Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Way of the Eagle

The Chicken and the Eagle / The Parable of the Eagle

One day a naturalist who was passing by a farm saw in the barnyard a flock of chickens, and among them was an eagle. The naturalist inquired of the owner why it was that an eagle, the king of all birds, should be reduced to living in the barnyard with the chickens.
"Since I have given it chicken feed and trained it to be a chicken, it has never learned to fly," replied the owner. "It behaves as chickens behave, so it no longer thinks of itself as an eagle."
"Still," insisted the naturalist, "it has the heart of an eagle and can surely be taught to fly."
After talking it over, the two men agreed to find out whether this was possible. Gently, the naturalist took the eagle in his arms and said, "You belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth your wings and fly."
The eagle, however, was confused; he did not know who he was. Seeing the chickens eating their food, he jumped down to be with them again.
Undismayed, the naturalist took the eagle on the following day up on the roof of the house and urged him again, saying, "You are an eagle. Stretch forth your wings and fly." But the eagle was afraid of his unknown self and the world and jumped down once more for the chicken food.
On the third day the naturalist rose early and took the eagle out of the barnyard to a high mountain. There he held the king of the birds high above him and encouraged him again, saying, "You are an eagle. You belong to the sky as well as the earth. Stretch forth your wings now and fly."
The eagle looked back towards the barnyard and up to the sky. Still he did not fly. Then the naturalist lifted him straight towards the sun, and it happened: the eagle began to tremble; slowly he stretched his wings. At last, with a triumphant cry he soared into the heavens.
It may be that the eagle still remembers the chickens with nostalgia; it may even be that he occasionally revisits the barnyard. But as far as anyone knows, he has never returned to lead the life of a chicken. He was an eagle, though he had been kept and tamed as a chicken.
And just like the eagle, people who have learned to think of themselves as something they aren't can re-decide in favor of what they really are.

The story of the eagle in the chicken yard is our story, a story about accepting something about ourselves that is not true -- that we are chickens, unable to fly -- and living as if it were true. We think we are chickens because we have accepted a perception about ourselves that is the chicken philosophy of life. In truth, we really are eagles with the potential to soar, to be free to experience our real essence: love, joy, peace, freedom. But alas, we find ourselves in the chicken yard feeling confused and fearful, and with no sense of life, purpose or direction...

Excerpts: "The Way of the Eagle" by Jerry Fankhauser, 1986
Image: "Clarity Of Vision, Strength Of Spirit, Courage Of Heart" by Jody Bergsma
[This really makes me think of one of my favorite little books: "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" by Richard Bach, 1976]

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