The Strange One

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” Proverbs 6:6

Here’s a wonderful allegory I heard many years ago:

Once there was a colony of ants. These ants had only five legs. Whenever they walked, they went one-two-hitch, one-two-hitch all along the path.

These ants lived on decayed banana leaves and nothing else. I shouldn’t say lived, for many of them died. Banana leaves, you know, especially in their rotten state, are very hard to find and so these ants had a very hard life. Many died young from over exertion and starvation.

Now it happened one day that a very strange ant was born among them. This ant had six legs. Everyone clicked their tongues in consternation. Many tried the best they could to console the parents on their child’s deformity. Some suggested that for the good of the community they should kill him in infancy. But the mother begged hard, so they let him live.

Strangely enough, the little ant was soon rushing around much faster than his elders. This was ominous. And worse than that, he had a very awkward way of walking. “Look,” they tried to tell him. “You don’t know how to walk right. You have to go one-two-hitch, one-two-hitch. Now you try it right.” So the little ant would try to put a little hitch in his step, but every time he tried that sixth foot would come down and he would leave his teachers behind. They gave up in disgust.

When he was half grown, the elders noticed another peculiarity. He was eating bread crumbs. “Stop,” they cried, “they’re poison, you mustn’t eat that. If you eat even a mouthful, you’ll die.”

Now the job of moving the nest was very slow work. For in order to move an egg it had to be loaded onto the back of an ant and two others had to climb onto his back in order to hold the egg in place. They had to keep it from rolling off at every hitch, you see. So the egg was carried along, and the ant under the egg would be more dead than alive when they arrived.

They had just started moving their eggs in this way when they noticed the six legged monstrosity coming toward them at a rapid clip. “Hurry up you lazy thing!” they cried between puffs. “You have work to do.” They had barely got the words out of their mouths when he passed them at the double and was carrying an egg on his two front feet, of all places. “You can’t do that,” they screamed. “You’ll break it and you’ll never get there.” “I’ve already been there and back twice,’ he replied. “Furthermore, I haven’t broken one yet … here, let me show you how to do it.”

That was the last straw. Rage came up in their throats and choked them. They dropped their eggs in a heap and rushed at him. “He has a devil,” they cried. “He is beside himself,” they shouted. “He is spoiling our nation,” was the cry. “Kill him! Kill him! Away with him!”

“There,” they growled in grim satisfied tones some time later. “He’ll never try to teach us again. We’ll solve our own problems, thank you very much.”

Then they went back to work. One-two-hitch, one-two-hitch, one-two-hitch.

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