Thursday, 26 March 2015

A Humbling Thought


A humbling thought

   Despite the hectic traffic on the slip road to the M1 motorway, I spotted, and swerved slightly to avoid, a mother duck followed closely by a clutch of day-old ducklings; fluffy and confused, but trusting. She clearly wanted to cross the six lanes of traffic that separated her from the other side. Some instinct must be telling her that she has to find water in the next few hours; perhaps she can smell it, perhaps she knows to go downhill, but somehow she has concluded that the other side is better for her and her novel (and doubtless unexpected) companions. Constantly glancing over alternate shoulders, she steps tentatively into the traffic then as quickly retreats.
   What must the little chicks be thinking? Imagine cracking open your shell and stepping out into the sunlight, knowing so little, yet knowing with certainty one big thing: "Follow close to that duck, that strange but reassuring shape."
   Mother duck (we suppose) has never been here before; took no classes in motherhood. To fly would be for her so normal, and so easy, and she would find water in minutes. However, indistinctly but inescapably, she knows that flight is inappropriate while she has these six fluffy little followers, to which she is so strangely bound. What a heavy responsibility! These may not be thoughts exactly, but she  experiences two conflicting impluses. It is no wonder she tries again and again to fight a passage through the thundering traffic.
   How different it is for us, with our complex brains, speech, primary and secondary education, books, the internet and the experience of hundreds of generations to guide us! We do not need to head off in the wrong direction time and again, in obedience to an impulse we cannot voice, and cannot even locate.  And yet we do it.
   Is that not a humbling thought?


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