Thursday, April 3, 2014

Feeling Antsy?

(Proverbs 6:6 Go to the ant thou sluggard, consider her ways and be...)

Atop a round table the ant was limited. It scuttled back and forth to various edges, repeating patterns, perhaps even sure each edge was anew, for were things not changed out there in the larger space by the time it went back east, or while it was heading south? And even on the table top things could get dangerous. Objects got placed in its way. The table itself trembled at times. It was difficult, being an ant. Or was it?

One easily anthropomorphizes ants. (One easily can give many things human attributes.) But what if the ant is an ant, fully, completely, entirely contained in its 'antness'? It does not long to be an elephant. It does not feel insecure and inadequate and 'less than'. It is 'ant', defined not by what it does, but by what it is. It seeks not its purpose in life. It does not see its taking up of a giant project, such as bridging a stream, or climbing a table, or carrying a leaf as 'ambitious'. It does these things because it can. It does not seek to fulfill needs (beyond the basic ones of food, drink, and shelter); it certainly may exercise preference. It yearns not for what it cannot have, though it may organize a highway from its hometown to some golden treasure of syrupy substance as a matter of pragmatism, rather than avarice. It lives to serve its community. It 'is'.

And being ant it is content. The other 'things' that it does merely makes life interesting. It spends a great deal of time checking around. It travels comparatively vast distances. It can get lost. It may experience anxiety about not being able to find its way back to the fold, but then again, perhaps it sees the very searching as something it is doing, independent of its essence of being an ant. It stays within its physical limitations. It does not leap off that table. It does not attack...

Well, not every ant is harmless. There are red ants that will even grab up onto your bicycle tires when you ride through them and they will somehow fly through the air and land on you, and get in your hair and in your ears and even bite you in your, well, down there. Red ants are horrid to observe. They march in giant carpets and do not go around things; they scramble over them, devouring chickens and goats and... Well, they are horridly voracious. And then there are the giant black Matabele ants. They have these big sentry specimens with pincers that can feel like alien needles being jabbed into your finger, or into the buttocks. And they certainly are most alarming. We also have flying ants that come barreling out of their nest just before it rains. They have these elongated bodies like miniature hornets and they whirl into the sky, frightening children, and bashing up against indoor screens. (Or is it screens to keep them outdoors?)

We think seldom about ants. And yet we will set traps for them, spray them, stamp on them, flick them across a table, squish them, and even step carelessly through their columns. Yet though they may scurry away, and halt up, and curl up and die, I doubt that they desire anything other than to be an ant. I doubt that they suffer the indignities of apportionment and rank. One is the Queen. Another the sentry. Most are born workers. And I doubt that there is a psychologist or a teacher or a pilot or a comedian among them, at least, not that he or she holds sway over others as such; if so, it is merely a function of its being an ant, entirely a matter of course, entirely as a matter of its innate existence. Yet surely they share in-house jokes, or swap special memes of esoteric knowledge.

Hierarchies and Evolution and the Bell Curve, and Psychogeometrics and Spiral Dynamics and Maslow and Bloom and Kohlberg and Gregoric and even Anagram Theory is not the ilk of the ant; it simply is. And the world unfolds as it will. As such, when we go the ant and consider her ways in terms of the collective contribution to the health of the whole (which really comes down to its serving its very own group,) harvesting and gathering and foraging in a timely manner, it is its 'happiness' in being what it is while doing what it does that might best be emulated; what it does is what it does while it is. Yes? Now then, mightn't we be as such too? Or are we not ants?

The Afrikaans joke?
Ek sal julle vertel (I shall you tell) maar dit bly (but it stays) tussen hierde vier (between these four) miere (ants).
Yet ‘walls’ in Afrikaans is pronounced exactly like ‘miere’ (ants), but is spelt ‘mure’ (walls). Insert another ant into the picture and the joke makes no sense, ha! A pithy play on words and sound.

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