I am not nor have I ever been a very big fan of Aesop. What I mean to say is that too many of our long-held misperceptions of various animals, and by extension our fellow man, are stupid-harmful. So many of his fables would progress and end in ways very different from the originals if a creature’s behavior were based in what we know now.
If a boy continued to cry wolf when there was no wolf, he would be replaced as shepherd by someone the villagers could trust. If a talking lion is willing to file down his teeth for the sake of love, essentially disabling himself, it’s because he knows something about his bride we don’t. Aesop’s fables have spent a lot of time being admired for how — in his day — he was able to so succinctly portray societal ills which continue to pervade in today’s landscape.
He wrote those stories to point out the ill in hopes of a cure. So what honor can there be in such admiration if we aren’t willing also to reframe the stories in order to address those ills we have grown better able to see? I don’t, after all, call myself a goose that lays golden eggs for nothin’.
The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs
We begin with a man and his goose which lays every day a single golden egg. We do not know how he came to have this goose, only that he is lucky to have it. We also have no clue as to how a goose is laying an egg every day (most geese lay anywhere from 10-30 total in a year usually during spring), let alone a golden egg, except to accept without being told that there must be some magic at work.
It is probably the unspoken answer “magic” which leads to the unspoken logic of the goose’s owner: if most geese lay a certain amount of eggs at a certain time of year while this goose lays an egg a day regardless of the season (and that egg is golden so no doubt magic is at work), then the goose must itself be magical and therefore wholly different from those geese which cannot be described as magical for the humbleness of their eggs; if this goose is wholly different from those geese with humble eggs, then this goose may not be so much a goose as a kind of treasure trove which needs only to be opened in order to get at all the golden treasure at once which would be very different indeed to opening up an ordinary goose to get at the meat.
Such hypothesizing and more underlies the impatience of the goose’s owner which Aesop tells us about, the guy wants all the gold at once without any waiting and so he kills the goose. Then, he finds out the innards of the bird had always been just the same as the innards of any other bird. Seems I might have picked one of Aesop’s foibles by which to name this site, doesn’t it?
The Golden Goose Eggs
Whenever we find something we like, we want more of it, whether it’s more physical quantity or just the luxury of more time spent with this great thing. Whenever we do well and that doing well affects and or is noticed by people around us who appreciate it, they want more from us, whether it be output of results or time spent in our company. From a business perspective it’s a good thing, from a human perspective it can be completely terrifying.
Truth is, we are each of us a goose like any other which — under those “magic” circumstances we can only determine for ourselves — is able to consistently deliver beautiful results. The trick is protecting ourselves from those times of impatience — particularly with regards to tasks which are urgent here in the short run, but not altogether necessary in the long run — that demand everything we are perceived as having by those who don’t really understand what they’re asking of us. I know the magic I can make in my life every day, and I learned it by having my belly split open on the altar of “I want it all and I want it now.”
When a man owns a goose, he can slaughter that goose at any time for the meat; but, if he wants eggs he has to wait for the right circumstances, be they seasonal or magical. We are each of us a goose; take your time, and gold will be laid at your feet. Take ownership of yourself, and the demands of others will be like so much prattle and not feel like such a death sentence.