By Steve Briscoe

Lessons from an ant.
(A modified excerpt from, Solitary – Without the Confinement)

A few years ago I was outside enjoying the spring air and the sunshine. I wasn’t thinking about anything specific; my mind was just wandering from one topic to another. You know what I’m talking about; where will I go for lunch today; do I have enough money in my pocket to stop and fill the bike with gas when I leave work; will we go to war with North Korea or Iran? During that flow of topics I happened to glance down and my attention was drawn to an ant walking across the concrete. In fact there were hundreds of ants all going about their business.

Nothing spectacular about that, except one particular ant was carrying a piece of debris that had to weigh ten times his total weight and was at least four times his total size. OK, before I go any further with this story, I want to publicly admit I do not know the difference between a “he” ant or a “she” ant; I’m using the pronoun “he” rather than the pronoun “she” because “he” takes only 2/3 the time to type.  So, rather than get your knickers in a bunch, just focus on the story and try to not dissect it and make it a gender bias narrative becasue it’s not; so there! OK, let’s move on.

He (he being the ant) was struggling with the task at hand, but moving along at a steady pace. Sometimes he would drag it; sometimes he would flip it onto his back and carry it; sometimes he would just tilt his head up and carry it in front of him. The longer I watched, the more intrigued I was with his action. My non-scientific mind estimated a comparison and figured if I were to carry a piece of debris of proportionate size, I would be casually walking down the street with a 2000 pound computer desk dangling from my teeth.

As he walked along, he happened to come across a storm drain and luckily walked onto the solid portion of the grated cover; open pits on either side of him. I think I recall – from one of those Discovery Channel ant documentaries – that ants are blind; so, based on what I believed to be true, his precarious position was unknown to him.

As I watched, his luck ran out and he walked too close to the edge and the weight of his treasure pulled him over the side, and he disappeared from sight. In a fraction of a second, I concluded the ant had given up the treasure and turned his attention to self- preservation some ten feet down in the dark water below; so my attention was turned back to lunch activities or how best to fight a war with Korea. I began to formulate a plan on how to get Korea to attack Iran.

The storm drain was at my feet, and whereas I was not focused on the drain, but that was the direction I was looking… ya gotta look somewhere when ya think, right? About the time I had determined getting Korea to attack Iran was above my pay-grade, my attention was diverted. A few inches from where the ant had fallen, I noticed movement and was oddly surprised when I saw the ant pull himself out of harm’s way with the treasure still clenched in his teeth. Not sure what goes through an ant’s mind during a crisis, but I know what goes through mine. Were I to be carrying a 2000 pound computer desk in my teeth and fell into a hole, the first thing I would do is drop my load… in more ways than one. But the ant did not; he continued to hold tight to his load. You could also say he held tight to his convictions, his duty, his obligations; everything was secondary to his task, even his own safety.

What could we accomplish if we possessed the same level of dedication and persistence? An ant has more dedication than we do, what does that say about us? How many times have we started a project or been assigned a task and quit because we came up against an obstacle? How many times have we cut corners and used the excuse that it was necessary because of an obstacle or, more to the point, we were too lazy to do it right?

The ant continued his trek and there is no doubt in my mind he either completed his task and delivered his treasure to the colony, or he died in the process; those are the only two outcomes possible when it comes to an ant. What about you? Are there only two possible outcomes to what you do; does your personal list of possible outcomes increase or diminish by your attitude or obstacles in your path?

Don’t let yourself be outdone by an ant. Don’t quit because you can . Quitting is easy, people do it all the time; be the exception, focus on your goal.

© 2019 Steve Briscoe, All rights Reserved

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2 Replies to “Persistence”

  1. Dee Armstrong

    We can learn a lot from watching nature. After two years of observation, Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden Pond”has documented the wonder and power of nature. Steve, I love your writing style. My personal 2,000-pound desk is my first novel. Thanks to inspiration from your well-written “ant” observation, I have renewed determination to finish it!

  2. Kelleigh Nelson

    Y’know, I’ve sat on my front porch, and down a ways on a couple steps and watched them ants, and yer right, they are persistent and courageous. Same goes for honey bees…big time, they’re amazing. If we stop, not just to smell the roses, but to watch God’s creatures, we sure can learn a lot can’t we!

    Be blessed

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