The grasshopper and the ant

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Swamp Reflections
Richard van Duyvendyk

Dear reader

One of the perks of having grandchildren is the ability to read children’s books. Most of these well-illustrated books, filled with stories summarized to include only the required essentials, are available from the library. These stories reveal wisdom and food for thought in a classic form, and many childless adults find these books inspiring. An old Greek tale by Aesop inspires this story titled The grasshopper and the ant.

All summer, the ant works hard to store food for the winter. The grasshopper enjoys life without worrying about the future. He spends the summer dancing and singing. He mocks the ant for its diligence in working on such a beautiful summer day. When winter comes, the grasshopper asks the ants for food. The ants tell the grasshopper to dance and sing; they will be in their hill, living on the fruit of their labor.

There are many summer days when I struggle between wanting to get things done and living in the moment. There are only a few weeks of swimming left unless you are a member of the polar bear club and swimming in icy waters. It is better to bring in the harvest before you have to cover the plants with tarps because of the frosts, but there is still time for another canoe trip. I don’t think the frost will come before October.

We have a large garden, making all kinds of preserves, dried herbs, pickled beans, beets and cucumbers, and freeze food for the winter. The instinct to store food for the winter dates back to my childhood. The grasshopper in me wonders why we grow our potatoes when they are so cheap in the fall. The ant in me sees winter as a force to be faced with a supply of home-grown food to ensure its survival.

We all have the ant and the grasshopper in us. Sometimes we are more like the ant; other times more like the grasshopper. Our response, whether it’s climate change or responses to covid or wars, is not unlike the reactions of the ant and the grasshopper to the world around them.

Often I identify with the grasshopper. Life is a party. Joy comes from being with others and taking time to pause and reflect. So much restlessness interferes with the enjoyment of life. Anxiety stems from worry about the future and often has little to do with reality. Nevertheless, always being in grasshopper mode leads to ignoring the coming storm.
Many of us, like the grasshopper, ignore all the negative news about climate change. Despite global food shortages around the world, we can still find what we want at the grocery store. Yes, prices are going up, but don’t get carried away. Turn off the news and relax, grasshopper.

I sometimes wonder if we are not a nation of individualistic grasshoppers, jumping from problem to problem with no real plan for the future. We all want freedom, lower taxes and relief from inflation, climate change and Covid news. Where is the point with actions to prepare us for an increasingly bleak future?

Just as ignoring a leaky roof or a bank account in the red won’t make these problems go away, ignoring important community problems, like fixing our health care systems before they completely collapse, won’t be solved by ignoring.
Ignorance will not help us.

We must appeal to the “ant” inside us and learn to work in groups to solve these long-term problems. Otherwise, how will we do anything to ensure our future? I think thinking that the government will fix all our problems so that we can go on dancing and doing nothing is a grasshopper’s response. Do grasshoppers rule our government? Can we expect them to act on the changes we need to secure our future?

Let’s stop thinking that someone else will share their food and money and prepare, like the ants, for the future.

Let’s stop complacency, take care of each other and our planet, and find ways to awaken our sense of responsibility for the future.

Let’s start reading children’s books for inspiration on the essentials of life. Children need us to act.

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