Ants with a Choice for a Better Life

Once upon a time there were these two ants. They were busy bringing crumbs of food back to their nest, where the food would be broken up into it’s components, and given to the various elements. The workers would get the parts that had energy for immediate use, so they could continue to work and bring back even more food. The small aphids would get the food that would be transferred into short term storage, that could be later used for nourishment for other ants. The queen would get the best stuff. She would get the most long lasting and densely nutritious portion of the food. She needed to save as much energy as possible, because she was going to give birth to the next generation of ants, who would go on and build their own colony.

But this story is about the two worker ants. They didn’t’ have names, because worker ants generally are not given much thought other than what they can produce. They only know how to follow one another, pick up a piece of food from the same source as the person who picked up the food before them, and turn and follow the trail back to where everybody else was going. Had they had the capacity of reason and the time to contemplate it, they would realize that all this was predetermined by nature and genetics. They didn’t have much choice in the matter. Food, trail, deposit, return to source. Over and over and over. They never got breaks, they couldn’t go out drinking on Friday night with their friends, they couldn’t wear shoes that didn’t match the rest of their outfits only because they were in a particularly festive mood that day. Food, trail, deposit, return. Such was the life of ants.

Until one day. One ant decided that he would stop, just for a little bit. Something inside of him spoke. Perhaps it was a genetic mutation, perhaps it was a voice that you never listen to. Perhaps it is a voice that you have inside you that is telling you to stop, and look around. Because when you stop, and look around, you might be able to notice things that you weren’t able to notice before. You might be able to see things that you hadn’t been able to see before. And you might have an idea, you might even create a new idea. The great thing about new ideas is that you can try them out, and nobody will really know what you are doing. Because it’s a new idea, even if it doesn’t’ work, you can still learn from the experience.

And when this one ant stopped, and took a break, he was completely surprised to see that all the other ants did the same. One second before, he felt depressed and angry and lonely. It’s not much fun being an ant. But when he decided to take a risk, and stop for a break, something amazing happened.  When he saw all the other ants following his lead, looking to him for guidance instead of that automatic scent they had been following, he changed. He transformed from a mindless worker ant to somebody with a choice.

When the queen gave birth to the new colony, she had to choose a leader. Because everybody knows that when a new ant colony is born, they are sent off into new and unknown territories, and must depend on the experience and guidance of those who came before. So naturally, the old queen, who was now advanced in years and failing in health, chose this young upstart ant to lead the new kingdom, which would undoubtedly flourish and prosper for generations to come.