Where the Thorns Grow (A Gun Fable)
Life began to stir in the forest. Countless days had passed since today in an endless chain of life and death. No one could remember just how long the forest had existed, but the ancient rocky peaks that stood guard over the valley gave its inhabitants comfort that countless days were still to come.
A beautiful deep red rose opened its petals to greet the sun. The rays gently stroked the flower to life, coaxing it to rise and fulfill new day of joy, sharing its beauty with the forest. The waxy petals slowly unfolded until the flower reached the full glory of its bloom. From its center, a scent that no man has been able to fully replicate gently lifted across the field, attracting visitors.
A passing bee caught wind of the rose’s perfume. As he inhaled the sweet, robust aroma, electricity shot through every cell in his body. He was transfixed and did what he was programmed to do by his Creator. In an instant the hunt for the rose was on!
The bee buzzed up and down through the thrush and bush with single-minded purpose – to find the rose. His wings beat a mellifluous tune as he shot past a spider’s web. As he flew underneath the leaf of a large thistle, the efficient hunter of nectar burst upwards into the sunlight and spun like a fighter plane performing a deadly aerial ballet. Coming to a stop, the fierce aviator striped in his war paint hovered in front of the vision of beauty that was the noble rose, directly in front of him.
Any thoughts of aggression melted away harmlessly in the presence of the towering flower many times larger than he. The bee carefully approached, guided by the scent, and gently landed on the lower petals. In response, the petals folded in ever so slightly, tenderly embracing the little bee to shield him from the elements as he drank the delicacy of nectar.
A chorus of protest arose on the stem below. The aphids and their ant masters shouted at the bee. The aphids were angry at the bee’s intrusion, jealous of its power of flight and greedy for the nectar. They yelled rude epithets and insults at the yellow and black warrior.
Only the bee couldn’t hear them. He was too busy, too intoxicated in beauty to be bothered by the shouts of those less worthy.
The bee’s indifference only increased the anger of the aphids. After all, if the best thing you can do for someone is to love them, then the worst is not necessarily to hate them, but rather to simply ignore them (at least in the minds of the aphids). The green aphids implored the rose to reject the bee, retract its thorns and let them share in the delight. It was only fair.
But the rose would not comply. She knew the horde had no respect for her beauty, because they chomped on her leaves daily without asking. When the bee visited, he took only what he needed and then left with a dusting of pollen that the rose needed to share with others to multiply.
The mob, however, lusted after her sweet nectar and the rose knew that the aphids were not to be trusted. They would surely destroy her to fulfill their gluttonous desires, since the aphids had done nothing in the past to prove otherwise. Many aphids had died on the rose thorns in their attempts to steal the nectar, but the rose would not change her mind, which only inflamed the anger of the aphids.
In response to the unfairness of the rose, the king of the aphids called for an audience with the Guardian of the Forest, but the Guardian was away tending to other matters. In his place, the Guardian had left his son in charge. His son was good, but he was inexperienced and unwise in the ways of character and spirit.
The aphid king called upon the Guardian’s son to pass a law outlawing thorns, for they injured and hurt the aphids. The only way the aphids could be safe, so said their king, was to ban thorns from all rose bushes throughout the land. The Guardian’s son was moved by the suffering of the aphids. Many aphids, even children, had been injured, maimed and even killed by their encounters with the thorns. Something must be done.
Seeing his opportunity, the aphid king reasoned to the Guardian’s son that thorns must be some sort of accident of nature. To any logical observer, the aphid king argued, the ugliness of the thorns stood in stark contrast to the beauty of the rose bloom. Anyone of even modest intelligence could see that thorns must be defects, because it just didn’t make sense that a gorgeous flower should have, or even need, such prickly defenses. Whoever created thorns in the first place must have not foreseen that the forest would evolve into a more civilized place. Thorns were artifacts of a distant and more savage past. Seeing this for himself, the Guardian’s son declared and set into law that roses could no longer have thorns.
The aphids rejoiced!
Yet, the roses of the land did not remove their thorns.
Seeing that the roses failed to comply with the new decree, the aphids brought suit again to the Guardian’s son. “Look!” cried the aphid king, “The roses flaunt your orders! They defy our will and care not to comply with your authority! How can you call yourself Guardian? If you can’t protect us, then we will find a new Guardian who will.”
The Guardian’s son realized that he had a problem. If the roses would not comply with his law, then he had a crisis on his hands. If the forest began to question his authority, then what would become of him, his father, their rule and the herd? What would his father say if he returned to a forest in open rebellion? Surely, something had to be done.
To avoid a crisis, the Guardian’s son ordered the Captain of the Beetles to gnaw off every thorn on every rose bush in the forest.
The Captain led his swarm of black beetles alight and spanned out across the countryside to remove the thorns. The beetles weren’t sure why they were ordered to do so, since no rose had ever done anything to harm a beetle, but orders were orders and the Guardian must be obeyed. It took days to execute the order, but the Captain efficiently executed his charge over the cries and screams of the roses. With their heavy and razor sharp mandibles, the dark beetles efficiently chewed off every thorn from every rose bush in the forest.
Seeing this, the aphid king was pleased. He and his followers set out and climbed up the unprotected stalks now undeterred. Even the children aphids could reach the highest stalks. At first, they ate only the leaves, but when the leaves were all gone, they were still unsatisfied. So they greedily feasted on the nectar, something only the bees and butterflies could enjoy before the thorns were removed. Now even the aphids could enjoy this delicacy, only they sucked the flowers dry. When the roses would produce no more sweet liquid, the aphids took to eating the petals, leaving the rose bushes stripped of their flowers, barren and unprotected.
The bees could find no more nectar, so they left the forest.
Then, the roses began to die, since there were no bees to pollinate the flowers.
The aphids began to hunger and they demanded that their king do something. At the behest of his suffering people, the aphid king did the only thing he knew how to do and once again visited the Guardian’s son. He demanded, “Oh son of our Guardian, you must order the bees back to pollinate the roses. Without them I fear that all of my people shall die of starvation. The ants have already left us to seek greener pastures, but they are fast and powerful. We cannot keep up, for we are slow and weak. Without protection, the birds and ladybugs are killing us off one by one! Something must be done!”
The Guardian’s son said, “Yes, this is a tragedy. I will order the Captain of the Beetles to arrest the bees and bring them back to the forest. Then everything will be back to the way it was.” The son of the Guardian was anxious, because the truth was not lost on him. A nervous glance around the valley revealed that the trees were dying too. It seemed the bees did more than just pollinate flowers, which was only now apparent. Without the forest, the Guardian’s son realized that his herd would be vulnerable to the hunters.
So, the Captain of the Beetles and his men went out from the capitol to find the bees and bring them back. They flew for an entire day without seeing one yellow and black flyer. A quick inspection revealed that the hive had been abandoned. What they did find, however, was that all of the roses in the valley had died. After two days of fruitless searching, the Captain returned to the Guardian’s son to tell him that no bees were to be found anywhere in the forest or surrounding areas. In fact, many of his men had deserted for neighboring forests because they were hungry and had not eaten in days.
By this time, several of the Guardian’s herd had been taken by hunters. As he listened to the Captain speak, he realized that it was too late. The bees were gone for good, and with them the balance that had preserved the delicate web of interdependencies that sustained life. It was only now that the forest was nearly gone that the son could see the truth. He knew his Father would be upset, but he had to do what was necessary to protect the herd.
The son of the Guardian dutifully thanked the Captain of the Beetles for his loyal service, released him from his authority and led the herd out of the valley. He hoped that they might find an uninhabited place in which to take refuge in and start anew. If not, then maybe they would give up their sovereignty and merge into another herd. Either outcome was preferable to starving to death in the dying forest.
The aphid king screamed at the son of the Guardian, “What about us? Where do you think are you going?”
The Guardian’s son paused and turned to the aphid king. Now wiser and aware of his folly, the son hung his head in sadness and replied, “To a place where the roses have thorns. Back to a time when they could protect themselves, for by guarding their precious gifts with the thorns you convinced me were defects, they were able to preserve their beauty and with that, the fabric of life. It was wrong for me to order the removal of their thorns. If I had known what you and the horde would do to the roses once I made them vulnerable to your fear and greed, then I would have never listened to your entreaties, no matter how passionate or painful to hear. You have taught me a great lesson, king of the aphids, one that I shall never forget and one that I promise to pass on to future generations. I have learned that although beauty is the foundation of the natural order in the forest, it is the thorns that guarantee protection from the anger, fear, greed, jealousy and selfishness of the horde. If I am given the chance to lead again, then I promise that I will not make the same mistake twice. As for the herd, we must go before it is too late. You are on your own and must protect yourselves.”
And with that, the king of the aphids watched in stunned silence as the Guardian’s son led the herd over the ridge with the setting sun behind them.
Darkness approached, and the birds descended upon the aphids.
Exhausted and without energy to leave the forest, the aphid king and what was left of his subjects froze to death during the cold night.
But the next morning, a very ordinary thing happened. Something so ordinary, that it was in fact quite extraordinary. Next to the lifeless body of the aphid king, a tiny green tendril of a shoot pushed through the earth and caught a ray of sunlight. The warmth of the sun’s rays compelled the little green arm to strive upwards, and the infant rose bush clothed in tiny thorns reached up to the ultimate source of life as a new day dawned.