Wednesday, May 09, 2007

It Takes a Worried Bird

Chicken Little was in the woods
A seed fell on his tail.
He met Henny Penny and said,

“The sky is falling.
I saw it with my own eyes.
I heard it with my ears.
Some of it fell on my tail.”

He met Turky Lurkey, Ducky
Lucky and Goosey Loosey.
They ran to tell the king.

They met Foxy Loxy.
They ran into his den,
And did not come out again.

Chicken Little’s grazing through the rotting leaves and low bushes was suddenly interrupted by something that happened all the time in the woods. A seed fell. That’s it, a walnut or a pecan or perhaps an acorn fell. As soon as the pecan or what ever struck his tail, Chicken Little did what chicken’s do, he ran and flew. Chickens just simply do what is built into them when danger is around, they try to get as much distance between the danger and themselves as possible as soon as possible.

So not only does Chicken Little run, he talks as well. Of course he is yet to turn to see what hit his tail, he is yet to understand what the sky is made of and so he is yet to know that his assumption that the sky is falling is ridiculous. The sky cannot fall. I think that it’s interesting that neither the writer of this nursery rhyme nor the tellers of this story have ever given Chicken Little any more human characteristics than the ability to talk and the ability to clutch fatefully to his unreasonable anxiety. So why hasn’t Chicken Little over the centuries gotten any smarter? Well, maybe it is because we know that we just don’t get any smarter either.

After the pecan whacked Mr. Little’s tail feathers, he assumed something irrational. As he fluttered by Henny Penny he squawked breathlessly, “The sky is falling.” Well, Henny Penny assumed that Mr. Little was right and panicked right along with him. There they were clucking and fluttering and flying through the woods where they collected a whole group of bird brains; Turkey Lurkey, Ducky Lucky and Goosey Loosey. By now, I’m sure that Turkey Lurkey was thundering out in front because he flies the fastest, Goosey Loosey was honking frantically for her Gander and Ducky Lucky had left the safety of his pond to join the feathery stampede.

With all of that racket coming out of the woods and into the fields toward the seat of authority, Foxy Loxy’s ears perked up and his very keen eyes saw the flash of wings as the stupid flock floundered toward him. “Wait,” Foxy barked, and he did something that nobody else had done, he asked some questions. After all, anything that would cause such a mass exodus from the woods towards the king’s palace might be a danger to him too. It could be fire or hunters or some huge predator that Foxy had never encountered. “What on earth is going on?” He asked the foul flying by.

“The sky is falling, The sky is falling” they screamed in unison. I imagine that Foxy looked up and wondered what they could be thinking.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“To tell the King.” And then, I think maybe it dawned on him how utterly stupid this whole bunch really was.

“Wait, if the sky is falling, you’ll never make it to the king, after all there is a lot of sky between here and the palace.” Foxy’s words may have hit the group hard. After all, they were the first words coming out of rationality since the pecan hit feather-headed Chicken Little. I imagine the group skidded to a stop near Foxy and stood there breathing hard, their hearts racing. With one eye on the sky, maybe Turky Lurky, who would be the brightest of them might have asked what they should do. “Well,” Foxy might have said looking up at the sky, “The safest place to be when the sky falls is underground where it can’t hit you.” Maybe he started trotting in the direction of his den where his mate and pups were waiting for a meal. “C’mon, I’ll let you stay in my den where you’ll be safe and since I’m the fastest of all, I’ll go tell the king.” I can, in my imagination picture this whole stupid flock squawking and honking and clucking their doomsday predictions as they followed Foxy Loxy to his den. The rhyme finishes with, “And they did not come out again.”

Isn’t interesting that Chicken Little, though rightfully startled, talked himself into irrational fear and the rest of the birds ran from what was to them only imaginary. They weren’t started by the pecan. They didn’t react instinctively, they panicked at the irrational imagination of Chicken Little and they ran from an illusion, an imaginary fear straight into the jaws of a real predator. Foxy Loxy was some one to be greatly feared and yet their anxiety and panic made them so irrational that they ignored the real danger of an old and powerful enemy.

Anxiety does that to us when we allow it and those who fail to bring the rational mind into play when confronted with something unusual like a whack on the tail feathers with a nut, are primed to do just what Chicken Little did; run and flutter and cluck and gather a crowd around that runs and squawks and quacks.

A book I once read about the 10 dumbest mistakes smart people can make says that the very first stupid mistake smart people can make is to allow anxiety overtake their thinking. I understand anxiety. I have understood it in the past when I was about to key the door of a cell holding a very large and crazy individual. I know what anxiety is when called to a darkened house on a domestic call, knowing that there is an angry man with a shotgun waiting for me. I recognize anxiety when my mind reels with all sorts of imagined danger. We all know it and we all suffer with it at various degrees but the Bible also says that it is disrupting and should be given up.
(1 Pet 5:6-7 NIV) says
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. {7}Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

(Eccl 11:10a NIV)
So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body. . .

That last quote in Ecclesiastes gives us a really good idea about where needless anxiety fits in the spiritual world. It compares casting off anxiety because it is a trouble of the body. It is a result of over concern about outward things. I’m not saying that fear is not a good thing. It is. But anxiety is worry, worry, worry. Worry about how other people look. Worry about how we look. Worry about this and worry about that. Anxiety when we think that people don’t like us. Anxiety when we don’t have the right clothes or the right car or a spotless house. Anxiety is also a killer. It makes us sick - physically sick. Worse yet, it separates us from the care and love of God.

We cannot avoid the fact that anxiety can be more than the stupid irrationality of the flock. It can be a serious illness that cannot be cured with church cliche's. When your foolish worrying becomes unmanageable, go to a doctor and then get psychotherapy. It's no fool who asks questions and gets help when help is needed. After the angst is under control, rest in the peace that passes all understanding.

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