Lessons from Aesop’s Fables (#8): The Oak and the Reed


A very large Oak was uprooted by the wind and thrown across a stream. It fell among some Reeds, which it thus addressed: “I wonder how you, who are so light and weak, are not entirely crushed by these strong winds.” They replied, “You fight and contend with the wind, and consequently you are destroyed; while we on the contrary bend with the wind, and therefore remain unbroken, and escape.”



Do not wrestle with the Gods or with circumstances far above your power. Beware also of the force of the times and, even if you don’t agree with certain principles, entertain the idea and discuss it rather than oppose it fiercely. Also, a community of humble reeds (as it were) that endures successfully is better for polytheism than a single proud oak that breaks unyieldingly. This is especially important for leaders who take it upon themselves to represent others and bear the brunt of opposition. We have no need of adding any more relics to polytheism, however mighty they may be; our task is now to revive, survive and thrive amid so much wind.

6 thoughts on “Lessons from Aesop’s Fables (#8): The Oak and the Reed

  1. jim-

    How does it feel to be replaced by a less effective system and then challenged to transcend its limitations? It’s a frustrating world in religion right now. Nice to see you Melas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Hey Jim. I’m glad to have you pass by, as always. The current state of religion with monotheism is quite unfortunate and in some cases dangerous. Polytheism remains strong in India and may be undergoing some regeneration in China (as far as the communist party will allow it), but in the rest of the world it is either decaying or deceased. Revival is a hard task, much like survival, because monotheists will not allow our movement to go too far if they can help it, in spite of their own (internal) problems and limitations. They’ve been condemning one another to hell for centuries already and how glorious would it be in their minds to wage a holy war against us, especially as part of their belief in eschatology. But polytheism as an idea will never die; it has various elements inherent to our societies, cultures and even minds, and has always been the mode of religion (if animism is included) throughout human history until recently, if we speak comparatively. I have hopes but also fears. Let’s see what will come of this budding movement. Polytheism would benefit the world greatly at this period of history, so long as it is understood and applied fairly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. K

        And even people later on. If they had been more ruthless none of the Abrahamic religions would have gained ground. They probably wouldn’t even exist. Unless it was just fated to be so and nothing would have changed anything, which may be the case.

        Your post was more about bending in the face of other circumstances though. This lesson is a difficult one for me. I am very stubborn by nature.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Melas the Hellene Post author

        Perhaps it was fate, but not without cause. Besides increasing social complexity that favored universalism, I am afraid it was imperial ruthlessness precisely that fueled the growth & development of monotheism, especially in the case of the Jews and Christians. Persecution rather than education makes people hold onto their wrong ideas ever more strongly. Nevertheless, now that monotheism prevails, bending does not mean bowing down or succumbing to the “wind”, but only temporarily acknowledging it or demonstrating understanding. The wisest will carry this function out as Aristotle describes it: “It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain an idea even without agreeing to it”. This is what I attempt to do, and whenever I must disagree with principles, I ensure never to mix people within my condemnation. It is an excellent thing to be stubborn in one’s own way (which I am), so long as you can assert yourself politely while demonstrating seriously that you understand the other side. Don’t forget the symbolism of the reed being used anciently as a pen; in this sense, the bending is merely a rhetorical strategy that will enable you to “skirmish” successfully with a larger rival, where you would otherwise fail if you try to “ram” them headlong with a mighty trireme built of oak. The fable of the Sun contesting the Wind also comes to mind here.


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