Once in another time and place, there was a centipede named Ghawazhee who was amazingly good at dancing – dancing with all of her one hundred legs. All the creatures of the forest gathered to watch every time the Ghawazhee danced, and they were all delighted and impressed by the grace, poise, and elegance of her movements. But there was one creature that didn’t like watching Ghawazhee the centipede dance – that was Armaya the tortoise. Armaya was incredibly envious of Ghawazhee’s skill and of the admiration that she received from others.
The more Armaya thought about it, the more he wanted to get Ghawazhee to stop dancing. But, he could not just say he didn’t like her dancing. And he couldn’t challenge her, because she was a far, far better dancer than he would ever be. So, he devised a plan.
Armaya sat down and wrote a letter to Ghawazhee. He pretended to be an admirer who wanted to learn from her. He wrote: “Oh, great and incomparable Ghawazhee, I am a devoted admirer of your unparalleled dancing. I would be ever grateful if you would help me to understand how you proceed when you dance. Is it that you first lift your left leg number 9 and then your right leg number 18? Or do you begin by first moving your left leg number 3 and then your right leg number 6 followed by your left leg number 13? I await your answer in breathless anticipation. Yours truly, Armaya the tortoise.”
When Ghawazhee the centipede read the letter, she immediately began to think about what she actually did when she danced. Which leg did she lift first? And which leg next? And you KNOW what happened!
Ghawazhee never danced again! Her imagination and intuition became strangled by her deliberation and analysis. She lost her connection to what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow.
There are so many lessons in this story – about jealousy, about self confidence, about interpersonal influence, about so many things personal and interpersonal.
Respect is the foundation of healthy relationships, we need to honor and cherish each other’s skills, abilities and differences. And balance is the foundation of human flourishing; we need to hone imagination and deliberation, intuition and analysis if creativity is going to flourish!
What else do you read into or take from the story? come on, share a little?
This story come to you from Jostein Gaarder’s novel, “Sophie’s World: a novel about the history of philosophy”