Who, or what, are you listening to?

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Dear Blog,

In many Native American cultures, this story is told to the young adults just before they leave for their vision quest. Between the ages of 13 and 22, young men and women of the tribe decide that they are ready to become adults. They go on a vision quest for three days and three nights, fasting from food and drink and sleep, and wait for a vision. They are given a vision and a gift – what they are to be for the community in the future. And often, when they return they are given a name as well. They are now adult members of the tribe, they belong, and they know that they are called to live on behalf of the community, using all that the Great Spirit has given them for others. This is the story many of them hear just before they set off on their vision quest.

Once upon a time, there was an eagle. She soared and hunted and built her nest high on a mountain fastness and then settled down to sit on her three eggs until they hatched. But a storm approached and she was hungry. Off she went to find food and, while she was gone, the storm hit, her nest was thrown off the side of the mountain and two of her eggs destroyed. But by some miracle, one fell unharmed to the ground, safely landing in tumbleweed but unseen by the mother eagle. She returned, mourning her children.

On the ground a prairie chicken was returning from hunting. The storm had overturned her nest, too, scattering her eggs everywhere. She rolled them all back in, stumbling over a very large egg. Being rather stupid, she figured it was also hers and rolled the eagle egg into her nest. She returned to sitting on the nest and, one by one, the prairie chickens hatched, except for the big egg. She sat and sat and finally the biggest, ugliest prairie chicken she’d ever seen came forth. It was ungainly, with huge wings that dragged on the ground. And it was incredibly hungry all the time. The other prairie chickens pecked about in the dirt, found seeds and insects, and flew around about three feet off the ground. This one, however, couldn’t fly, couldn’t talk, and couldn’t do anything like the others. It was pecked at and pushed around, and it was sickly and felt awful all the time. It took to going off by itself and being miserable alone, dragging its wings along behind it.

One day, out in the canyon it saw a great shadow on the ground and, as it looked up, it saw the most magnificent bird flying above it. It swooped and soared, great and graceful. Then it swooped down and grabbed on of the prairie chicken brothers, breaking its neck and eating it as it flew off. The eagle that thought it was a prairie chicken watched all this in fascination. It wanted to fly like that, hunt like that and eat like that! But then it remembered that it had been told always to eat only bugs and seeds – that was the way of prairie chickens. Immediately, it went to tell everyone about this. Most of the chickens ignored it, accusing the eagle of making up the story. One of the grandfather prairie chickens said, “No, listen to the strange one – it has seen an eagle, a great bird of the sky, one closest to the Great Spirit. Whenever you see that great shadow on the ground, run for your lives, for the eagle likes to eat prairie chickens.” But the eagle that thought it was a prairie chicken did not obey. It went back often to the canyon and waited for the eagle to come. It watched it fly and wanted toimitate it. It dreamed of such gracefulness and freedom and power.

Then one day it climbed to the highest part of the mesa, dragging its heavy wings slowly behind, in pain. It stood just on the edge of the cliff and thought, “If I just fall off into the air, I’ll fly. Even if I fall to the canyon floor and die, at least for a while I will know what it’s like to be free and fly gracefully. It was just about to fall over the edge when it remembered all the things its parents and family and older ones had spoken. You’re just a prairie chicken and that’s all you’ll ever be. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Just be the best prairie chicken you can be. He hesitated, then slowly came down from the mesa. But sometimes he’d climb back up, think about flying, and then remember that prairie chickens couldn’t fly. As days and weeks passed, it became more and more painful for the eagle to even think about flying. Growing weaker and weaker, one day the eagle that thought it was a prairie chicken died.

It died, an earth-bound unhappy prairie chicken because it listened to the wrong wisdom. (Author unknown, public domain)

What wisdom are you listening to? Is it real wisdom, or just some invented fad? Does it really speak to your heart, or just appeal to your mind or vanity? Does The Secret really feed your soul?

C

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