Served with a Side of Goethe
“Man’s highest merit always is, as much as possible, to rule external circumstances, and as little as possible to let himself be ruled by them.” – Goethe
Inspiration can come from peculiar places, can’t it? This morning, when I was supposed to be working valiantly on my websites, I found myself staring out the window (for better or worse, one is right beside my computer desk). There are about 3 inches of snow on the ground and the winter trees are outlined in white. One of our bird feeding stations is in direct view from my window (brilliantly planned so by my husband). The doves, blue jays, sparrows, and cardinals are especially beautiful against the white background.
I can’t seem to take my eyes off of them!
One of our feeders is a three story wooden feeder that looks like a mini townhouse. Generally it’s for smaller songbirds, but winter makes gluttons out of larger birds – so the fight is on as they jockey for position. Beneath this wooden feeder – nearly on the ground – there’s a little platform feeder. Today it’s empty (thanks, again, to the gluttony) but it’s usually filled with seed, corn, fruit, etc.
Earlier, doves and cardinals practically covered the yard. I’d thrown out large chunks of dried bread and cracked corn earlier. My husband says doing so gives the smaller songbirds a chance to hog the feeders while the larger birds are preoccupied with the buffet. It was very effective – until they devoured everything in sight. Then the doves, blackbirds, and cardinals eyed the wooden feeder.
One sparrow caught my attention as he watched the colorful gluttons from a nearby perch. I was about a minute away from throwing on my boots and taking more bread and corn out when he swooped down to the feeding platform beneath the overly-crowded feeder. He began eating the seeds that were being dropped (inadvertently, of course) by the larger breakfast crowd!
They were doing the hard work – jockeying for position on the perches, pecking out seed, shooting one another sideways glances… The little opportunist simply benefited from their labor.
So, when the brilliant Goethe said, “Man’s highest merit always is, as much as possible, to rule external circumstances, and as little as possible to let himself be ruled by them,” he no doubt meant the same for sparrows. It would have been pretty easy for the sparrow to fly off in a snit. He certainly had every right to feel sorry for himself and to no one would have blamed him if he shook a bitter wing in the face of justice and fairness.
I guess he figured it just made more sense to take control of the situation rather than let it take control of him.
So there you have it. An inspirational lesson served up on a snow-covered platform, by a bird no larger than your fist.