Aesop’s story of the gnat and the bull
Once upon a time, a gnat was flying over the meadow, making much buzzing for so small a creature. Finally, he settled on the tip of a bull’s horns. Once he had rested a short time, he made ready to fly away. But before he left, he begged the bull’s pardon for having used his horn for a resting place.
“You must be very glad to have me go now,” he said.
“It’s all the same to me,” replied the bull. “I did not even know you were there.”
Moral of the story
We are often of greater importance in our own eyes than in the eyes of our neighbour. The smaller the mind, the greater the conceit.
Now, before we go getting too indignant at the thought of our own insignificance (let alone being compared to a gnat), let me throw out a few suggestions as to why this might be a lot more comforting than it first appears.
First, a topic that I’ve covered in several articles before: self comparison and our excessive reliance on the perception of others.
This is a wholly unhealthy and unnecessary preoccupation – unnecessary because, as the story of the gnat and the bull reminds us, people don’t care about what we’re doing anywhere as near as much as we think they do.
Your average person walks around wrapped up in his own thoughts, desires, and preoccupations. He’s not spending his time thinking about you, and it would be absurd to think that he is. Lay that self-consciousness to rest.
Number two, if we’re not as important as we think we are, we can move away from the equally unhealthy need to take everything upon ourselves – and the crippling pressure that goes along with it. The business owner who thinks everything will crumble without him can learn to trust and delegate to others. Partners learn that their partner’s happiness doesn’t depend solely on them. Workers can take a vacation confident in the fact that others will step in. With you or without you, the show goes on, and that’s actually a comfort as well as a challenge.
So, the next time you go heaping pressure on yourself…just remember the story of the gnat and the bull! You’re nowhere near as important or indispensable as you think – and that’s all ok.
Cambridge graduate. Writer and thinker. Life enthusiast.