oh sky! I am nothing compared to you.”

“My my, such a speech,” replied a bemused sky,” but you give yourself too little credit. I merely glow, as I always have; and I merely rain down, as I always have. It is no trick for fire to blaze, nor for water to fall. You, on the other hand, were the one who grew from the smallest homely seed into a dazzling disk of gold, aspiring ever higher.”

“But!” insisted the sunflower “I would not be possible without you to reach towards.”

“That may be,” rejoined the sky,” but you'll notice that all the rocks around you received from me the same gifts of light and rain, and not one of them budged even so much as an inch.”

The stone and the clam

A stone passed a century at the bottom of a riverbed, at rest while the world whipped by through the water flowing overhead.

One day, a clam lodged itself up against the stone, where it could take a break from the endless toil of feeding itself and hiding from predators. The clam then commented, “Thank you stone, for letting me settle away from the constant pull of the river's current, I was in need of a break.”

“You are most welcome, do stay as long as you like” rejoined the stone.

Soon, however, the clam grew hungry once more, and set out to make its way downstream. Before it left, it spoke “Stone, you and I are much alike. We are hard, smooth, and rounded, and we spend our days in the river's bed. But, how do you manage to stay put for so long. I've been here only a short while, and now feel the need to be off again.”

“First,” recounted the stone, “you were tired, and so you rested. And then your hunger made you restless to be on the move again. This should give you your answer.”

Only a stone is without need.