Ants Do It, Birds Do It

I found this thought among my collection of writings. I still stand by it.

“The advancement of humans individually and collectively lies not in perpetuating or fighting about differences, but in universal respect, cooperation void of egoism, and a willingness to learn objectively. We fight each other over borders, over doctrines that all strive for peace, over commodities both natural and imaginary; we bicker selfishly over leadership and chairs of hierarchy. Our egocentricity, our megalomania, is distancing ourselves instead of bridging the gaps everywhere. We know how to reach out to our fellow humans in times of crises (earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, fires) tearing down borders and walls built within us by separatist elite ideas. Why then, can we not continue to live without walls and stay connected to the essence of our humanity…to continue to be rooted in humility and selflessness? The selflessness that helps another to survive, to climb and to achieve with the same rights as you or I as part of a chorus of 7.5 billion beating hearts. At times I cannot think of myself as an American, a Caucasian, an Armenian, a Christian, or even as a woman. I am a person among people, and people can achieve the impossible by setting aside egoism, working together as one colony, as one flock.”

I woke up to an impressive form of large, irregularly shaped black mass of ants on my white countertop. They were busy at work having found a few crumbs of apple pie crust left after a late night of friendly entertaining among friends. I followed the trail all the way down the kitchen counter, circled the off-center island, along the long galley, into the dining room and out onto the back patio to find their source. I set to work ridding my home of these little insects that were stocking up for the winter. Undesirable as they are, I admire their collaborative skills. Ants are a shining example of collusion in action. They carry tiny specks of dirt underground to form complex tunnels and living systems, tackle prey as a team, and help each other carry leaves and food back to their colony to use as mulch for raising fungus, which they eat to survive. These tiny creatures carry loads heavier than their body mass and work in unison as a team, understanding that strength lies in collectivity. They work harder than many species just to get through each day, and they do it as a team. No one gets left behind, and no one carries all the weight while others just sit on the sidelines. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we humans could work together as ants do to coexist instead of competing with each other for resources?

There was an unusually cold breeze that morning. It reminded me that Autumn was just around the corner. In a few weeks I’d be fortunate to see the most impressive form of large, irregularly shaped black masses (flocks) of birds in the sky, dancing their way in flight to migrate north and south. Birds that swarm in a murmuration seem to be connected together. They twist and turn and change direction at a moment’s notice, and in a dense group, the space between them may only be a bit more than their body length, yet they can make astonishingly sharp turns conducted entirely in unison. Even pelicans, ducks, geese (and many other) that fly in V formation do so as a team. They form the V to take advantage of the wind from the bird in front of them giving that extra lift that saves energy to those behind. Interestingly, all birds in the V contribute to the leadership (which provides the first wind) almost equally as they rotate leadership relieving each other with grace and ease. Followers become the leaders and leaders become followers. There is a selfless act of altruism among them, being able to set aside differences for the mutual benefit of the flock. What an incredible skill to help each other out regardless of their social hierarchy in the flock. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could work together with such altruism among our own multitudes?

People, our strength lies in acceptance, unity, and in the ability to work together harmoniously on teams, sharing common values of helping each other to arrive at our destinations quicker, easier, lifted up by the energy and enthusiasm of one another. Ants do it. Birds do it. Why can’t we who know how to love do it?


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6 Responses to Ants Do It, Birds Do It

  1. Colette says:

    Jan you’re one of the few people I know that you’d take a picture or an ordinary thought, like the ants or the birds, and turn it into a story full of grace, humanity, and morality among others (an inborn gift that you either have it or not). Enjoyed reading it very much. As always, Thank You!


  2. yeran says:

    We can, but not all of us do it. We praise and applaud the doers, but most of us “just sit on the sidelines”. Was it not the work ethic of ants that parents and teachers used to bring to our attention? Could it be we lack the selflessness that’s innate in them or that it is stronger in some than in others, depending on upbringing and role models around them? Thank you for sharing.


    • Yes the story of the ant and grasshopper was the example we were given as a model to plan for lesser days and to work hard as a team. Mostly, we had great role models from a generation that was less selfish. Always a pleasure to read your comments Yeran.


  3. Azadouhi Simonian says:

    This is a special genre of writing that you are using in expressing your thoughts. It is your own style which is most efficient filled with examples from nature as ants and birds. the message reaches the reader right a way. Team work is so essential for reaching our national goals yet we have a long way to acquire it in our public life.


    • Azadouhi, you are right. We have a long way to go to acquire the team work necessary to achieve goals set for a nation. It’s as if each organization or group is working for self promotion and competing with one another as opposed to unifying their goals as one strong mission. Always a pleasure to read your comments.


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