Lessons from a Thai Duck
I am not a person that has ever been helpful in a quiz and rather than finding a game of Trivial Pursuit or a Pub Quiz a relaxing way to spend my time, I tend to find them infuriating pastimes. Possibly because they remind me of hours spent surrounded by brighter people at school, all raising their hands to confidently answer questions while I would alternatively pray for anonymity. Or maybe, just because I have found Quiz and Trivial Pursuit winners to be unnecessarily smug; the latter now I come to think about it is the more likely explanation.
That is not to say that every now and again I do not embrace random facts and see value in them, one such fact that I was recently informed by an American in Phuket was that Thai Ducks cannot fly.
They cannot fly because they simply do not need to migrate; they have reached Duck Nirvana and so this endeavour, a basic requirement of many of their fellow Ducks around the world, is not needed of the Thai Duck.
My first reaction to this news was, what a wonderful state of affairs for these Ducks; without the need to migrate they could just rest and relax like a retiree in Florida. No threat of the dangers of the annual migration; they can instead focus on themselves and enjoy their time floating around doing Duck stuff (watching DuckTales on Disney, joining daily Water Yoga classes or scaring themselves by watching Duck Dynasty).
I began to think that I, like the Thai Duck, would like to reach a point where I have reached my goals and no longer have to worry about the daily endeavours that cause the anxiety and stresses that affect myself and so many others; comparatively I saw these Thai Ducks lives as one of achievement and relaxation.
However, the more I thought on the subject, the more my opinion began to change; I started to see the inability of these Ducks to fly as more of a plight than a cause for celebration. Robbed of the requirement to migrate each year, they have traded that ability and the adventure of the migration for a simple life of floating. While such a trade-off may sound positive to the Duck that has spent much of his life migrating, it may not for the Thai Duck robbed of that requirement from birth. By taking away the need for migration from these Thai Ducks; Evolution has robbed them of an annual challenge that while being hard and potentially dangerous, is most likely life affirming and incredibly satisfying.
So much of the fun in life comes from that sense of achievement following tasks and challenges that seem impossible from the outset; parenthood, exams, facing down enemies, saying sorry, accepting your flaws, failing, making mistakes, being truthful to those you love and still marching forwards, unafraid to embrace new challenges and hardships; all cumulatively add to an individuals character in positive ways.
Life is supposed to be hard and tough, it is through endeavour and hardship that we work out who we are and what we are made of, as well as, finding out about those around us. To be robbed of that need to scale challenge after challenge is to be robbed of the opportunity to find out about yourself. There will be a point in your life when the time for dusting yourself off and preparing for a metaphorical annual migration is no longer needed but until that point, enjoy the challenges, pressure and panic that comes with day to day life and if you are reading this on the bus or train to work; don’t be afraid of the challenges that await your day ahead, as it is those challenges that will continue to develop you as a person and continue to make you interested and interesting.
As always, I will refer to other people of greater intellectual prowess than myself to further make this point and describe what I have learned from thinking about the lot in life of a Thai Duck.
The following is a beautiful poem from Rabbi Alvin Fine; Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in San Franciso 1948-64
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination.
And life is a journey:
From childhood to maturity
And youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion
And then perhaps to wisdom;
From weakness to strength
Or strength to weakness-
And, often back again;
From health to sickness
And back, we pray, to health again;
From offense to forgiveness,
From loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude,
From pain to compassion,
And grief to understanding-
From fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat-
Until, looking backward or ahead,
We see that victory lies
Not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage,
A sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
But life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage-
To life everlasting.