True North: A Parable

Once there were four geese who didn’t always see eye to eye. One day, at the first sign of spring, when the time had arrived for embarking upon their annual northern migration, it so happened that a great wind arose, blowing toward the south.

‘Well, that settles it,” blurted out one of the geese. “This year I’m flying south!”

“South!” honked the other fellows in alarm. “But that’s crazy! You know we always fly north in the spring.”

“You birds can do whatever you want,” retorted the first goose. “But I aim to take advantage of this wind.”

And with that, he lifted off into the breeze, while the other three watched as he disappeared over the southern horizon. 

The very next day, as it turned out, the wind shifted slightly, so that now it blew toward the west.

“West!” honked the youngest goose gleefully. “Oh, West! I’ve always dreamed of flying west. So long, fellows!”

“But wait!” shouted the other two. “We’re supposed to go north!”

“North, schmorth!” cried the youngest goose, already airborne. “Just feel this beautiful wind!”

And off he went.

Just one day later, as fortune would have it, the wind shifted yet again, and this time it was a most dramatic change, from westerly all the way around to due east. And at that, without so much as a how-do-you-do, one of the two remaining geese stretched out his long neck and began his take-off.

“Hold on!” honked his partner. “Wait one more day and the wind may change!”

But it was no use. Already his friend was lost in the red swirl of the sunrise.

Sure enough, in the early hours of the fourth day, the wind did begin a gentle swing around to the north, until by mid-morning it had swelled into a good stiff breeze—enough to make the very heart of a goose soar. Here indeed was the very wind for which all four of them had originally been waiting. Yet now there was only one goose left to take advantage of it. 

And so, all alone, one goose spread wide his great white wings, and all alone one goose felt his heavy body grow light as a single feather and rise up and up as he gave himself to the fresh, to the good, to the wonderful northerly wind.

But there was just one problem:

When it came to long distances, geese always flew in V-formation. Everyone knew that. One goose must fly in front, taking the full brunt of resistance in order that the others might travel more easily in the shadow of his wings. And all the strongest geese had to take their turn as leader, spelling each other off on the long and arduous journey.

Thus, flying together in formation, a flock of geese became a most beautiful and efficient thing: They became like one solitary pair of wings, like a single organism, like one strong and graceful bird.

But when geese could not get along, and when geese followed their own whims and went flying off in different directions, then they no longer became like one great and glorious bird. In fact, if the truth be told, geese who insisted on having their own way stopped being birds at all. They stopped having wings of their own, and instead became just so many feathers scattered to the four corners of the horizon.

And so it happened that even the goose who had waited patiently for the right wind, the good wind, and who flew north—True North—even he, alas! …


*     *     *

A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another.  ~John 13:34


This story is from The Furniture of Heaven: Parables of Everyday Faith

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