The Flamingo
The Ostrich

Spacer There was once in Aud the most beautiful and most rare of birds, a purple flamingo. A rare flower of her race was she, blue gold of wing, graceful of stride, and quiet as the falling dew...

Spacer ..in all of Aud none could compare with the gentleness of her spirit or the calmness of her gaze. Across the width and breadth of Aud's hot Savannah summers, kindness and understanding flowed in her wake.
Spacer But Aud is a land of twists and turns, exotic and strange, where fate like a silent panther stalks the night, seeking the unwary. And all alike must heed the play of life and death, lest the cry in the dark be their own.

Spacer Now in this land of joy and of sorrow there lived an ostrich. He was a proud bird. A runner and a scout for the flock, searching the land for jungle beasts with predacious inclinations, warning his fellows of danger, and planning the strategies of defense. He was a respected member of the flock, with ambitions of advancement and hopes for the prettiest of wives and the loudest of children.

Spacer One morning, the ostrich arose from a bed of ferns and willows to a sound different from all others. Toward the rising light, before the sun's red glow, a swoop of birds parlayed with the dawn. Pink and lovely, calling to one another over the mists, the flamingos were gliding to their feeding grounds in the distant marsh lands. The fires of the sun lit their wings as they danced and soared, heedless of the groundstuck-watcher before them. And for that watcher a single thought occurred: Though he could run like the wind, he could not fly. For an ostrich, the skies were forever closed, and the sun a distant and unattainable light to which he could never aspire.

Spacer Tears streamed from his proud face as he watched the flamingos depart.
Spacer Such beauty!
Spacer Such freedom of movement!
Spacer To soar with one's fellows, high above the Savannah, sailing high and free through air and light and sky.
Spacer Oh!
Spacer To be forever above the dangers of the ground, high above fears of sudden, ugly death. "But for me", he thought, "such joyful crimson soaring is forever barred". And for the first time in his life the ostrich felt incomplete and alone.

Spacer Now this is not the usual story about a dream and a quest with ultimate redemption at the end. Not at all.
Spacer The ostrich did not suddenly leave his responsibilities to the flock to seek out a way by which he too could soar with the flamingos of the dawn. Nor did he struggle through pain and tears, overcoming tremendous obstacles until at long last, after much travail and difficulty, he found the wondrous purple flamingo who answered his life's longings. No. This story is not like that at all.

Spacer The ostrich may have been proud, but he was proud with justification - he was no fool. He knew that many might die if he abrogated his responsibilities as scout to the flock. Though his heart ached with the pain of denied flight, he knew he must remain. As he watched the flamingos vanish toward the marshes that red red morning, he realized this: If he pursued the mystery of flight he would probably fail, for his body, while superb for racing across the grasslands was simply not designed for soaring. He knew that his place in Aud was guiding the flock away from danger, and helping his sisters and his brothers defend the little ones.
Spacer Yet he wondered: "Why am I saddened by seeing such beauty? I cannot fly. Why do I need more?"
Spacer So the ostrich resolved that each day he would set aside one hour to try in any way he could to find the answer to his question.

Spacer At first he sought the wisdom and advice of his friends. But although they were kind and listened carefully to his questions, they had no answers for him.
Spacer Next he sought out the very old, the elders of the flock. Perhaps their vast experience will provide an answer, he thought. But they only urged him to forget such foolishness, and attend to his duties to the flock.
Spacer In desperation, he decided to seek the wisdom of the great killers of the grasslands - the tigers. For he had seen the care and cunning of their kind. Surely such cunning also bred wisdom.
Spacer The feline hunters were quick and fearsome. Death at their paws was swift and sure. But as a scout, he knew their ways, and knew that after a kill they were less likely to attack at his approach. He waited many weeks, until finally an opportunity presented itself: he came upon a tiger satiated after the fresh kill of a young zebra foal. As he carefully approached the circle of the kill, the tiger watched with benign indifference.

Spacer "Greetings great one," he called to the tiger.
Spacer "And to you, O groundling bird."
Spacer "I have come to seek the wisdom of your council. Will you hear my question?"
Spacer "A strange request from one such as you," grunted the tiger. "But the sun is warm, and my belly full. Ask away, and I shall give what council I may."
Spacer "Thank you, great one. My question is this. I have watched the freedom of the flamingos as they fill the sky with their passing. And I too have wished to soar the heavens. Yet I am a runner and though swift, am not capable of flight. This is the way of the world, and I accept it. Yet what I crave to understand is this: Why do I yet yearn for flight and the freedom it brings? Why do I wish more than my lot?"

Spacer The tiger growled at this, and rose up on his haunches. He lunged at the ostrich roaring power and death at the terrified bird. The ostrich froze in the power of that roar, shivering before the glare of those immense eyes of fire. The ostrich stood unmoving, seeing his death before him.

Spacer Then the tiger yawned, licked its lips, and settled back down with a somewhat amused expression on his golden face. After a few moments, the tiger spoke: "Where are your questions now, foolish bird? That is my answer to you. Now go."
Spacer Away ran the ostrich, running, running; desperate to get away. In his ears rang the sound of the tiger's laughter. Yet even as he ran in terror and mortification, he wondered what the tiger had meant.

Spacer The years passed. The ostrich now had a pretty bride and a flurry of young. He no longer scouted, but had become a leader of the flock, renowned for his fairness and his wisdom. He had pursued his inner question: Why did he want more? Why did he wish to fly?

Spacer But now there was a difference. Years of pondering had helped him to see the great gift that the tiger had given. For he had found that in that instant of surprise and terror, for a brief moment his mind had quieted. His questions had, in that moment of quiet, ceased.
Spacer In the silence of the tiger's roar the need for answers had vanished.

Spacer The years came and went; the flock grew and the ostrich aged. Yet unlike his fellows he found his mind clear, unencumbered and free. He had become a venerated elder. His wife had become a shaman and healer of the flock, and some of his children had themselves become scouts. In his old age he had found a freedom for which he had never sought. His mind was clear and sharp, his thoughts free.

Spacer One bright morning as he stood looking toward the rising sun, the flamingos appeared again in their glory, as they had so long ago. But this time he walked slowly toward them, until he stood below as they sailed red and golden in the light above him.

Spacer "I have seen you before." said a soft voice behind him.
Spacer "Yes Mistress, and I have seen you many times over the years, flying with your flock. I have heard of your grace and your goodness; that you spread joy and wisdom with your passage."
Spacer "Yet you have never sought me out?"
Spacer "No. Thanks to the kindness of my teacher - a venerable tiger - so many years ago. Through him I learned how to explore within myself. I have found my heart's desire within my own being."
Spacer "And what was it you found, gentle ostrich?"
Spacer "Only myself, Mistress.". He paused a moment in thought. "I knew that I could not fly, as I yearned to do, nor could I relinquish my responsibilities to the flock. But I was unhappy. So there was only one place left for me to turn, and that was within myself. The tiger showed me how to look. He showed me that whatever emotion or feeling was dominant in my mind temporarily suppressed all other needs or thoughts."
Spacer "So you knew that even the strongest yearning, your need to fly, was temporary?"
Spacer "Yes, and therefore it couldn't have been as vital as I had supposed. In my terror at the tiger's roar, all my deepest yearnings temporarily vanished... so I understood that they were passing things only. Instead I wanted something permanent and lasting."
Spacer "How did you come to realize that the only thing that lasts is the quiet of the mind?"
Spacer "I simply stopped chasing after that which was transitory. Then to my wonder and joy, I found that all that was left was my sense of being. My own consciousness."
Spacer "But not a consciousness of something...?"
Spacer "No, the simple fact of consciousness itself."
Spacer "Ah. Come with me now gentle ostrich. Together we will follow the light."
Spacer Then as the sun rose red and golden on the land of Aud, the purple flamingo and the ostrich flew together over the Savannah toward the dawn.

Spacer (Source unknown)