Friday, September 26, 2008

Grasshoppers & Ants

Remember the old fable about the grasshopper and the ants? The grasshopper fiddled and frivoled away his summer while the ants struggled to prepare for winter. And when winter came….

I noted when I lived in Pence, in the great north woods, that people there were like the ants of the fable, spending most of their spring and summer planting and tending gardens, their falls in harvesting and canning and cutting and stockpiling wood, all in preparation for winter.

But overall, there appear to be far more grasshoppers in the world than ants.
Man, it is said, is the only creature with a concept of the future. Yet how many humans actually do much if anything to act on this concept? Most of the world seems to operate on a day-to-day basis, with only the most general of thoughts as to any specifics of what the future beyond the next few days might hold. Goals tend to be more ethereal than solid.

And how many give any thought to posterity? To who will remember them when they are gone? With most of the world’s population being heterosexual, posterity takes care of itself in the form of one’s children. But, as was discussed in another blog some time ago, most individuals are lost to time within four generations. (What do you know about your great grandparents? What kind of people were they? What made them laugh? What gave them pleasure? So very many… lives (and not only in the physical sense…lost forever. The thought that this will happen to me makes me infinitely sad.
I suppose in a way it is just as well that the vast bulk of humanity never gives much if any thought to these things. Life is confusing enough as it is, and six billion people devoting too much time asking unanswerable questions and pondering the imponderable would make getting anything else done or just moving from day to day even more difficult than it already is. Man is an animal, after all, and even though he has the ability to contemplate the future, he seldom uses it. So most men (and women) live and die just the same as every other animal lives and dies, unaware of the possibilities around them and simply accepting their lives on face value. They are in effect grasshoppers, blithely going about living in the now and neither knowing nor caring what lies ahead. They’ll deal with it when it comes. Kind of nice, in a way. And that is fine…for them.

For me, there is not enough time to explore everything that cries out to be explored, to learn everything I’d love to know, to work on correcting my vast store of imperfections, to be able to spend the time I’d like to spend with friends and relatives, let alone meet everyone I would love to meet, to read all the books and see all the movies and go all the places I would love to go. My ego demands these things as my right. I’m like Joshua, the five-year old boy in my Dick Hardesty books, being dragged through a supermarket wanting everything that strikes his eye and being firmly told he can’t have it.

And as I wrote that last sentence it occurred to me that one of my greatest problems is my inability to accept things the way they are. I never have and never will. It is why I am an ant and not a grasshopper.

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