Remember Aeosop’s fable? The ants scurry to get the grain dried for the winter and the grasshopper is making music. When it gets colder and grasshopper asks them for some food, they respond, “haven’t you stored anything away for the winter? What in the world were you doing all last summer? The Grasshopper answers, I was making music. To which they replied, “making music were you? Very well then, dance! And they turned their backs on the grasshopper and went on with their work”
Aesop had it all wrong. He wrote this as a morality tale elevating hard work, efficiency, nose to the grindstone, collective survival, food only for those who work, reward for the industrious ones.
In these times of quarantine, stress, disorientation about the present and the future, I offer a new telling of the story, based on La Fontaine. For the ants, read the part of the psyche that scurries around to survive, solve problems, plan. Read also the internal pressure to make the most of this time, be creative, connect with others, make the best of it, reach the goal of transformation, become a better person, a better parent, partner, rush from pillar to post to be efficient. That is part of the collective story we read on social media, and there is great truth to this, people are singing from balconies, sewing masks, doing good deeds, supporting, sustaining. Yay Ants! And…
One lovely summer day, grasshopper was sitting in the tall grass, fiddle in hand, lazily trailing notes, each note following the dandelion dander, the butterfly wing, the smell of the ripening tomatoes on the summer breeze. Grasshopper paid attention to everything around him, the drops of dew on the early morning flowers one day. The slow opening of the blossoms ready to receive the bees. Day after day, grasshopper drank in the world and stored it in the fiddle. Day after day, grasshopper watched the ants scurry from seed to seed, turning each one as the sun dried them to perfection, then took them down in the ground to store for the winter. The ants were in the fiddle too.
Came late fall and winter. Came the time to burrow into the ground, escape the predators waiting to pounce and dessicate the soul. Came the time that grasshopper no longer found discarded seeds or warm sun. Grasshopper took the fiddle filled with the music of the summer, the days spent drinking in the world and went down to the ants.
This is what grasshopper saw: ants nibbling at seeds, not with joy, but to dull some hunger that could not be sated. Ants listless. Ants gray. And grasshopper, forgetting his hunger for a moment, took the fiddle and played the many moments of sitting still, the fragrance of summer, the warmth of the sun, stillness and awe, and the sweet sounds of ants scurrying about, working one with another, fiddled the strong throng of ants moving with purpose. Grasshopper fiddled the summer into the dark cave filled with food but no song. When grasshopper finished, one by one, ants brought seeds and gratitude. They lived together all winter those friends, and when summer came again, as it always does, the ants would pass by grasshopper drinking in the summer and would carry seeds with a lighter heart.
Today, tonight, this day, this week, this month, this year: More grasshopper consciousness, more time to drink in the world without purpose, more time to be compassionate for the moments we cannot be creative, supportive, engaged. More time, more grasshopper time.
Dr. Silvia Behrend is a Certified Pattern Analyst, educator and mentor