Wednesday, October 5, 2022





The Fables:

Aesop's Fables, or the Aesopica, is a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and storyteller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 564 BCE. Of diverse origins, the stories associated with his name have descended to modern times through a number of sources and continue to be reinterpreted in different verbal registers and in popular as well as artistic media. The fables originally belonged to the oral tradition and were not collected for some three centuries after Aesop's death. By that time a variety of other stories, jokes and proverbs were being ascribed to him.


The Fable:

A Dove saw an Ant fall into a brook. The Ant struggled in vain to reach the bank, and in pity, the Dove dropped a blade of straw close beside it. Clinging to the straw like a shipwrecked sailor to a broken spar, the Ant floated safely to shore.

Soon after, the Ant saw a man getting ready to kill the Dove with an arrow. But just as he drew the arrow, the Ant stung him in the heel, so that the pain made him miss his aim, and the startled Dove flew to safety in a distant wood.


The Moral:

A kindness is never wasted.

Alternative version:

If you do good, good will come to you


The Application (by Thomas Beswick):

We ought ever with a ready zeal to extend our arm to relieve a sinking friend from distress and danger, or endeavour to forewarn him against the wicked plots of his enemies. The benevolent man, from the most disinterested motives, will always be disposed to do good offices to all, and the grateful man will never forget to return them in kind, if it be possible; and there is not one good man in the world who may not on some occasion stand in need of the help of another.

But gratitude is not very common among mankind. It is a heavenly spark, from which many virtues spring; and the source of pleasures which never enter the breast of the vile ingrate. The favours and kindnesses bestowed upon the grateful man, he cannot forget; those which are conferred upon the ungrateful, are lost: he concludes he would not have had them, if he had not deserved them.



Some thoughts:

I don't agree with the moral that if you do good, good comes back to you. Certainly a smile is more likely to result in a smile from another than will a scowl, but there is no law of the universe that good comes back to someone doing good. Nor will doing good to make good happen in return. It's a bit like the Murphy's Law that says that when you wash your car it will invariably rain, but washing your car to make it rain won't work.

Ultimately, the doing of good should have no expectation of reward, that is what it is.

Stephen Gellert once famously said: 'I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again."

If that is too saccharine or preachy, the paraphrase (quoted previously in Bytes) by Maurice Bowra (1898-1971), pictured below, may be more to your liking: “I expect to pass through this world but once and therefore if there is anybody that I want to kick in the crutch I had better kick them in the crutch now, for I do not expect to pass this way again.”


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