A man, walking through a jungle stumbled upon a vicious tiger.
He ran as fast as he could but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Caught between the cliff and the tiger, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the precipice.
As he hung here, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine.
As he prayed for his life and tried to chase the mice away, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth.
It was incredibly delicious!
I read this story yesterday and found it funny. I read a few more stories, got back to work, attended a meeting, drafted a few proposals and then realised, this story was gnawing my mind all day like an earworm but a story. By evening, it was no longer funny.
It got me thinking. To some extent, we are that man, dangling by the vine and praying for dear life. But that is the only clarity I had. There were a few more questions that I needed to reflect on.
Question 01: Was the strawberry there all along?
It’s one of those stupid ‘was it there the entire time’ question that people ask to get out of the situation but honestly, it just makes the situation worse. We all know that the answer is almost always a ‘Yes, it was’ unless you are in the company of elves or fairies. And yet, it gets missed on first glance. It takes some mice to spot the strawberry. In that case, I suppose having mice in your life is not a bad thing after all. Maybe, instead of fighting it, it’s time to say thank you and be grateful to the rodents so that we can, in our moment of darkness, see the little things clearly and be grateful for it.
Question 02: Was the strawberry really delicious? Better still, if you weren’t hanging for dear life, would it still be as delicious?
Nobody likes a walk over. Great stories are built on a struggle. Warriors would be like body builders pulling massive weight everyday without any sense of larger purpose if there were no battles to be fought. We enjoy a good fight because that makes for a great story. We like the idea of a hero who battles adversaries in his mind just as much as he slays them outside. A straight line is a boring line. So, maybe that’s why the strawberry was delicious. Delicious is relative. The greatest story is the one you tell yourself. And in that story, invariably, you are David fighting Goliath. Every pebble counts and every hit is delicious. But, you have to be fighting Goliath, that is the caveat. Cardboard enemies or paper tigers make for lame.
Question 03: Is it stupid to savour the strawberry when you should be saving your life?
Sometimes stupid is the wise.
If life is equated to being alive then there is merit in this question but if life is about living then maybe not. The problem is we keep believing that we know what happens next. We have been wrong so many times in the past, yet, we just don’t seem to learn. Master Oogway nailed it with ‘that’s why it called the Present’. May be, it is the other way around and it is stupid to think about life and death when you should be enjoying the strawberry?
Question 04: Is the man going to get out of it alive at all and if yes, when?
The simplest answer seems to be yes, he will. If he is brave enough, he will come out of it alive. But that opens up a can of questions – What is bravery? A coward could well value life and hence be desperate to come out of it alive. In this context, there does seem to be a thin line and the only differentiator is that a brave man wouldn’t fear death and hence will come out of It alive. A coward will resist death and hence will never come out alive, even if he comes out alive. To be alive is to acknowledge death and die. Death doesn’t have to be end of life but end of a chapter. The willingness to close it and start a new one takes bravery. To pull yourself out because you are curios of ‘what next’ is very different than pulling yourself out because you don’t want to lose what you have. Very different.
Question 05: How long should he wait before he climbed up the vine?
For as long as he feels safe i.e. he is not tired, hungry or lonely. And this is why the vine must creak, the mice must attempt to nibble the vine again, there should be absolutely no more strawberries around, he should get to the point of starvation and exhaustion; else, he will think of finding an alcove somewhere on the face of the cliff and hope to wait it out till someone comes looking for him.
Reminds me of Samuel. So Samuel thought of hiding with a herd of sheep. Perfect camouflage, he thought, perfect plan. Except, Samuel was a donkey. Literally.
Darwin said Survival of the fittest and it’s more apt than ever as we cling on to the vine. Worse, we are not even enjoying the strawberry (ies) even though we have spotted it. The fight is no more about the tiger. The tiger will always be there. Maybe not right above you, but will be somewhere around. What about you? How long do you intend to stick around with the mice?
Author : Samir Limbu
I Train Consultants India Pvt. Ltd.
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