Friday Fable. Aesop’s “THE ANT”*

Posted by jlubans on December 13, 2013

20131213-The ant.jpg
Caption: Ant-evolution.
“Ants were once men and made their living by tilling the soil. But, not content with the results of their own work, they were always casting longing eyes upon the crops and fruits of their neighbours, which they stole, whenever they got the chance, and added to their own store. At last their covetousness made Jupiter so angry that he changed them into Ants. But, though their forms were changed, their nature remained the same: and so, to this day, they go about among the cornfields and gather the fruits of others' labour, and store them up for their own use.”
“You may punish a thief, but his bent remains.”

Usually ants are presented as industrious little devils, hard working (but uncharitable, if you ask the grasshopper in Aesop’s most famous fable.) I use the NOVA DVD, Ants - Little Creatures Who Run the World, by Edward O. Wilson in my class to demonstrate self-organizing concepts. As you may know, there is no boss in the ant world.
The behavior, in the DVD, of the army ants and their pillaging of their neighbors repelled many students. Humans, they admitted, can be pretty bad, but the ants don’t seem much better.
Dr. Wilson does seem to see the so-called “selflessness” of the ant as somehow superior to the selfishness of the human. Ants, for Professor Wilson, will survive long after humans have destroyed each other. He presents mankind’s challenge – if we are to survive - as an eternal paradox: “a tension between individuality and self-serving, on the one side, and the needs of the society on the other.”

*Source: AESOP'S FABLES A NEW TRANSLATION BY V. S. VERNON JONES WITH AN INTRODUCTION By G. K. CHESTERTON AND ILLUSTRATIONS BY ARTHUR RACKHAM (Publisher: London: W. Heinemann; New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1912).
Available at Gutenberg.

N.B. Leading from the Middle on the blogosphere:
Stephanie Gross's review of Leading from the Middle: “five of five stars”; “Excellent suggestions. A fabulous guidebook for employees of every rank and file,” appeared in Good Reads, March 2013.


Copyright John Lubans 2013

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