One of the things I am thankful for as I reflect on my childhood are the summers spent on the farm, learning practical lessons about life. One that has always stood out to me is how one little collie dog, a dog that I could pet, run with, and play with, could become so big and bold as to bully 50 cows and move them in the direction that the dog chose.
If you’ve never been on a working farm, and don’t understand the whole milking thing, cows need to be milked twice a day: early in the morning, and late in the afternoon. This is a routine that isn’t broken and it goes on seven days a week, so much so that even a dumb cow can, over time, begin to move toward the barn. Because not only is it milking time, it’s feeding time as well.
What really makes these two times of day worth watching is the work of the cow dog to go out and gather the herd and move them into the barn. The cows can be wandering, (as cows do) heads down, eating what grass they can find and totally uninterested in the objective of the farmer. But when the cow dog shows up and barks at their heels, he can round them up and move them as one herd to the barn, in the barn, and into the stalls. It’s an amazing thing to watch.
What do we learn by this? That although humans are infinitely more intelligent, when it comes to being herded and bullied around, we’re not much different than cows. We start out excited, bold, and daring. But before too long, the call to conform and comply to convention is almost irresistible.
The truth is, you’re not a part of the herd, you’re an individual. Yeah, I know we berate the individualism of America, and we should. Because, let’s face it, none of us are an island unto ourselves. We all need family and community. We need other creatives to moo out loud along with us, because this world is too big, too dark, and too dangerous for just one of us to try to solve all the world’s problems.
Here is the point. What cow dog has bullied you into the herd? What barking and sniffing at your heels has gone on in the past that gets you so afraid of being rejected or laughed at, that you’re not even willing to try to lift your head and moo? What bondage do you live in in your mind that’s causing you to live such a small, restricted life? What are you afraid of, being criticized? We’re going to do that anyway. Being rejected? We’re going to do that too.
Here is what you are afraid of: not being heard, being insignificant, living a life of pain and struggle. And at the end of it, looking back and having achieved almost nothing that makes the world better, and you happier. This need not be. I dare you to identify your cow dogs, and if you can’t turn them into friends, send them to the house.