This week I have been part of a large group of theatre makers, working together toward a formal adjudication of our ability to teach a specific body of material. As I was drifting upward into consciousness on Wednesday morning, this fable presented itself for my consideration. As if to say—how about me? Can I help you with your work this week?
On a steep and sandy road, pocked with holes and stray rocks, the sun beating down on all sides, six strong horses pull a coach. Women, old men, a monk, everyone had disembarked. The team sweats and pants. They are done in.
A fly comes on the scene and draws close to the horses. Takes it upon herself to get things moving again with her buzzing, in one’s ear and then another’s, thinking at each moment that she’s the one propelling the machine. Sitting now on the traces, now on the coach driver’s nose. As soon as the cart starts to make tracks, and she notices the people walking alongside, she attributes all of the glory to herself. Here. There. She’s bustling everywhere. She is a battle sergeant, called to all locations to advance the troops and speed the victory.
In this communal work, the fly complains that she’s acting alone, taking care of everything herself. No one else is helping the horses out of the mess they’re in. The monk is saying his breviary, and taking his time! A woman is singing, as if it was the time for songs! Lady Fly goes and sings a little in their ears too and a hundred other similar annoyances.
After quite some effort, the coach arrives at the top.
At long last, I can catch my breath, the fly no sooner says. I’ve done so much to help these people finally reach the high plains. You know, Mister Horses, you ought to pay me for my pains.
So it is that some people generate a lot of noise and activity, inserting themselves in others’ business. They are everywhere doing everything.
And such importuners everywhere ought to be chased away.
As I woke, with this fable tapping on my consciousness, I thought, am I contributing to the group or am I just buzzing around? Am I a sweating horse pulling alongside my team, or the importuner—the fly, the monk, the woman singing. Because you know that the fable might equally have been written from one of their points of view and have come to the same conclusion—it was my prayer, my song that got us to the top.
So what am I? The best I know is that I have to keep trying to sweat it out. I won’t be perfect. No doubt I’ll buzz sometimes. Or pray. Or sing. And who knows, that might irritate the horses enough to spur them on a little too. None of us sweats all the time. Step up. Step out. Depends on the circumstance. And none of us can ever have the full view of how our own behavior lands. As with everything, mindfulness is the biggest part of the battle.
So this week an important part of my work has been to keep returning to this question: Do I buzz? Pray? Sing? Sweat? A question I know I need to ask myself in all my communities, starting with the smallest unit of my own self. Am I obstructing myself, or helping myself move forward? And keep asking in each expanding unit of community, in my family, among my friends, in my work, with my neighbours.
The question ripples on outward to everyone we touch, which is, in the end, the world at large.
Sweat more. Buzz less.
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