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  • Rick Repetti

The Fable of the Non-conforming Sparrow

This story was related by one of my favorite meditation teachers, Ram Dass, although, as a fable, it has been widely shared. I’m not sure of its origins.

Once upon a time there lived a non-conforming young sparrow. When winter came, all his elder peers began to fly South. He didn't want to fly South with the rest of the birds, he was stubborn and wanted to star right where he was. The elders warned him that not only would his odds of survival drop if he lost the protection of the flock, as he would stand out and alone to predators. But he might freeze to death. He insisted he would be fine, and let the last of the flock depart. The first few days were increasingly challenging, but he held out as long as he could, until it got so cold that he had no choice but to start flying South.

Not long after he began, it started to snow, which weighed down his wings, tiring him, so he had to glide for longer periods than usual while he tried to catch his breath. Eventually, while gliding, his wings iced and froze and he fell to the ground, landing in snow, which began to freeze the rest of his body. He thought for sure he was doomed, as the snow began to fall more heavily and rapidly. With a last glimmer of life-preserving hope, he prayed, and as he was praying, he began to drift in and out of consciousness.

Just as he was about to pass out, possibly for the last time, he heard the sound of what seemed like a large animal’s footsteps approaching, and feared being eaten alive. Just as the sounds indicated the huge animal was standing right over him, the footsteps stopped. Just as he expected to be gripped in huge jaws, instead apparently a big cow crapped on the poor sparrow. The little sparrow could barely breathe, and thought for sure he would be buried alive and perish in a gross, smelly, and humiliating ending. However, soon enough the warm manure began to melt the snow and unfreeze his wings. Within minutes, he was unfrozen, able to breath easily, and happy to be alive.

He was so happy to be alive, warm, and breathing easily that he started to sing. A cat happened to be walking by, heard the noise, found the bird, dug him out, and ate him.

The story has three morals:

First, not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.

Second, not everyone who pulls you out of shit is your friend.

Third, if you are happy in a pile of shit, keep your mouth shut.

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