Reclining on a sun-dappled boulder, I observed a trail of tiny black ants with interest. A favorite metaphor for work and life, these trails. Seeing my chance, I swiped my hand across a broad section of path with no ants to see what would come next.
Some of the ants paused only an instant then dashed forward into the unknown. Others stopped longer, and proceeded with caution. Some ants idled in circles. Others, seemingly defeated, headed back down the trail in the direction they came from. A few went off in a mad rush in a brand new direction, as if in terror at this sudden abolition of the known.
These ants must be readers of human social media. Every one of their responses is encouraged or refuted in some way, there. But the outcome of it was the re-establishment of the trail and then everything proceeded as if chaos had never reared in their midst.
Yet, was there really the courage of a “leader” in those who blazed forward, or the timidity of the “follower” in those who moved forward slowly? Was there indecisiveness in those who just did wheelies in their parking lots, or fear in those who went back, or madness in those who went in an entirely new direction? Probably not – probably each of the ants merely reacted without deep emotion in widely different, individual ways to tiny differences in the catastrophe in the spot they found it. For it was the collective intent of the ants to gather food along this trail, and the varied responses of individuals all served that greater collective intent.
Later, reflecting on myself, I observed my own thoughts with interest. Aren’t all these thoughts varied responses serving a greater collective? Aren’t our emotions and individual actions? What about our priorities, our goals, and interests?
Each email, each break, each shovel of dirt, each swelling of pride, each passing sadness – an ant’s reaction on an ant’s path. Yet mind and spirit are the hive; the collective of all these, the context of the current moment.
We must pay great attention to our intentions, for all the “good” and “bad” details serve them.