Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Rising Tide that Floats all Goats

On a big wide plain, surrounded by hills, lived the finest herd of goats ever seen. The greatest of them were immensely hairy and roamed around, eating too much and proclaiming themselves to be the hairiest in creation. They kept the best pastures for themselves and spent a lot of time at the top of the hills, from where they could survey their minions. Anything they didn’t want would roll down the hills and on to the plain, and they considered this to be a very good thing.

Their minions were not so hairy and lived all their lives tethered to posts. All day, every day, they grazed the little that grew in the small disk around their posts. And many had to share their disk of grass with others because the posts were so close together. Sometimes, the free goats would even come and steal grass from the tethered goats, although they had plenty of their own and were free to graze anywhere.

The free goats would often discuss the conditions that the tethered goats had to live in. They would ask if the tethered goats shouldn’t have longer ropes, or even shorter ropes. They would ask if the rope should be made of different materials, perhaps cheaper ones. Once, they even tethered some of the goats with bungees, which meant that they would struggle to a little green grass only to be pulled back just as they started to eat it. This caused the tethered goats a lot of suffering but the free goats found it amusing, especially when the tethered goats hit their posts.

Every now and again, a free goat would have the temerity to suggest that all goats should be free, that none should be tethered and that the plains are subject to floods and eventually everyone will suffer, tethered or free. On such occasions, the biggest and hairiest free goat would be summoned, because he was considered to be the wisest. At least, he had the most impressive set of dried dingleberries that rattled as he walked around, a quality much prized among free goats.

This hairy goat would remonstrate with the outspoken goat and point out that great wisdom does not lie in giving the best answers to questions, or even in asking the best questions. Great wisdom lies in recognising who is the wisest and doing exactly as they do. If the wisest has long shaggy hair and a profusion of dingleberries, this is what one must emulate. As for flooding, he pronounced, the rising tide will float all goats.

And he was right, the tide rose and the goats all floated, for a while. The tethered goats were quickly submerged and the free ones ran for the hills. The water kept rising and food supplies dwindled, but the few free goats that were left ate more than ever. The one with the great dingleberries drowned because wet dingleberries don’t float. And the remaining free goats continue to live in isolated groups at the very tops of the highest hills, wondering what to do now that their hairy leader has gone.

Dingleberries are a lot less fashionable now, and even hairiness is no longer much sought after. But the ability to balance on all four feet on a very small patch of ground is considered to be a sign of great wisdom among free goats.



claire said...

Are there no tethered goats now?

Simon said...

Hi Claire
The end of the story is in the future but the highest goats probably find ways to tether lower goats, just as they have effectively tethered themselves to a very small piece of ground.

Claire said...

I LOVE this fable Simon!

Simon said...

Thanks Claire, I'm not sure if there'll be others, we'll see.