This is the story of the ant and the grasshopper.
All through the summer, the grasshopper sang and sang. He danced a merry jig and was a lot of fun at the nature parties.
Meanwhile, the ant worked hard, saving up food for winter.
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In the fall, the ant applied for and got into medical school. The grasshopper studied theater arts, with a minor in communications.
“Do you want to come over this weekend?” the grasshopper asked the ant one Friday afternoon (for indeed, they were friends, albeit in an increasingly distant way). “We’re having a big grasshopper party, and we have a six-foot glass bong in the attic that you have to tilt on its side to hit it. Should be fun.”
“I can’t,” said the ant, “I have to study all the organs in the body, and why they do what they do.”
“That sucks,” said the grasshopper, smoking a cigarette made of a blade of grass.
When the winter came, the grasshopper was like oh shit it’s cold out and I’m starving. He called the ant and asked if he could come over and eat some of the ant’s food.
“Uh, sorry – we don’t really have room for you,” said the ant, “there’s me, my wife, and the four kids.”
“You have four kids?!” exclaimed the grasshopper.
“Yeah,” replied the ant.
“That sucks,” said the grasshopper.
“Naw, it’s really great,” lied the ant.
The grasshopper didn’t know what to do. He called a fellow grasshopper friend, a lady grasshopper.
“Do you ever worry about the future?” asked the grasshopper.
“No,” said the lady grasshopper, “Between all my siblings’ kids, I have fourteen nieces and nephews. I figure one of them will take care of me one day when I’m old and can no longer provide for myself.”
“That’s your plan?” said the grasshopper.
“Pretty much,” replied the lady grasshopper.
The grasshopper looked at his friend, the lady grasshopper. He liked the way the sun shined off of her antennae.
“Do you want to make out?” asked the grasshopper.
“No,” said the lady grasshopper.
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The grasshopper found a praying mantis therapist.
“How can I help?” asked the praying mantis therapist.
“I’m worried about my future,” said the grasshopper.
“Well, do you want to find a job?” asked the praying mantis therapist.
“Not really,” said the grasshopper.
“Do you want to stop smoking cigarettes made of blades of grass?” asked the praying mantis therapist.
“Maybe one day,” said the grasshopper, wishy-washy-like.
“What about love?” asked the praying mantis therapist.
“I’ve known it,” said the grasshopper. “I’ve had it in my time. I’ve lost it every time.”
“You seem depressed,” said the praying mantis therapist. “What would make you happy?”
The grasshopper paused and thought for a moment.
“One time,” said the grasshopper, “when I was twenty-five or so, I went to visit my grasshopper grandparents at their home in northern Michigan.
“I stayed with them for about three weeks – just reading books at the library, eating tuna fish sandwiches for lunch, and watching baseball games in the evening. It was lovely.
“But there’s this one moment I always think about. It was, I think, my holiest moment.
“I had borrowed a car, and driven the five-minute drive to the state park, where Lake Michigan was located.
“I was sitting on a sand dune, up and away from the rest of the people.
“And I sat and I looked at the lake.
“I don’t know if you know this, but, a lake is so not an ocean or a river. It’s just entirely flat, and immobile. If no one entered the water, the water wouldn’t stir.
“And I just sat there, looking, and emptying myself. Until I was nothing. I was not a body or a mind. There was no such thing as time or worry or fear.
“It was in that moment – that sand-dune, lake-looking moment – that I felt the most alone, and the most alive. Like Buddha beneath the tree.
“And that’s all I want. All I’ve ever wanted. To be there, and nowhere else.”
“Did you just compare yourself to Buddha?” asked the praying mantis therapist.
“I guess so,” said the grasshopper, a little embarrassed, but not entirely.
“Well that’s nice,” said the praying mantis therapist, “but you still need to gather food for winter.”
“But I just want to go back to the sand-dune,” said the grasshopper.
“Listen – you have to grow up,” stressed the praying mantis therapist, a bit forcefully now.
“I just want to go back to the sand-dune,” repeated the grasshopper, over and over again.
Eventually, the grasshopper got himself a job as a legal secretary at one of those big Midtown corporate law firms. It was fine. Sometimes he was happier than others, but overall, it was fine.
At night, or in the early morning, before the sun came up, the grasshopper would read – either the internet or actual books too – and try to find his way back to the headspace of that sand-dune moment.
He wished he was a genius. And he knew he wasn’t.
But there was food in the fridge. And a roof over his tiny little head.
You’re very lucky, the grasshopper would tell himself.
You’re very lucky, he’d tell himself each and every day until he began to believe it.