It was well known to the residents of the pasture that the fence was there for their own protection. The fence kept out the beasts of the forest, dangerous weather, and other unseen, as well as incomprehensible, dangers. The fence was there for the resident’s protection. They built it, maintained it, and taught it,
“The fence protects and defends from those and that which would do us harm.”
There were definite downsides to the fence–that there was no denying–but the benefits far outweighed the dangers. After all, is it better to want for lack of space, fresh air, clean water, and greener grass? Or to be torn apart by the ravening and revolutionary beasts beyond?
With such an obvious choice before them, the resident sheep, goats, and domestic dromedaries of every kind vouched and voted for safety.
For from time to time there would be some fool who was convinced that if they could expand the fence–move it a few meters forward here perhaps a few back in other places–their quality of life would be increased. They would have access to more resources, more space, and everyone would be better off.
However, it was apparent to the residents inside the fence that those who did not respect the fence and the safety it provided, were truly in disregard of the safety and the well-being of all the residents of the pasture.
And so, such mavericks were ostracized and ignored. Visionary expansionists lived alone, disappeared, or died, and life in the pasture went on much as it has before.
One such visionary was named Black–his wool was not black, but his snout was.
After contemplating the fence in the southwest corner of the pasture for some time, Black came to the conclusion that an expansion of just a few meters to the south would come as a great relief and benefit to those in the pasture. However, when Black presented his thoughts and theories to the other residents of the pasture, his scheme was–of course–recognized for the dangerous and foolhardy venture that it was, and immediately overturned.
“Though the grass is green and long and the available water would provide much needed relief for many residents the fence cannot be expanded. The fence is as it is and as it always has been.”
Though one particularly ancient llama remembered the fence being much closer to the bottom of the north hill than where it currently stood.
It came to a vote, as these things always do, and the proposed expansion was hastily overturned.
Despite the ruling, over the next few days Black became more and more convinced that if they did indeed expand the pasture a few meters to the south, there would be more drinking water, more food, more space, and less disease.
Black paced along the southwest fence. He muttered to himself often, running one way and then the other. Black could not sleep, he could not rest.
Eventually, one dark stormy night Black decided it was his duty to open the eyes of the others and move the fence himself. Surely they would see the great benefit in such an expansion–once the fence was moved of course.
Black began at sunset and worked through the night. Though the area was not large, it was quite a bit of work for a lonely lamb. He toiled and dug. The night wore cold and long but Black was not deterred. He pushed on despite his fatigue until he was satisfied with the placement of the posts, and the angle of the rails.
The sun came up and the residents of the pasture approached the newly expanded southwest corner. Murmurs and hisses raced through the crowded animals.
“What have you done,” said one goat.
“You have put our security at risk for what,” growled a llama, “A few extra blades of grass and a dirty little creek?”
“You fool, you could have cost us our lives!” shouted another.
The murmurs grew louder. Some animals shouted angrily above the din.
“Certainly now you can see the benefit of such an expansion–” Black began.
“You endangered our lives, our posterity, our heritage, and our pasture with your foolish plan,” said a ewe. “We were happy with the way things were.”
The animals berated Black for some time. Despite his protests it was decided that one who would put betterment and progress above safety and security, was no longer fit to live among them.
Without further adieu Black was banished from the pasture. He was left to wander the wood alone and was never seen or heard of again.
After the exile the southwest corner of the pasture remained vacant for some time. The residents avoided the area at great pains, despite its long grass and clean water.
However, time passed–as it tends to–and little by little the animals began to occasionally wander into corner. Some would nibble on the fresh grass when they thought no one was watching.
One morning a young goat was found sleeping against the fence of the southwest corner. The animals were appalled, though many couldn’t remember why. After all, this corner was lush and green. The stream that ran through it provided clean water.
Over the course of the next few days the animals slowly ventured into the formerly forbidden corner of the pasture. They enjoyed the fresh air and expanded space that it provided for them.
One of the sheep couldn’t help but wonder aloud, “Why this corner had ever been forbidden.”
“What do you mean,” replied an old goat,”This corner has always been a part of the pasture.”
One comment on “The Pasture”
The renegade approach has produced good and bad changes to tradition, so I think it’s morally neutral, or at least morally ambivalent. That is to say we can’t judge an idea by how much it breaks with tradition. There have to be other standards of judgment.
I think sometimes we make conformity or non-conformity our moral imperative and fight for or against ideas according to how they fit the status quo, rather than on the merits of the idea. I guess that’s the danger in not understanding the why’s behind traditions, because without a why, we can only judge something based on how similar or how different it is to what we’ve already accepted.
I guess that’s the error of the pasture community. They haven’t really thought about the reasons why the fence is there, but they know the safety evident in the years (presumably) of utility from the fence justify its existence. What’s missing from their analysis is the pre-fence history which could teach them more about the fence’s core function and help them determine whether modifications to the fence would compromise or extend that core function.
This has all been kind of stream of consciousness but I guess I think this allegory demonstrates the need for at least one of two things:
1. A balanced, enduring, and rigorous treatment of the history of the fence
2. A omniscient, altruistic authority (God) who gives direction to the community regarding the fence