Posted by jlubans on February 26, 2020  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Illustration by Charles Livingston Bull, 1915

An Owl, who was sitting in a hollow tree, dozing away a long summer afternoon, was much disturbed by a rogue of a Grasshopper, singing in the grass below.
So far from moving away at the request of the Owl, or keeping quiet, the Grasshopper sang all the more, saying that honest people got their sleep at night.
The Owl waited in silence for a while, and then artfully addressed the Grasshopper thus: "I suppose I ought to be angry with you, my dear, for I confess I would rather sleep than listen to your singing.
But if one cannot be allowed to sleep, it is something to be kept awake by such a pleasant little pipe as yours.
And now it occurs to me that I have some delicious nectar with which to reward a musician who sings so sweetly.
If you will take the trouble to come up, you shall have a drop. It will clear your voice nicely."
The silly Grasshopper came hopping up to the Owl, who at once caught and killed him, and so finished her nap in comfort.

C. L. Bull’s beguiling illustration caught my eye and prompted me to reprise this fable. My first version dates back to April of 2014.
Stickney’s adaptation of this story is faithful to earlier editions. But, he adds a new twist; an implied insult from the singer that honest people get their sleep only at night.
Sometimes annoying someone bigger than yourself may end in your destruction.
The Owl out-foxes the sad sack grasshopper and gains an afternoon snack.

*Source: Aesop's Fables by Jenny H. Stickeny, illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull, published in 1915.


Caxton’s Of the Bee and of Iupiter

Posted by jlubans on February 13, 2020  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption:Only $20 per bottle.from the Fableist Wine Co.

Now the euyl which men wysshe to other /
cometh to hym whiche wyssheth hit /
as hit appiereth by this fable /
of a Bee whiche offred and gaf to Iupyter a pyece of hony / wherof Iupyter was moche Ioyous /
And thenne Iupyter sayd to the bee /
demaunde of me what thow wylt /
and I shalle graunte and gyue hit to the gladly /
And thenne the Bee prayd hym in this manere /
God almyghty I pray the that thow wylt gyue to me and graunte /
that who so euer shal come for to take awey my hony /
yf I pryke hym /
he may sondenly deye /
And by cause that Iupyter loued the humayn lygnage he sayd to the Bee /
Suffyse the /
that who so euer shalle goo to take thy hony /
yf thow pryke or stynge hym /
Incontynent thow shalt deye /
And thus her prayer was tourned to her grete dommage /
For men ought not to demaunde of god /
but suche thynges that ben good and honest

I wrote about a "different version of this fable in 2013 but the moral was similar: “Evil wishes, like fowls, come home to roost.”
Yet, the bee remains as mankind’s “greatest friend” among the insects. Bees gives us not only honey (and all of its curative properties) they pollinate our fruits and vegetables. If a bee is cranky, leave it be.
Give it some space, don’t crowd it. If she lands on you, let her explore. She will only buzz a bit and then be off.
She may fly back to the hive and do her waggle dance, advising other bees not to bother with you; you are neither sweet nor suitable for a swarm.
As for this fable’s point, pray, if you must, for what is good and honest not something to injure others. Still true to this day.

* Source: The fables of Aesop, as first printed by William Caxton in 1484, with those of Avian, Alfonso and Poggio, now again edited and induced by Joseph Jacobs
by Aesop; Caxton, William, ca. 1422-1491; Jacobs, Joseph, 1854-1916

“You Know Your Leadership!”

Posted by jlubans on February 02, 2020  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: “You know your history.”

Our Cretan guide, it appeared had had a few too many pints, the night before, of the villainous national wine, retsina.
When explaining an archeological site in the fiercely bright Aegean sun, I’d see her wince and then take a short cut with “Oh well, you know your history” and hurry us along to the next site only to get another truncated history lesson.
It’s how I feel at times when I try to explain what I teach in my class, Leadership and Literature. If I am not misinterpreting, the listener’s eyes glaze over all too quickly as I delve into how I entwine the two notions and theories.
Sensing this, I cut it short with “Well, you know your leadership.”
Yes, you do.
We all hold some ideas – however loose and paradoxical – about leadership. Hundreds of books come out each year trying to define and proselytize a particular theory.
There’s the weighty tome used at one of the service academies re what great thinkers have to say about the topic. I crack it open now and then and marvel at the variety and the multiple definitions. Indeed, it is another doorstopper Norton anthology just like the ones I had to buy and scan in literature classes.
Frankly, the definite book on leadership has yet to be written. Yet, like pornography, we all know it when we see it. Or, maybe better, we know when it is absent, when it fails, when it goes AWOL. Isn’t organizational failure almost always attributed to poor leadership?
There are formulas, there are lists. There are even unlists, e.g. mine for the unboss..
Then there’s ye olde POSDCORB, aka L. Gulick’s “Functions of the Executive”.

POSDCORB, the predominant model of what passes as leadership in 95% of our organizations neither implies nor intends any leadership. Rather, it is a preternaturally careful and cautious way of running a business. While the organization's strategic plan may espouse a "disruptive" or transformational leadership, in reality such activity is despised and repelled - it is why "Change is hard."
Some time ago a trio of authors in my profession enumerated leaderly characteristics, at least 150 of them! The checklist reminded me of the requirement for a Boy/Girl Scout Merit badge.
Brief or lengthy, at best we only have a slippery grasp of any handle on the topic.
One theory works well in one place and fails in another. For example, there were a variety of leaders at California’s now near bankrupt energy company, PGE. Much of the blame for the recent plague of forest fires has been fixed on PGE failures. The PGE leaders ranged from the authoritarian to the collaborative yet failed to stop the disasters. The leaders probably would argue they were never allowed to lead, always interfered with by outside forces, like politicians and other vested interests that sought to control PGE budgets.
We do know something: without followers there is no leadership. Jalen Hurts, a young athlete, said most insightfully, “People let you lead.” If you have it to go with followers respond.
These overheated political times have come up with a bizarre pairing.
The WSJ article, “The People We Admire Most: Obamas and Trumps” declares that Barack Obama and Donald Trump are tied this year as Gallup’s most admired man. It makes clear that leadership is personal, individual; not everyone will agree; indeed leadership is in the eye of the beholder.
Some of our allegiance to a leader is whether we like or not like that person. Clearly the Gallup Poll’s outcome shows how people can hold one leader in esteem and another in contempt: yet, overall, it’s a split vote.
The split suggests just how difficult it is to define leadership. It is unlikely that the two presidents share the same admirable qualities. Perhaps one might say those qualities are miles apart or are interpreted along a continuum rather than as an on or off switch.
Because of this complexity and the lack of any definitive law of leadership, my class makes use of literary and other artistic interpretations of leaders, followers and leadership. While I do allude to the various theories, literary insights help explain the seemingly ineffable.

*HALF OFF* Leap Year Sale. Get a 50% discount by ordering through Book Baby at this link.

© Copyright John Lubans 2020


Posted by jlubans on February 01, 2020  •  Leave comment (0)


TWO Flies, determining to change
their country, and abroad to range,
In order novel sights to see.
Explained their project to a Bee.
⁠To her they stated
Their friend. Sir Parrot, had related
Of foreign parts such wondrous things.
They were resolved to use their wings.
There surely was no great temptation
Longer to stay in this dull nation,
Where everything was cold and dingy.
And folks grew every day more stingy!
"They grudge us e'en the smallest sup;
From us poor Flies they cover up
Both meat and drink; and fence, alas!
Their fruits of every kind with glass.
So are we treated by the wealthy.
⁠And 'mongst the poor fare scarcely better.
Since Spiders there, our foes so stealthy,
⁠Weave treacherous webs, our wings to fetter."
"Well, friends," the home-spun Bee replied,
"'Tis not for
me your scheme to chide,
If you on travelling are bent.
For my part, I am quite content
Here to remain. Folks praise my Honey;
And though it is not always sunny
In this our clime, here is our hive;
And we to earn our food contrive—
Nay, all considered, really thrive.
We have our labours to attend to,
And know that those we ought to bend to;
While folk like you go where you list
And certainly will not be missed.
It matters not where you're abiders,—
None profit by you, save the Spiders."
The bee’s straight talk to make the most of it, if heeded, might result in the flies staying put. Their deal in life is not all that bad but for spiders and rolled up newspapers.
Then again, they may tell the bee to buzz off, they want to see for themselves – make their own mistakes - just how green the grass is on the other side.
Are there not people who will give you bad advice because they are jealous of your opportunity?
Maybe the flies will luck out and pick a happier environment, say a city landfill, in which to gorge to bursting but no dainty webs their “wings to fetter”.
An eternal question what might have been had I made a different decision? What might have been.
You know, the road not taken.
Worse is to live an unquestioned life, accepting what we’re handed and not making our own way. Go along to get along.
In my dotage, it feels like the more a person decides what he or she will do the better the outcome, yea or nay.
There are life decisions best taken not imposed or entrapped.

*Source: Krilov, Fables. Translated from the Russian for Fraser's Magazine In Cooper, Frederic Taber, editor (1864-1937), “An argosy of fables; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land”. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1921.)

*HALF OFF* Leap Year Sale. Get a 50% discount by ordering through Book Baby at this link.

© Copyright John Lubans 2020