Wisdom of the Ancients

November 8, 2009

I can only marvel at the astute understanding of the very nature of human existence demonstrated by the wisdom of the ancients. Whether deemed prophet or philosopher they had a remarkable grasp of the thought process of the vast majority of the bipedal beast and its mental paradigm relative to other animals.
Their observations of animal life in general cannot be different than what we may observe today. Over time these insights have been incorporated into the lexicon of animal congregation terminology. The choice of terms in each case clearly shows an understanding of the nature of each group. A collection of apes, for instance, are referred to as a shrewdness; a group of monkeys, a troop. Each term suggests an ability to analyze a situation independently and yet act as a unit. There are packs and bands of dogs and coyotes and foxes gather as a skulk. Each canine classification intimates at their ability to act in concert as they track, surround, and subdue their prey. And, of course, my very favorite, the pride of lions as they fiercely guard their territory. Pigs and cattle are moved in droves as they are pushed, prodded, and herded unwillingly to their ultimate demise as somebody’s dinner. None of these terms were chosen to characterize man by any of the early leaders, prophets, nor Jesus Christ in particular. Instead they chose to describe mankind in general and more specifically their followers as a flock. A flock might refer to a large group of birds, one of which appears to be the leader, flying thither and yon wherever that leaders chooses to go. More frequently a flock refers to sheep as in the case of Jesus who thence positioned himself as the Shepherd. Sheep, as an animal group, are most notably known for their habit of following das Arschloch in front of them wherever it may lead. They then stand around idly while they wait their turn to be fleeced all the while babbling vociferously amongst themselves. they have not the wit to choose a leader from among their own kind. Rather, they require a shepherd lest they wander off aimlessly to become a meal for a pack, band, or pride.
As a metaphor based on a deep understanding of the human condition it is remarkably accurate. It makes the biblical point beautifully for the followers of Christ or another wise leader whether one believes such leaders are Heaven sent or otherwise intellectually endowed. There is an obvious inherent danger in relying on this principle of the “good shepherd” to bring humanity to Glory. What happens when the shepherd has ulterior motives beyond the simple guidance of his flock through life? Ancient wisdom saw this dilemma of the good or bad shepherd as the struggle of good vs. evil, Christ vs. Satan. Call it what one will; the wrong shepherd is bound to lead the flock down the road to perdition.
Would that humankind—when defending righteous convictions—functioned more often with the shrewdness of apes; the unified pack action of the canines; or, better yet, the pride of lions.