Friday Fable: Aesop’s “THE FOX AND THE CROW”

Posted by jlubans on October 16, 2014

Caption: Illustration by Milo Winter (1886-1956).

“A Crow was sitting on a branch of a tree with a piece of cheese in her beak when a Fox observed her and set his wits to work to discover some way of getting the cheese. Coming and standing under the tree he looked up and said, ‘What a noble bird I see above me! Her beauty is without equal, the hue of her plumage exquisite. If only her voice is as sweet as her looks are fair, she ought without doubt to be Queen of the Birds.’ The Crow was hugely flattered by this, and just to show the Fox that she could sing she gave a loud caw. Down came the cheese, of course, and the Fox, snatching it up, said, ‘You have a voice, madam, I see: what you want is wits.’"

“Flattery will get you everywhere”, sayeth the moralist. Or, as another Aesopist has it: “The flatterer lives at the expense of those who will listen to him.” To add another twist to this classic fable, is for the crow to proclaim - dog-in-manger-like - that the cheese is moldy. But, that would be messing with this fable’s simple truth. Consider the source of the praise. Can you trust the source? Might the praise be used to take away something you value? When I interviewed maestra conductor Simone Young, I asked her if she read her reviews – at the time she was riding a wave of popularity where she could not “put a foot wrong”. “No.” She explained: “If I read the good ones, I’d feel obligated to read the bad ones.”
That’s probably an effective way to keep praise in its place. She was not implying she was closed to feedback; she was just not going to be swayed by overly critical adulation or depreciation. She told me that, at the time, one of her most influential observers was her teen-age daughter. A thumbs up or down from that unvarnished source had meaning.

*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.

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Leading from the Middle Library of the Week: Wayne State University Libraries, Detroit, MI, USA

One more time to crow: My Fulbright Specialist Program grant award is official. Quoting from the October 16, 2014 Fulbright press release:
“John Lubans, Jr., an Independent Scholar, has been selected for a Fulbright Specialists project in Riga, Latvia, at the University of Latvia, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Information and Library Studies during 2014, according to the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
Lubans will be teaching a 6 week class: “Democracy in the Workplace: Self-Managing Teams & Managing Self.”
Lubans is one of over 400 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad this year through the Fulbright Specialists Program. The Fulbright Specialists Program, created in 2000 to complement the traditional Fulbright Scholar Program provides short-term academic opportunities (two to six weeks) to prominent U.S. faculty and professionals to support curricular and faculty development and institutional planning at post secondary, academic institutions around the world.” Cock-a-doodle-do!

@Copyright John Lubans 2014

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