An Ant and a Rubber Tree Plant: A Metaphor

An ant can't move a rubber tree plant.

Everyone knows an ant can’t . . . move a rubber tree plant.

This morning as I exercised, I watched an ant make its way alongside my mat. The rubber tree plant song drifted briefly through my consciousness, but then I returned my attention to the ant in its travels.

I like to do my stretching and strength exercises in the early morning by the sliding glass doors at the back of my home looking out to the wetlands. There is a pond right behind me, although these days you wouldn’t know.

I used to love watching all kinds of birds and animals visit the pond in the morning. Now a wilderness has grown up around the pond, and it is invisible to me. My viewing range is much smaller. So my attention is drawn to ongoing life happening closer to me.

This morning a tiny insect crawling just inside my sliding doors less than a foot away from me drew my attention. I was lying on the floor on my side as I watched that tiny being move across the little wooden landscape that stretched between me and the door.

To that small living being, the landscape must have seemed quite large and endless, yet the ant was making progress . . . to somewhere. I wondered if it knew where it was going?

Then I thought how immense I was next to that tiny living being. And how the ant continued its journey so fearlessly.

This is where my thoughts focused. It occurred to me that the ant may not have been fearless but oblivious. From the ant’s perspective, I am huge — so huge that I am incomprehensible, beyond imagining.

And so the ant continued on its path to wherever it was going unaware of possible danger in that moment. Was there perhaps some undefined anxiety for the ant feeling a presence it can’t begin to imagine? If an ant can imagine my enormous presence in some way, might it have the audacity to imagine that I care for it?

It occurred to me that the ant’s relationship to me mirrors my relationship to G-d. While I’m not sure that ants imagine, I know human beings do. I like to imagine that the immense force that breathes life into all being, that is all being, is One with whom relationship is possible.

Relationships aren’t fixed in space and time. They change. There has been a distance between me and divinity for most of my life. I feel as though I’ve spent too much time locked in obliviousness, anxiety, and constriction. I also feel as though I’m on a different path now. At least I hope I am. I hope at least I can manage courage like the ant.

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