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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Ant and the Grasshopper

by Aesop (620-560 BC).

In a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content.  An Ant walked by, grunting as he carried a plump kernel of corn.
"Where are you off to with that heavy thing?" asked the Grasshopper.
Without stopping, the Ant replied, "To our ant hill.  This is the third kernel I've delivered today."
"Why not come and sing with me," said the Grasshopper, "instead of working so hard?" 
"I am helping to store food for the winter," said the Ant, "and think you should do the same."

"Why bother about winter?" said the Grasshopper; "we have plenty of food right now."
But the Ant went on its way and continued its work.
The weather soon turned cold.  All the food lying in the field was covered with a thick white blanket of snow that even the grasshopper could not dig through.  Soon the Grasshopper found itself dying of hunger.

He staggered to the ants' hill and saw them handing out corn from the stores they had collected in the summer.
Then the Grasshopper knew:

It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.


This Aesop's fable has rung true many times in my life, but none more than it has since my green epiphany.  In my view this story has a much deeper meaning.  I feel that I am the ant, and much of the rampant consumerist society around us all, is the grasshopper.  The grasshoppers of today don't sing and dance, but spend on credit, and don't give a second thought about saving for the future or about future events like climate change, peak oil, and energy decent, to name a few.  They just party like it's 1999!

Will the proverbial grasshoppers of our time learn a valuable lesson before the hard times come?  How many will be knocking on the ant's door or will they just steal it all?  When those hard times are upon us, what will you be?  An Ant who prepares and saves, or a Grasshopper who wants to buy and inevitably gets everything they touch, but needs none of it?

I believe that humanity has partied like the grasshopper, so hard and for so long, that it has squandered much of the planets resources.  We have left a huge mess in our wake, and have left none for "days of necessity".  Now is the time to be frugal and wise like the ant.  I personally have found that living a simple life, and treading lightly on the planet can offer such great rewards that most of today's grasshoppers could never imagine.  How can they feel the sheer joy that goes with voluntary simplicity.  Complexity is a distant memory for me, with meaningful living here to stay.  The grasshopper in the story learnt a valuable lesson.  Work hard when required, and reap the rewards when the time comes.  Live within your means, and save for the future.  Simple really.

Look, don't get me wrong.  I am not trying to push any type of lifestyle on anyone and not trying to be preachy.  Make up your own mind, the choice is yours.  I am just making a comparison of today's social problems against a simple story written by a Greek slave more than two thousand five hundred years ago!

The story gives me hope that others will learn by example and will finally have an a-ha moment of their own.  If we can't learn from the moral from this story today, even during a financial downturn, then when can we? 


Green Gal said...

I remember reading this fable when I was little. I had a big book of children's stories and I vividly remember this one--I hadn't thought of it in many years, though. Great post! It makes me want to go read some more Aesop and find parallels to today's situation. :-)

MystikMomma said...

What a great story to illustrate what so many of us are trying to do, live in wholeness. It is telling to see how many young families are making the back to nature choices... maybe we are figuring it out little by little and this story just illustrates its importance!

Joshua said...

The irony of this story, to me, is that most grasshoppers don't live over the winter. The females lay eggs in the ground, and all of the adults die. In the spring, a new generation is born. So the grasshopper WAS storing up food, it was just storing it in the eggs that it would eventually lay.

The moral that I take from this fable is that each creature must be true to its inherent nature, and a strategy that works for one creature may be completely wasteful or counter-productive to another creature.

I don't mean to criticize your post, with which I totally agree. I've just always thought it funny that the fable overlooked the actual life-cycle of the real insects it was anthropomorphizing.

Rachael said...

What a fable that is. I hope many other people have a sudden realisation of how unstable our culture is, with all this spending. I had an epiphany while watching hotel Rwanda- not a movie about climate change but I suddenly thought that I needed to think more about how we live and reduce our impact on the rest of the world.

thesimplepoppy said...

I was writing about this too! How insane it is in this culture that it is considered normal to buy something large without even checking once to see if you will be able to afford it. A really great post.

Simple in France said...

There is a lot of this kind of behavior today on the part of individuals and governments! I get annoyed at it too, but I doubt I'd be able to tell people who spent unwisely that I wouldn't help if I had a means to do it. That said, there aren't very many ants to go around. . .

Mia @ agoodhuman said...

I love Aesop's fables and read them all as a kid. This one has been popping up more and more in recent months in blogs or podcasts I frequent. The meme is spreading and it's exciting.

Gavin said...

Thanks to one and all for your kind words. I too read this fable when I was a child, and remembered its lesson well into adulthood.

I see more and more people around me preparing like the ant every year, by storing produce for winter and living their lives with purpose. Being prepared is the motto of this decade!


Sense of Home said...

As a Children's Libraian I am quite familiar with this fable and I think there is a lot to be learned from Aesop's fables.

Meagan @ecoMILF said...

I think the moral to take from this story is not so much the person with the biggest stockpile wins, but that we all need to be held more accountable for our sustenance and livelihood. Things like taking seeds from the garden, knowledge of local and native flora and fauna, reusing and repurposing items around the house so we don't need to buy new ones and other similar such skills that have been lost in the last couple generations are important to relearn and pass on to our children to prepare them on a holistic level for whatever the future holds.

Thanks for the post Gavin. xo m.

Cosmic said...

ice one Gavin - I'll share it on facebook.

Anonymous said...

Nothing much changes then. The few honest workers still spend their time stockpiling (saving, investing in pensions) for the reckless to make fast and loose with the proceeds. Now, would the grasshoppers really wait to be offered things after a lifetime of having whatever they desired? I won't be banking on it.