the fable of the dragon who lost his fire

Unable to find suitable employment after graduation, a dragon accepted a job at a company of cows…

He was careful, of course, to hide his dragon-ness.  He restrained his breath, lest he shoot out a mouthful of fire.

He tried to fit in, yet secretly mocked the slowly plodding ways of his co-workers…

However, in time, he came to admire their stubborn perseverance.

He even joined them occasionally in a group “moo”.

Yes, after a few months, the dragon almost felt at peace with his work situation…

But then one night at home, he tried to light a candle with his breath, as he often did…

…and found he couldn’t even produce a small flame!  His fire had been weak for a couple of days, but he’d just shrugged off as a slump.

Our dragon now felt so ashamed.  Would he ever breathe fire again?  I have been around those cows too long, he thought.  Maybe I’ve become one of them!

But no—he knew he could never truly be a cow.  On the other hand, how could he be a dragon without his fire?

The dragon tried night after night, yet couldn’t breathe a single flame, no matter how hard he huffed.  His lungs felt dead with cold dry ashes.

The end of this stretch found him sitting, in deep rumination, on a city park bench.  If I left that cow company, maybe I’d regain my fire, he thought.  However, I’d still be a dragon trying to live in a world filled with cows.

As he pondered this dilemma, his dull eyes roamed around the park…

….until they caught sight of a little fellow struggling to climb a tall tree.

The child reached for a branch but slipped, swung upside down, then lost his grip and fell…

…landing hard on the hard ground. He lay motionless, unconscious.

Without another thought, the dragon man rushed up and knelt down beside the poor child.  Taking a deep breath, he forced a fiery gust down into the boy’s empty lungs.  Again and again, he pushed his own breath into the youth, determined to bring him back.

Finally, the scrawny chest began to heave with life.  The young one blinked his eyes open and smiled up at the dragon.

Our dragon could feel the ragged heat of his fire swirling inside him again.  By drawing down deep into himself, he’d reignited!

Then, as the child parted his lips to whisper “thanks”—lo and behold!—a wisp of flame appeared for just an instant.

The dragon realized his revived fire had stirred new fire to life.  Since the young one had fire, he too must be a dragon.

The dragon man felt two imperatives then:

To do all he could to keep his own fire alive….

…and to do what he could to help this tyro grow his fire.  If the little fellow was to become a proper dragon, he must be trained properly…

…he must be guided toward his true nature…and steered past potential pitfalls.

The youth had to learn how to fit in with non-dragons.  When to use his flame and when to keep it hidden.

At this point, our dragon saw the obvious obstacle:

He still hadn’t learned how to do that which he needed to teach.  He didn’t know because he’d never been properly trained.

His resolve then became even more resolute: he must give the dragon child what no one had given him!

But to do that, he had to learn how to be around cows and still keep his flame.

Thus, he decided to remain at the cow company a little while longer.

Yes, the place presented a potential pitfall…

…but by staying, he’d help both himself and the dragon-in-training.

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry

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the hope of an incompetent human being

In his 1969 bestselling book, The Peter Principle, Dr. Laurence Peter presented this premise:

“In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence”

At a time when many of our best and brightest seemed to be the worst and the dimmest, this concept made a lot of sense to a lot of people.  We said: So that’s why our world is in such a mess!

When recent events brought that theory back to mind, I hit upon this idea:

Maybe life on this planet has risen to its level of incompetence!

Having done well with one-cell organisms, Life then rose to create creatures of increasing complexity.  Overall, Life had a excellent track record.  Even creatures now extinct lasted millions of years.

But then Life produced the evolutionary oddity known as homo sapiens.  As I see it, with humans, Life finally reached its level of incompetence.


All other creatures are more or less competent.  An amoeba knows how to be an amoeba.  The amoeba is not at odds with itself.  Nor is the snail.  Higher life forms have more complex social relationships.  And as a result, perhaps more inner turmoil.  But still, a wolf knows how to be a wolf.  A wolf doesn’t need a book!

On the hand, the human being seems to be so confused about how to be a human being.  Some individuals do a better job than others, of course.  But no human is without neuroses and inner conflict.

Our lack of inner harmony creates disharmony in our partnerships, our groups, our communities, our nation, our world.

But we’re not evil.  We’re not a flawed design (an idea I’ve often entertained).  No, we’re merely incompetent.

So there’s hope…

…because competency can be learned.

I know from my own experience.

No, I’m not saying I’ve become competent at being a human being.  But with much work, I’ve slowly become better at it.

However, I don’t think I’ll ever be completely competent…

…because as I rise, I confront new challenges.  It’s as if I graduate from one class into another class and find that class to be even harder.  I rise—but only to a new level of incompetence!

But I guess that is how it should be…

Though I don’t like feeling incompetent…and often dread new challenges…

…to stay at the same ol’ level would bore me.  I don’t want to stand still.  Nor do we, I believe.

We’re trying to grow.  We’re trying—we’re determined!—to rise to new levels of incompetence.  It’s an unstoppable natural impulse.

That’s my belief and a good one, I think, because it helps give us the hope we need…

…as we struggle to fix this mess we’ve made for ourselves.

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry blog

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the fable of the dog who sees beauty

One day, while the dog lolled in the grass on her back…

…a cool shadow suddenly dimmed the sunlight.

The dog looked up to find a big cloud towering above her.  The puffs of white piled one on top of the other.

The dog had noticed clouds before, but had never given them much thought.  They were just one of the many inexplicable things of this Earth.

However, on that day, without anything else to distract her, she began to ponder the cloud…

The problem was…

…her thoughts didn’t really have anywhere to go.  After all, she couldn’t sniff the thing.  Couldn’t know the thing.  It moved, so it must be alive.  But in different sort of way:

As the billows slowly shifted, fat round chunks of cloud broke away.  After drifting a short distance, these little tuffs softly collided with each other and joined together to form a second cloud.  Yes, these clouds were alive—but in a different sort of way.

If only she could get at them somehow.  But no—she could only marvel at their strangeness.  At the strangeness of all clouds.  From that day on, the dog became a cloud watcher.

Most afternoons, she cloud-watched until she couldn’t bear to gaze any longer.  The clouds were so mysterious, so elusive—after an hour or so, she’d be nearly mad with desire.

And so, on cloudless days, she felt both relieved and disappointed.

I know dogs aren’t supposed to be able to experience a sense of beauty…

…but I think her response goes beyond mere fascination.

At the end of her daily cloud-watching, when she finally turned away, that sense of beauty would remain with her…

…for a little awhile, at least.  At least for a little awhile, she would experience old things in a new way.

Even a common thing like moss would seem both odd and wonderful.

However, her greatest love was always the clouds.  She even liked the gray ones.  Even the ones that roared with storm.  Or especially them.

She wished she could tell her human companions of her love of clouds.  But how?—how could she express what she felt?  How—when you can’t paint, can’t sing, can‘t rhapsodize in verse?

Yes, she could bark; she could dance around.  But she’d danced and yapped, just for fun, long before she knew beauty.

And so, the human couple didn’t give her new dancing, her new yipping and yapping much thought…

Unable to get through, she ached with frustration.  Finally, one afternoon, she could bear it no more and let loose a long deep howl.  What a painful moan!  You couldn’t hear that sound without being touched in the heart.

The couple then ran to her and held her close and whispered soothing words.

What luck!—she’d finally gotten through to the humans!  Perhaps they didn’t see what she saw in the clouds—after all, they looked to her and not up at the sky.  But at least they now seemed to understand her feelings.

Since then, she’s continued to watch clouds on a daily basis…

…and often gives in to the impulse to dance and bark…

…but only rarely does she release a long howl.  Only when she thinks she might choke if she doesn’t express her deepest feelings.

She practices such restraint because she’d rather the humans leave her alone during cloud-watching time.

To me, this story raises a question:

The dog discovered beauty, then successfully communicated her feelings about that beauty.  So. in that case…

…is it right to call her an artist?

I’m sure many will respond with a firm “NO”.  And many of that many will likely have well-reasoned reasons.  Some will argue that she isn’t actually trying to convey a vision of the world.

To that objection, I answer:

I’m not so sure she isn’t…

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry blog

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the fable of the crow who tried to be a parrot

A crow, believing he should be among more colorful festive birds…

…painted himself up to resemble a parrot.

But though he could match their colors, he couldn’t match their speech.  The parrots soon discovered the truth about him and kicked the crow out of their club.

He then returned to his crow friends.  But he hadn’t yet managed to rub the paint off his black feathers.  “So, you tried to deny your crow-ness!” they cawed.  “Leave and don’t come back.”

Rejected by both sides, he then decided to reject both sides.  “To hell with them all!” he said.  “I don’t want to be around a bunch of birds who can’t accept me as I am.”

Thus, he wandered in solitude, feeling quite lonely and languishing in self-pity…

But then one bright morning, while sipping from a puddle, he happened to catch his reflection on the water…

What a sorry sight he saw!  Stubborn crusts of green and yellow and red still spotted his back and beak and wings.  “How can I blame the other birds for not accepting me, when I couldn’t even accept myself,” he thought.

Feeling deep shame, he was actually relieved to be on his own.

But perhaps blessings come to those who learn from their mistakes…

That same day, while gliding aimlessly in flight, our crow spied a flock standing in a forest clearing.  Oddly enough, the group appeared to be a mix of crows and parrots…

He had to take a closer look.

And what a surprise he found!

As he settled down to the ground, he saw that those who’d appeared to be crows were actually parrots.  And those who’d appeared to be parrots were actually crows.

Like him, those crows had painted themselves with green and yellow and red…

Like him, they’d then been rejected—by the ones they had tried to imitate and by their own kin.

The parrots in the clearing had also attempted a lifestyle change.  Wishing to hang out with crows, they’d hidden their colors under black paint…

…and then been rejected by those they’d tried to imitate, as well as their own kin.

This bunch of rejects accepted our bedaubed crow.  They understood him and felt empathy for him.  They were able to accept him because they’d learned to accept themselves.  They’d learned to accept themselves after finding others just like themselves.

And so, in time, amid this new-found flock, our crow learned to accept himself.  Thus, he became someone better than he had been.

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
dream steps blog

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fable of the magical brooms

An old solitary woman, having cleaned her own home quite well…

…got on her magical broom and flew to various villages, looking for houses that needed sweeping.

Whenever she found a dwelling of dust and dirt, she’d swoop down to the porch, knock on the front door, and offer her services to the residents.

But when people saw her, they’d throw up their hands and yell, “Damn you to hell, witch!  Leave us alone!”

The old woman felt so disappointed, so confused.  Why did they condemn her?  She just wanted to help.  Couldn’t those people see their houses needed cleaning?

Well, maybe they actually wanted that dirt…

But why?

Well, maybe they’d grown accustomed to the layers of dust.  “Yes, that must be it—that’s why they see me as evil,” she thought.  “Here I am, some stranger, threatening to take away the old familiar.  If they lost all their dirt, just like that, they’d be in shock.  They need to come to terms with the situation on their own, at their own pace.”

With that in mind, she hit upon this plan:

When she located a dusty, dirty house, she’d wait and sneak in late at night.  Being careful not to wake the sleeping folk, she’d prop a broom in one corner of the kitchen…

The occupants would find the gift the next morning and feel compelled to use it.

A clever scheme…but in practice…well, the results were varied…

Some, when they saw the broom, believed evil forces had been at work in the night.  So they promptly threw the broom into the fire.

A few, tight for cash, sold the broom for whatever they could get.

Others thought their nosey neighbors had left a hint.  More than one feud resulted from that bad guess.

Some said, “How the hell did that get there?”  Lacking any reasonable answer, they simply threw the broom into a closet and went on about their business.

Of course, they’d eventually rediscover it, while rummaging through their piled-up junk.  At the sight of the lost broom, some then woke to an epiphany.  They suddenly saw the state of their abode.  Saw the accumulated dust and dirt.  And in so seeing, finally put the broom to good use…

But others, upon finding the broom again, didn’t give it a second thought and stuffed it back into the closet.

Some thought the broom in the corner must be a blessing from the heavenly powers that be…

So they put it on the mantel for all to see.

Others saw it as both a blessing and a sign.  A message.  From the Universe.

They believed if they didn’t use the broom, they’d be going against the wishes of a higher power.  Which is harmful, and sometimes disastrous.

So, without waiting another day, they grabbed that broom and began to sweep.

Seeing how they swept, the old solitary women felt a sense of satisfaction…

…just enough to counter all her frustration—

—enough to encourage her to keep on doing as she had done.  “At least this way, I don’t have to clean a single home,” she told herself.  She realized the irony: by doing less, she’d actually accomplished more.

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry blog

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the fable of the man, the wind, and the oak tree

You’ve probably already heard about the contest between the sun and the wind…

The bet was: who’d be the first to get the man to remove his jacket.

When the wind blew, the man only clutched his jacket more tightly.  But he gladly removed his jacket when the sun turned up the heat.

A good story, but not all of the story.  Few know about how the wind tried to exact revenge on the man…

At the end of the contest, the wind, being of a tempestuous nature, began to rise.  As the man picked up his pace…

…the wind took a big breath and on the exhale, roared with a hurricane force.

So the man then hurried toward a shelter a short distance from the road…

…but the wind, seeing his intention, blasted that shed to bits.

The poor fellow then leapt to the ground and dug his fingers into the earth.  But wind snapped him right up and batted him around, just for fun.

As the man went up in a long somersault, the wind stopped to catch its breath.  In that moment of stillness, the man hit the ground and lunged for a nearby oak tree.  He wrapped his arms around it with a leonine ferocity.

As fortune would have it, the circumference of his arms matched the diameter of the trunk.  When his right hand clutched his left, the man felt somewhat secure, even though the wind had begun to rage again.

Feeling challenged, the wind blew and blew until it had uprooted the oak.  But still the man held fast…

He held fast, even as the tree bounced along the ground like a tumbleweed.  Even as it rolled up hill and down dale.  Even as it spun across a rocky field and twirled through a dry creek bed.

The man didn’t dare let go of the one solid thing he’d found.

He held on until his perseverance finally—finally!—paid off.  Mighty though it was, the wind eventually lost strength—as all winds do.

The wind died down; the tree rolled to a stop; the man pried his arms free.

Yes, he was bruised and battered.  Yes, he stung in every muscle of every limb.  Yes, his head wobbled like a drunken duck…

But at least he’d survived.  And so, in a show of gratitude, the man bought some tools and rented a machine and planted the oak tree back into the ground at a nearby river bank.

He then addressed it with a prayer of appreciation.

A nice gesture, to be sure.  But had the tree really saved him?

Only by luck had the man avoided any number of catastrophes…

The tree could’ve easily been slammed into a cliff.  Or been dunked in a lake.  Or been spun through a valley filled with prickly pear and bees, then shoved into a wild forest fire.

So we can’t honestly say the tree saved the man.  Or even that the man saved himself by holding on to the tree.

We can only say the man felt a degree of security when he held the tree.  Yes, that feeling helped him to endure the storm…

…but the tree didn’t “give” him that sense of security.

Nonetheless, to this day, the man credits the tree with saving him.  He even visits it at the river bank on the anniversary of the windstorm…

He will kneel down at its roots and give thanks, using the same heartfelt prayer.

With his eyes closed and his head bowed, he will again feel that sense of security rising from within.

He once confessed to me: in times of doubt, he often conjures up the oak tree…

As he recalls the tree, its strength seems to fill him up…

In that way, he finds reassurance.  Since the storm, the spirit of the tree has always been with him, he tells me.

He believes he can endure whatever life throws his way—as long as he never forgets the tree.

Why would I argue?

i’m responsible: ebook
© 2018, Michael R. Patton

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the fable of the boy in the well

The townspeople didn’t worry about the boy until he fell down a well…

…and disappeared into its opaque waters.

Ever so often, his parents would stop, would gaze down into the well…

…and dare to believe their son might still be alive.  However, they tried not to hope too much, lest they destroy themselves.

Some will say that any hope was absurd.  But no dead body had floated to the top.  And isn’t our world filled with inexplicable events?  Perhaps their child had discovered a secret cave.

And indeed, after three days, a policeman found the boy quite alive and bobbing at the surface of the well water.  A big grin lit the child’s face.

“How did you fall into the well?” his parents exclaimed.  “Did you want to kill yourself!”

“I did not fall.  I did not want to kill myself,” the boy managed to choke out, as they hugged him close.

“No, I jumped in.  I jumped in because the water was dark.  Because the well seemed so mysterious.  I wanted to know what lay at the bottom.”

“Okay, but don’t do it again!”

Oddly enough, his parents never asked him what he’d found.  Perhaps they feared what they might hear.  They were just glad to have their boy back.

But the boy must have found something, something grand…

…because for a full day afterward, his eyes remained open wide.

Yes, the next day, his lids slid back down a bit.  And the day after, a bit more.  However, they haven’t completely closed.

Some did ask him what he’d found down there.  A few prodded.

But the boy merely looked at them with a glint in his eye and said, “I’m glad I went, but I’m glad I’m back.  Don’t worry—I don’t think I’ll go again.”

Maybe he didn’t have the words to describe what he’d seen, what he’d felt, what he’d known.  Or maybe he understood: you must discover for yourself.

That glint in his eye troubled some.  And intrigued others.  But none of those others have yet jumped into the well.

However, late at night, as the townsfolk rest in their cozy homes, some solitary person may tiptoe up to the well, may peer over its wall of stone…

…and down into those deep dark waters.

And sometimes that someone is the boy.

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry blog

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