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Independence Day

A parable on the pros and cons of challenging the status quo

Once upon a time there was a confident young bird whose habit was to assert his independence from the flock and to make his own way in the world.

When the rest of the flock was in the forest foraging among the trees for seeds and berries, he would be in the farmyard picking up scraps from the chicken run.

When the flock returned to the farm to roost under the eaves of the barn, he would fly out to the forest and roost in the branches of a huge old oak tree.

The older birds looked scornfully at the cocky youngster.  “Such arrogance!  He’ll come to a bad end,” they said.

Summer turned to autumn and as the air became chilly and the leaves turned brown and started to fall, the flock gathered together to prepare for their long migration to warmer climes.

“I’m not going,” our independent little bird announced.  “It’s a long way, and I like it here.  There’s plenty of food.  Why should I go just because that’s what we always do?”

Exasperated, the others flew away and left him to it.

“See you in the spring,” he called after them, and flew down to peck up a hearty meal from the grain that the chickens had missed.

For a while, all was well.  The absence of the rest of the flock meant there was less competition for food, so he soon became plump.  The farm cat eyed him hungrily.  “There’s plenty of meat on that one,” she thought to herself.  But he was always too quick for her and flew away before she could get her claws into him.

One day, snow began to fall heavily.  Fat, white flakes drifted down out of a frozen sky and began to collect on the bird’s feathers.  He shook the snow off but still it fell, and he began to feel very cold indeed.

“Perhaps the others weren’t so silly after all,” he thought.  “I don’t like this cold one bit.  I’m not staying here if this is what winter’s like.”

He took a breath and then started to fly away, following the flock who had gone before him, but before he’d got very far the snow built up on his back and shoulders and the weight of it forced him down.  He fell to the ground in the cow paddock, where he lay frozen, shivering miserably.

Just then a cow passed by and dumped a load of fresh manure directly on top of the unfortunate bird.  Buried under the stinking mess, the poor little fellow thought the end had come.  However, the manure warmed him, melted the snow and thawed his frozen wings.  Happiness filled him and be began to sing.

The farm cat, prowling through the paddock, heard the chirping and came to investigate.  She cleared away the manure, found the bird and promptly ate him.

The morals of the story:

  1. Doing something just because that’s the way you’ve always done it doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid.  But…

  2. Always respect the wisdom of your elders.  There’s a fair chance they know what they’re talking about.

  3. Someone who shits on you is not necessarily your enemy.

  4. Someone who gets you out of the shit is not necessarily your friend.

  5. If you’re warm and happy in your pile of shit, keep your mouth shut.


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