All religions bring with them a series of stories/parables designed to illustrate lessons that help us grasp essential truths. We often think of these fables as being works of the past and granted, the myths of old all hold wisdom critial to the human condition.
Just as science has never stopped and human development has never stopped and miracles have never stopped, so have the stories that give us lessons in the form of allegories stopped.
Consider these fables, borrowed from many different sources, new and old, designed to give us something to think about:
The Little Bird, The Cow and The Cat
Little bird was enjoying a flight in the the last rays of warmth for the day before settling down into his cozy nest for the night. As he dove and swooped across the sky, he noticed a flock of birds flying as though the devil himself was at their tail feathers.
“HEY!” he called. “Where are you going?”
“We’re flying south,” they called over their wings. “Winter’s coming and we have to be in South America before it hits!”
Little bird was puzzled. This was his first winter and he hadn’t heard of such things. “Why would you do that?” he asked.
“It’s going to get colder yet!” they called. “There’ll be no food! Now hurry or you won’t make it!”
Little bird waved them good-bye and considered what they’d said. He’d felt cold before in the dark of night and it wasn’t really that bad. He always just nestled further into his nest and fluffed his feathers around him and was fine. No food? With all of the other birds gone, there’d be plenty of food for him! Flying long distances was hard work and he’d fare much better staying behind! His mind was made up.
He was right, for a while. Little bird was living high on the land with the other birds down south. There was plenty to eat in the dying fields and the bugs were slow from the cold. He lay back in his nest, fat and happy, laughing at the silly birds who had gone south.
The next morning, he wasn’t laughing. He awoke to freezing rain pelting down on his nest, rudely awakening him from his restless sleep. It was c*o*l*d. He shuddered and pulled his feathers closely around him, but he still could not shake off the chill that permeated his little bones. Shit. He had to get south and get there fast. He took flight, trying without success to fly above the rain clouds. The higher he got, the colder it got. He felt ice forming on his wings and he panicked as he began a downward spiral. He hit the ground hard.
It was Little Bird’s darkest hour. Or so he thought. As he lay there on the frozen ground, the icy rain pelting onto him, he stared up at the gray skies and asked for help, from somewhere, anywhere. Unbeknownst to him, Little Bird had landed smack in the middle of a cow pasture. Old Bossy Cow was feeling quite an urge and she was making her way through the sleet and rain and let go with a pie of epic proportions, which landed, ripe and steaming, right onto Little Bird.
“Fine,” he thought. “Just fine. As if injury was not enough, now he had a hot pile of insult all over him. As Little Bird lay, defeated, in the pile of cow shit, he found, to his surprise, that the heat from the cow plop was thawing out his wings. (?!) His tiny bones and muscles soaked up the warmth and soon he was feeling just fine again. It was a miracle…the very one he’d asked the heavens to send. He was so overjoyed, that he began to sing, “Oh Happy Day! Oh Happy Day!”
In the barn, not far away, Old Tabby Cat was curled up in a pile of hay, dreaming of spring when the birds would return and he would have warm food instead of cold, hard Friskies. Suddenly, his ears perked and his head shot up. “What? Could it be??” Curious, he padded out of the barn and cocked his head. “HA!” Evidently, some bird had NOT flow south. What could it have been thinking? He rushed out into the rain to investigate. He came upon Little Bird, singing for all he was worth from the middle of a pile of cow shit. Old Tabby Cat did not let his puzzlement keep him from swinging into action.
“Pssst,” he said, “Little Bird, what are you doing in that pile of cow shit?”
Little Bird laughed. “I was DYING here in the icy rain and that cow over there saved me! It was amazing!”
“Wow. That is absolutely fascinating,” OTC purred. But I can’t help but notice that you are covered in cow shit now. Can I lend a hand? Let me pull you out and help you get cleaned up. Then you can really enjoy your new lease on life!”
Little Bird was jubilant. Not only had he been saved from the jaws of death in a most unexpected way, but he’d been helped again by a most unlikely source. He reached out his wing and OTC hoisted him onto his back, grimacing at the still warm cow plop droppings that were sinking into his fur. Little Bird rode the cat back to the barn, where he was taken to the horse stables. The bodies of many of the large animals had made this part of the barn the warmest and Little Bird happily dove into a puddle of water and began washing his wings. After he was perfectly clean, OTC helped him settle down into the warm hay until he was perfectly dry. Little Bird settled into a comfy sleep, whereupon, Old Tabby Cat promptly ate him.
The Moral of the Story:
*Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.
*Not everyone who helps you is your friend.
*If you are warm and happy in a pile of shit, keep your mouth closed.
Note: The next two are probably pretty familiar to you.
Bob and the Flood
Bob was quite a devout follower of his spiritual path and people frequently remarked on how much faith he always had that everything would turn out…and it always did. People looked to Bob is a crisis and he was there, assuring them that God would provide. He always did and Bob became something of a spiritual icon in the community.
Then came the flood, and it was a doozie. It rained in torrents and the water rose for days. Families grabbed their prized possessions and went for higher ground with only the die hards remaining. The Red Cross was called in to ensure the safe evacuation of the town. As they went door to door with their high profile vehicles to escort people out of town, they came across Bob.
“No,” he smiled. “You go ahead. God will save me.”
They tried to persuade him to go with them, but he was steadfast, even as the water was soaking his carpets. He assured him he’d be fine. Everyone again admired Bob’s stalwart faith. As the flood waters rose, Bob happily climbed to the top floor of his home and watched out the window as a few of his neighbors floated by in canoes and on hastily fashioned rafts, clinging to the few prized possessions they could salvage.
“C’mon, Bob!” they called. “Room for one more. The waters are rising.”
“No worries!” Bob smiled and waved. “God will save me. Best of luck to you!” The waters continued to rise and Bob made his way to the roof. “Closer even to heaven!” he thought. A newsman in a helicopter could not believe that someone was actually on top of his house in the flood! He had the pilot go in closer and drop the ladder.
“Grab the ladder!” he called. “We’ll hoist you up!”
“It’s OK!” Bob called. “I’ll be fine. God will save me. Get great footage!”
The newsman tried to convince Bob that the water was raising rapidly, but Bob was steadfast in his fait. The newsman got great footage of Bob drowning.
When he got to heaven, Bob was utter confused and downtrodden. “How could You DO this?” he asked God. “How could You let this happen? I had absolute faith in You and You let me die!”
God was aghast. “Bob,” He said. “I sent you a four-by-four. I sent you a boat and I even sent you a helicopter. What more did you want? How stupid are you?”
The Moral of the Story:
*Miracles do not always take the form you expect, so be alert
*Disqualify none of your options for success
*Faith and stupidity are not synonymous
Joe and the Lottery
Joe had worked for his company for twenty-seven years and was three years from a nice pension package. He was something of the Old Grey Dog in his company and prided himself with having weathered any number of layoffs, his seniority protecting him while others came and went. Joe was the one constant as a changing economy shifted and realigned the company around him. When anyone wanted to know the real deal about gossip around the workplace or where to find this part or that Operating Instruction, they came to Joe. He knew the job of everyone in the company inside and out and had worked most of them on his way up the chain to head foreman. He was well respected and instantly, newcomers knew that he was the backbone of the crew. It seemed like Joe had the inside track on everything in the company and not much escaped his eagle eye and ear to the ground. What did get past him was that the company was declaring bankruptcy. Joe was let go very suddenly, very unexpectedly. He was assured that with his skills and the exemplary letter of recommendation he would receive from the company, he would be hired on elsewhere in no time.
He wasn’t. His paltry severance package was depleted as soon as the mortgage on the small home he and wife shared came due. They ate rice and beans and made endless calls to the utility companies to try and arrange to have their heat stay on.
Each night, Joe prayed. If he could only win the lottery, all would be well. He could retire and finally rest. He could stay home with his wife and lead a life of leisure after so many years of trading in his hours for a handful of dimes. He saw it happen all the time. Ordinary people, much like himself, won the lottery and were millionaires in a split moment. He prayed and prayed, enflaming himself in prayer. Winning the lottery would solve all of his problems.
One night, as he knelt to pray, the light from his little oil lamp began to intensify until was engulfed in a brilliant light. He squinted against it and quaked with fear as he heard the voice of The Lord all around him.
“Joe! What are you doing, Joe?” The Lord asked.
“Lord,” Joe said, falling to his knees. “I have been asking you for months now to help me win the lottery. You see my despair and need. You know what I’ve gone through. Please, Lord. I have to win that lottery!”
“Joe,” the Lord said patiently, “I’ve heard your pleas for all of these months. I’ve seen your despair.”
“Then Lord, you have to help me. You have to let me win that lottery.”
“Joe,” the Lord said, softly. “You have to buy a ticket, Joe.”
The Moral of the Story:
*You don’t get something for nothing.
*Deity will not do it all; you have to do your part as well.
*Don’t just sit back and wait for the miracle, keep moving in the meantime!
Don’t Save the Drowning Man
By some means or another, Aphrodite had managed to lose favor with Demeter and had, as a result, lost her Goddess powers and been rendered as helpless as a mere human. She was desperate to win back her powers and approached Demeter, asking how she might seek to atone for her misdeeds. Demeter arched one eyebrow and considered the request, knowing that she had a difficult task she needed performed and thought perhaps they might strike a deal.
“Fine,” Demeter said. “I have a deal for you. In this box,” she pulled out an ornate box that glowed from the inside, “is The Essence of True Love. I took it from you when you were rendered powerless and my daughter, Persephone, is in the Underworld and needs it. She is with her husband for the next 6 months and left too quickly to take it with her. If she does not have true love for her husband, her stay will be unbearable. If you will take The Essence of True Love to my daughter in the Underworld, I will reinstate your Goddess Powers.”
“But it will take weeks to get to the Underworld without my Goddess Powers!” Aphrodite argued. “How can I do that?”
“Hey,” Demeter shrugged. “You came to me, Babe. Take it or leave it.”
Aphrodite considered the offer. “Fine. I’ll do it. Give me the box.”
Demeter carefully handed her the precious box. “Now remember,” she cautioned, “You hold The Essence of True Love in your hands. If you aren’t careful, it could be lost to the world forever.”
“I’ll be careful,” Aphrodite assured her.
“Another warning,” Demeter said. “You have one rule to follow as you travel and that is that you must not save the drowning man.”
“Wha?” Aphrodite asked.
“That’s all,” Demeter said, “Do not save the drowning man. Now off with you. Every moment you tarry, my daughter spends an unbearable moment with a man she does not love.”
Aphrodite set about her task. She traveled for many days, making her way to the Underworld. On her way, she met a young human man named Galwarth who was on a similar task. His job was to take a message to the Boatman of the River Styx. They traveled together for quite some time and Aphrodite found herself warming to him. Together, they laughed and talked and his presence made the trip much more enjoyable. Just before they reached the River Styx, her traveling companion regretfully took his leave and promised to meet up with her later. He had to take care of a side job before approaching The Boatman and embraced her warmly as he left. Aphrodite took the night to rest and later the next day, reached the River Styx. The Boatman took her across and she made her way through the Underworld to where she would find Persephone to deliver The Essence of True Love. As she picked her way through the murky swamp, grimacing at the mud that lapped her feet, she was surprised to hear her name called. As she squinted in the poor light, she was shocked to see Galwarth struggling in the depths of a tide pool in obvious distress. He must have traveled while she slept and arrived before her! She sat down The Essence of True Love and tried to make her way through the muck to get to him. As she walked, the mud became deeper and more cloying. She reached out as far as she could and still could not grasp his hand. If she could just go a little deeper into the mud or reach out a little further to him, she could save him. It seemed the further she reached, the further he sank into the tide pool and the more mired in the muck she bacame. Suddenly, Demeter’s words rang in her head. “Don’t save the drowning man!” She pulled up suddenly and knew what she had to do. Carefully, she made her way out of the muck.
“What are you doing?” Galwarth cried. “You can do it, just a little further!”
As she emerged from the mud, which was now covering her lower half, Aphrodite pushed the tears from her eyes with her muddied hands. “I’m sorry,” she said. “You’ll have to save yourself. I can’t do it for you.” She walked back to where she had set down the box containing The Essence of True Love. The glow that had been so vibrant before was barely visible, but it intensified as she picked it up again.
With tears still in her eyes, she wished him well and walked on without looking back. As she walked, the glow of The Essence of True Love became nearly blinding. She found Persephone and presented her with her mother’s gift. Persephone opened the box and The Essence of True Love flooded the Underworld, pouring over Persephone, her husband, Aphrodite and the rest of the world.
She returned to Demeter and was given her Goddess Powers again and congratulated on a job well done. She never knew what became of Galwarth.
The Moral of the Story
*You can become so mired in the problems of others or trying to save them, that you, yourself can be sucked in and drown in their situation.
*If you collapse yourself into the world of and problems of your mate, The Essence of True Love can be lost forever.
*Ultimately, you have to allow others to save themselves, you cannot do it for them
*Stay on task if you are on a path to better yourself and do not let the drowning people around you pull you down with them.
The Duck and the Bartender
A duck walks into a bar and hops up on the stool. “What’ll it be?” the bartender asks.
“Have ya gots any woims?” the duck asks.
“Wha?” the bartender asks, puzzled.
“Woims. Ya know…they crawl in the ground, aerate the soil, are eaten by ducks…woims.”
“OH, you mean ‘worms.’ No, dude, I don’t have any worms.”
“Damn,” the duck says and walks out of the bar.
The next day, the duck comes back, “Have ya gots any woims?”
“Um, no, I don’t have any worms.”
This goes on for a week and the bartender is getting a bit frustrated with this duck coming in all the time and pestering him for worms. It was now Saturday night and he was having a terrible time of it. Already, 3 guys had been bounced out of the joint, he had 2 cocktail waitresses out sick, a full house and his liquor shipment hadn’t come in as scheduled so he was out of everything. Sure enough, here comes the duck.
“Has ya gots any woims?”
“NO, I don’t have any goddamned ‘woims’ and if you don’t get the fuck out of my bar, I’m going to nail your little flippered feet to the floor!”
The duck looked concerned, furrowed his duck brown, got off the barstool and toddled away.
The next night, the bartender is surprised to see the duck come on. The duck stairs at the guy for a few seconds, then says, “Ya gots any nails?”
The bartender quirks a smile, surprised at the change of venue. “No, dude, I gots no nails.”
The duck says, “Cool! Has ya gots any woims?”
The Moral of the Story
* If you put a bluff out there, be prepared for it to be called.
* Find a way to assess the danger as much as possible before proceeding.
Lugh at the Gate
Lugh (pronounced “Loo”) had been wandering the country for many years and finally decided it was time to put down roots, marry, raise a family and put his days of wanderlust behind him. He came to a mysterious city surrounded by a huge wall and wondered what kind of wondrous place would require such protection.
As he approached the wall, he saw a gate and a sign that said, “Ring bell to attempt entry.” He pulled on the thick rope and a giant bell clanged overhead. Almost instantly, a window opened in the gate and a stern face looked out on the weary traveler.
“We aren’t accepting any more citizens,” the voice said.
“What do you mean, you aren’t accepting any more citizens?” Lugh asked.
“I’m telling you that we have enough people in our fair city and we have no use for anyone else who isn’t born here. When we accept new citizens, they must have something to offer our wonderful community. We have everything now and you couldn’t possibly have anything to offer that would benefit us enough to let you in.”
Lugh thought about this for a moment, then said, “But you haven’t even let me try!”
The man behind the gate sighed heavily, “Fine. Impress me.”
Lugh said, “I’m a talented blacksmith.”
The gatekeeper yawned, “Got one.”
“I can bake wondrous sweets and breads!”
“Got a baker.”
“I can build beautiful structures: homes, barns, shops.”
“I can tell riveting stories about my travels.”
“Got a talespinner.”
“I can sing and play a lute!”
“Got a bard.”
“I can do magic.”
“Got a wizard.” And so it went on and on, with every skill Lugh could name already having representation in the city. Finally, the gatekeeper said, “AS you can see, we are well stocked with everything we need. Before you take up more of my time, I must bid you good day, sir.”
As he was closing the peephole window, Lugh stopped him and said, “Then I ask you consider this, sir. Do you have anything within these fine walls who can do ALL of those things?”
The gatekeeper thought for a moment…then he let him in…and the village made him their king.
The Moral of the Story
* Be discriminating…don’t let just anyone into your life. Consider carefully what pros and cons they bring into your relationship.
* Know your worth and be confident in your abilities.
The Snail and the Man
A guy hears a loud knocking at his door and opens it to find no one there. Irritated, he settles back down to watch the door a little longer and is frustrated to hear the insistent knocking start up again. The opens the door and is about to slam it closed again when he looks down and sees a snail on his welcome mat, looking up at him expectantly. The snail starts to say something, but the guy is pissed off and picks up the snail and hurls him across the street into the field beyond. He settles in to watch his ballgame undisturbed.
Three years later, he’s watching TV again and again hears the loud beating on the door. He opens it to find the snail there who says, “What the hell was that all about?”
The Moral of the Story
I’m sure there’s a moral here somewhere about being careful what you say and do because it will eventually come back around, but honestly, I just like the story.