The Ant

The search for a higher view.


In a deep forest, at the foot of an old tree, there was a big anthill.  A hundred thousand ants may possibly have lived in it.  Most of them were merely workers, who silently fulfilled their tasks – the care for the eggs and small larvae which would transform into new ants – and the occasional leaving of the hill to search for food and pine needles recently fallen from trees, to put another layer onto the hill.

Thus passed life for the ants within the darkness of their hill.  There was, however, a certain warmth and a certain feeling of community in there.

Ants, too, possess some minor diversity of capabilities – if not of personalities.

One of the ants wondered what the world further out, beyond the narrow area of search for food and needles, beyond the dominance of the tribe, would look like – and what sense or meaning out there life could possibly have.

Thus, our ant communicated with two other ants, however little ants can do that, to ask them to come along and climb the tree where their anthill was located – to see what the whole world would look like – to possibly understand from where they all came and what sense or meaning the whole thing would have.

On a nice day, the three ants began their ascent of the tree.

But after only 10 meters, the two companion ants turned around.  They found the forest’s wide, empty, lifeless spaces quite frightful.  Mainly, the large dark trees visible at different distances around them appeared threatening.

They preferred being back in the dense vastness of their anthill, with all the other ants whom they knew and with whom they could communicate in their own way – and where they had the customary work, without the need for confusing thought.

Our ant now climbed, alone and lonesome, further up the tree, in order to see just once the whole world and possibly also to understand it.

After a long climb, the dark crown of the tree was reached, with interwoven branches of several adjacent trees.  What a strange world – but one without any such life as that of the ants.  Was there any different life at all anywhere?

Then the climb continued beyond the dense crown of the tree to the highest branches reaching into the open sky.  There was even more emptiness around the ant than anywhere before.  One could look over the forest to ever more distance, as over a surface of waves.

But what did the ant see in the greatest distance?  It looked like an extended wall – it was a range of mountains.  This did not exist anywhere in the world of the ants.  Why did it exist up here, in the distance?  How did it originate?  What sense did it make?

After the last part of the ant’s climb, a surface of water became visible at the foot of the mountains, immensely larger than the puddles that could form after a rain close to the anthill. 

Now it became clear to the ant that the mountains had risen out of the water, then forests had covered the mountains, and last, the anthill appeared as the highest form of life in this world! 

Did the immense width of this view have any meaning for the life of the ants, possibly on a much higher level?  What, then, was the meaning of the lives of the ants?

A small bird – as strange as a meteorite – came flying through empty air, aiming for the ant!  But it had quickly hidden itself.

After this horrifying experience, the ant chose to climb down again.  Arriving below, the ant hesitated one short moment before reentering the hill, once more looking up the tree into that other, so much larger world – which, after all, was also the ant’s world – or had now become the ant’s world.

The ant reentered the anthill.  There it was warm and connected with many others, all of them pursuing their meaningful tasks.

But there was no way to communicate with others about this excursion.  They did not understand our ant; actually, they did not want to know or care very much about the strange larger world – in which they, however, were embedded, too.  Wasn’t life in the anthill interesting enough, occasionally exciting or dangerous and, ultimately, meaningful enough?

Our ant became a bit of an outsider. It had to try hard to be like all the others, to be fully accepted. 

The ants continued to concentrate on the eggs and the small larvae, which came forth to become another generation of ants, to spend the same life in the anthill as any generation would again.

Then, a violent wildfire raged through the forest. Only ashes remained of the anthill – soon blown away by the wind. All memories of that one ant and its view were lost.