Three ants

antsToday I’d like to share with you a short story I heard while I was studying in my interfaith seminary.

The title is: “Ants on the Himalaya”.

In a big anthill in Nepal three ants were fed up of their daily life, made of hard work for their community and of primary needs. They wanted something more, they had many fundamental questions receiving no answer and they felt there had to be something deeper and more spiritual in the life of any living being, ants included, than just to work, to eat and to procreate.

They spent many evenings speaking about how to find a spiritual reference point capable to show them the real sense of life and to address their meditations.

One day they went to seek advice from an old ant who had been travelling a lot before joining their anthill.

The old ant listened to them and then ruled: “My friends, if you want to find your spiritual path in life you must abandon this miserable place where daily necessities are choking your aspirations. You must travel to a much more spiritual place, on the mountains, where I have heard by some human beings that your spirit will break free and you will understand what you have to do to obtain a much deeper sense of life. If I were you, I would reach the highest peak of the world, an impressive mountain called Everest, where, for sure, you will have a flash of inspiration telling you where to address your walk in life and how to obtain an answer to your many questions”.

The three ants were very touched by the words of the old ant and the following morning they decided to leave their anthill to look for the “mountain of the spirit” called Everest.

Ants can walk very fast but they are small and Himalaya, the place where the Everest is, was very far from the anthill of our three ants, so they took years and years to reach the place they were looking for. Every day they had to walk very long distances in the cold, risking their lives to find something to eat and constantly needing to protect themselves from the many animals they met, often choosing wrong directions and losing many days of travel.

Their only consolation was when they stopped at night, exhausted by the long journey, and, once found a good place to hide, they spent hours speaking about what they would have found at their arrival. Sometimes they had different opinions: in example one could think about a direct vision of a superior entity, another about a sudden revelation, the third one about a valley full of food where they would have had nothing else to do but to spend the whole day finding answers inside of their souls. Although they had these different dreams, at the end of the day they were close friends, helping each other in the moments of difficulties and they had learn that, listening carefully to the dreams of all the others, each of them could perfection its own dream so to be encouraged to face new difficulties the following day.

Finally, after many vicissitudes, the group arrived to its destination, on the slopes of Everest.

It was summertime and the problem was that the ants, small as they were, submerged by the green grass, could have just a very limited vision of the surrounding area and couldn’t even see the high mountain they were looking for as it was too close to them.

So, after roaming around together for a while, they decided the best thing to do was to divide and to look around to seek the mountain called Everest separately, meeting at a specific spot in the evening to exchange information.

The area was very vast so the first evening nobody, after a whole day wandering around, had the strength to go to the meeting place. The same happened for several days and each ant became more and more isolated, only concentrated on its task to find the mountain.

Finally all of them found what they thought to be the Everest and each of them was so proud to be the first discoverer of the mountain that it ran to the meeting place, not to give advice to the others but to boast of its discovery.

They all arrived there almost together and the first one to arrive, as soon as it saw the others arriving, started shouting: “Come, brethren, come with me: I have found the place!” The others were rather surprised and, without saying a word, followed the first ant to a big rock right at the foot of the Everest. The boulder was made of pyrite and, through some breaks on the surface, was shining in the sun. “You see”, claimed the first ant, “this shining mountain must be for sure the place! We need to climb it and, at the top, we are going to meet our guiding spirit!”

The second ant burst out laughing: “How can you be so stupid?” he exclaimed. “Don’t you see this mountain you are showing us is just made of hard rock!  This can’t be the one we are looking for! Come and follow me and I will show you the real Everest”.

The other two ants followed the second ant in silence and, after few minutes of walk in circles, the three arrived to the other side of the same boulder. This one was the Northern side of the rock and it was covered with musk. “Here we are!” said the second ant triumphantly, “Here is the Everest: a green, soft, pleasant mountain easy to climb! At its top we’ll surely find the illumination we need!”

The third ant, shaking its head in denial, took the floor stating: “You are just two idiots! Come and see the real Everest!”

The other ants followed the third one too and, after a quite long track, they arrived to a second big boulder on the slopes of the Everest. This one, though quite high, was a flat topped rock and, mainly, was covered with the remains of the dinner of some climbers having been there a few days before. “Now you can easily see this is the real Everest! It’s a place full of food and, if you observe attentively, you can notice that, at the top, there must be a valley were we could live forever!” rejoiced the third ant.

“You are kidding me!” shouted the first ant. “What you showed to me are just false Everests, normal mountains having nothing special, while it’s clear my shining Everest it the only true one!”

“Do you think I am letting you cheat me after such a long travel?” replied the second ant angrily. “How can a special inspiring mountain be made of simple rock!!?”

“And what about the food? Only my mountain has plenty of food, so mine must be the real Everest”, the third ant cried anxiously.

In the blink of an eye the three ants began fighting one against the other, shouting and biting their former friends. After some times all of them were too tired and wounded to go on with the fight and each one left the others moving towards its own “Everests”.

The first ant spent weeks trying to climb the face of its mountain, cutting its legs on the hard rock, almost getting blinded by the reflection of the pyrite and having nothing to eat. The second ant, at first, loved to walk on the soft musk but soon realized that it was too slippery to manage to reach the top of its mountain and so settled halfway. The third ant ate all it could but after a few days the food got rotten and stinky and it couldn’t find anything anymore.

In the meanwhile summer came to an end and each ant, alone, not helped by the others, died for the freeze of the first snow.

None of them had even seen the real Everest overhanging them all: they had just seen small rocks being a small part of the big mountain.

Quite clearly this is a typical interfaith seminary story, aimed to teach how Denominations should collaborate and not fight one against the other, but I suppose it can teach something to us too.

Were the poor ants wrong? I don’t think so, at least they were not totally wrong.

Each ant had a dream, each ant was sure of its dream and actively worked to reach its goal. Each ant was a real believer, in a way, fighting against adversities to obtain something superior, a fuller sense of life starting from its own vision. I suppose this is exactly what every human being should do: if you believe in something, then fight for it, believe in it with all your strength, with no fear, imprinting your life to your believes!

So, what’s wrong with the three ants? Simply  the fact that they made their believes absolute, not respecting the paths of the others, making a dogma of their opinions and refusing any confrontation with different ideas.

So, the moral of the story, to me, is just one: believe in what is right to you and live the faith you have with all your strength, defending it against any absolutism of any other faith but never try to impose your faith to the others, never stop sharing your opinions with the others and listening to other people’s opinions, even if they are different from yours.

Mainly, before transforming your vision of God in a general dogma, remember we are all ants and God is the Everest.