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Few of us would argue that we live in decadent and conflicted times. As a free people, we seem willing to compromise repeatedly our freedoms and blessings, responding to fears that have been inflamed. Our morals are being challenged at every crisis as they eat away at our conviction and determination to be brave, free, and honorable people.
In the midst of the latest crises and compromises, I thought of Aesop’s Fables. Most of us have probably been exposed to at least some of his stories, but before I share some that I think would particularly speak to our times, I wanted to check out Aesop’s personal story. Some scholars question whether he ever existed, but there are some who believe he was a real person:
Aesop was a Greek storyteller born in approximately 620 BCE. Tradition says he was born as a slave, but developed a real talent for fables that were used to teach truths in a simple, understandable way. While Aesop was revered for his abilities, it is almost certain that many of the fables attributed to him were actually written by countless people over the ages.
His fables have mostly animal characters and were wisdom intended (at face value) for children. But I was curious to know if they also spoke to adults, and if they had messages for our times.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Here are a few of his fables, with my limited commentary:
There was a great stir made among all the beasts, as to which could boast of the largest family. So they came to the lioness. “And how many,” said they, “do you have at a birth?” “One,” said she, grimly; “but that one is a lion.”
(Hmm…. echoes of Trump?)
The Lamb and the Wolf
A lamb pursued by a wolf took refuge in a temple. Upon this, the wolf called out to him and said that the priest would slay him if he caught him. “Be it so,” said the lamb, “it is better to be sacrificed to God, than to be devoured by you.”
The Shepherd Boy
There was once a young Shepherd Boy who tended his sheep at the foot of a mountain near a dark forest. It was rather lonely for him all day, so he thought upon a plan by which he could get a little company and some excitement. He rushed down towards the village calling out “Wolf, Wolf,” and the villagers came out to meet him, and some of them stopped with him for a considerable time. This pleased the boy so much that a few days afterward he tried the same trick, and again the villagers came to his help. But shortly after this a Wolf actually did come out from the forest, and began to worry the sheep, and the boy of course cried out “Wolf, Wolf,” still louder than before. But this time the villagers, who had been fooled twice before, thought the boy was again deceiving them, and nobody stirred to come to his help. So the Wolf made a good meal off the boy’s flock, and when the boy complained, the wise man of the village said:
“A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth.”
(Thinking of the ever-shifting landscape—who/what to believe. . . )
The Peacock and Juno
The peacock complained to the goddess Juno that, while the nightingale pleased every ear with his song, he, the proud peacock, no sooner opened his mouth than he became a laughingstock to all who heard him. The goddess, to console him, said; “But you far excel in beauty and in size. The splendor of the emerald shines in your neck and you unfold a tail gorgeous with painted plumage.”
“But for what purpose have I,” said the bird, “this dumb beauty as long as I am surpassed in song?” “The lot of each,” replied Juno, “has been assigned by the will of the Fates to you, beauty; to the eagle, strength; to the nightingale, song; to the raven, favorable, and to the crow, unfavorable expectations. These are all contented with the endowments allotted to them.”
(We all have strengths to bring to this fight . . . )
The Bundle of Sticks
A husbandman, who had a quarrelsome family, after having trying in vain to reconcile them by words, thought he might more readily prevail by an example. So he called his sons and bade them lay a bundle of sticks before him. Then having tied them into a faggot, he told the lads, one after the other, to take it up and break it. They all tried but tried in vain.
Then untying the faggot, he gave them the sticks to break one by one. This they did with the greatest ease. Then said the father, “Thus you, my sons, as long as you remain united, are a match for all your enemies; but differ and separate, and you are undone.”
The battle has been engaged, but not just against a virus; it is against those who would tyrannize us, slowly taking away our freedoms, compromising our courage and weakening our resolve.
It’s time to find a way to come together.
Please add your own commentary, and feel free to add to the fables included here; you can read more of them here .Published in