Parable of the Chicken

Imagine that you are an Eagle chick that hatched out of an egg that somehow got placed in a hen’s nest. You grow up surrounded by and immersed in the culture of chickens. That is who you are, of course, a chicken. You walk and cluck like a chicken. You spend your days scratching at the ground for worms, bugs, and seeds. You follow the pecking order of chickens. That is your life and your identity. While you may have a vague sense that life should be, could be, different, to survive you adapt to your current circumstances and to the expectations of your chicken community. You are comfortable.


One day an eagle flies over and happens to spot you in the chicken yard. Puzzled and curious, he swoops down and sits on a fence post, peering at you with amusement and wonder while you and the rest of the chickens scatter for shelter. He screams out, in fierce Eagle cry, “HEY! KID! WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THERE?”


Peering out from behind a bush, you say, “Sssssir?  Aaaaare you tttttalking to mmmmeeee?”




You are puzzled and shocked. This eagle is obviously confused.


“Nnnooo Sir. I’m not an eagle. I’m a chicken. Here are my brothers and sisters and cousins. There are my parents, over there…”


The eagle guffaws. He laughs so hard he almost falls off his perch.

“Kid! You gotta be kidding me! Are you blind, delusional, or just stupid? YOU’RE AN EAGLE!!!”


Summoning up all your courage you say, “Nnnnno I’m not, sir. You must have me confused with some other fowl. I’ve been a chicken all my life and that’s what I am.”


At this statement the eagle, whose name is Euripides, gravely shakes his head  This is truly pitiful. Thinking hard, he says, “Kid, if I were to show you something, would you believe your own eyes?


You say, “Well, yeah, Sir. I guess so…”


“Then come here, then,” says Euripides, as he hops down into the chicken yard, creating an intense stir among all of your relatives.


You are amazed. You can see how big Euripides is. You think, “That hooked beak isn’t made for worms and grain! And those wings! And those huge feet and claws!!! Euripides must be able to soar on wind currents high above the distant hills while I only catch an occasional light breeze down here in the chicken yard…”


KID! Screeches Euripides, who has now strutted over to the edge of the pond in the chicken yard. “COME HERE! I’M NOT GOING TO EAT YOU! I just want to show you something!”


Cautiously and with great timidity you slowly come out from behind your bush and wobble over to the pond, trying to keep a good distance from Euripides.


“Look down into the water, kid! Look at yourself! Tell me what you see!”


With reluctance and suspicion, since you are not much of a lover of water, you lean over and look down. “YIKES!” you screech! You fall over and almost faint. You are stunned and horrified to see that you have somehow morphed into something that is monstrous! It is not at all chicken-like! It is ugly and strange! You think, “No wonder my cousins have been pointing, whispering and laughing at me! I thought I was just having an awkward adolescence, like my mom told me. And dad said that I’d grow out of it!”


“KID!” screeches Euripides, Does that look like anybody you know?”


You stop and think hard. No, it doesn’t. It looks way fiercer and uglier than anyone you know. But wait…taking another long look, you begin to see it….Yes, there is no doubt about it. It has the same ugliness, but younger, with a scrawny neck and wild, out of control feathers on it head… There is the same fierceness in those eyes, but it is comical and not nearly as scary as Euripides.




“Yeah, kid? says Euripides.


“I-I-I think I loook like a yyyounger vvversion of yyyyyouuuu…???”


“How about THAT!” Screeched Euripides. “You’ve got something to think about now, don’t you, kid?” With that, Euripides chuckles. Then he spreads his mighty wings and takes flight. You watch him until he is a distant spot, far away, on the horizon.


In the coming days, you try your best to forget about Euripides. It was all just a dream. No, it was worse than that. It was a nightmare! You renew your efforts to be a good, responsible chicken. You ignore the mean taunts of your siblings. You work hard and do your best to earn the respect of all the other chickens. As you grow, you can see they don’t trust you. You don’t peck so well. Worms and bugs and grain are not working so well for you and you start to not feel so good. You are tired a lot, and you are having trouble hiding your growing depression.


One day, while getting a drink, you dare to take another peek at yourself in the water. You are again shocked. The eyes are even more fierce! Your feathers are flatter. You no longer look so stupid, just fierce! You don’t look like a chicken at all! Cautiously, you pick up a foot and look at it. Those aren’t chicken claws! Those are TALONS! Looking around, trying to act inconspicuous, you slowly spread a wing. Looking in the water, you can see that it is huge, powerful, and beautiful, with feathers much larger than you have ever seen on any chicken. Now you are very anxious. All this time you thought you knew who you were, and you were comfortable. Now you no longer are sure you know who you are, and not only are you not comfortable but your very appearance and presence is making your family more and more uncomfortable. This is horrible! Other chickens start to hate you and peck at you, trying to drive you away. Others start to bring you food, praise you for doing nothing, and clucking praises to you. You are turning into either a devil chicken, to be feared and driven out of the chicken yard, or a god fowl, to be feared and worshipped! It’s all very terrible and confusing, and you don’t know what to do. You think, “What can I do to make it all go away?” You just want to live a comfortable, happy life as a chicken…but you can’t!


Then, in desperation, you start talking to your flock about your Eagle visitation. You tell them about the blinding glory of the fierce, yet loving and compassionate countenance of Euripides. You tell them that they don’t have to spend their lives scratching around like chickens, that one day they will hear the call, see the light, and be transformed into their true, luminescent nature.


Most chickens kept scratching and clucking, staying even more clear of Max (for that was the young Eagle’s name). A few decide to become Max’s disciples, which was very reassuring to him, that his life now had meaning beyond his visitation by Euripedes from heavenly, distant realms. But one smartass chicken asked, “Sir Max? Isn’t that what all of us are going to experience when Farmer John comes and whacks us with his axe?”


Max was undeterred. “You don’t have to wait! You can experience freedom! Enlightenment! Eternal peace Now!


But the smartass chicken had grown up around Max. He knew Max was touched and unstable. So he just nodded, said nothing more, and kept his distance.


Over time Max was not so sure about his disciples. They made him feel good, but he knew reality wasn’t about following him or following Euripides out of fear. Still, he didn’t know what else to do besides trying to awaken them to their true nature.


One day, after months in misery and existential angst, when Max least expected it, it happened again. There were great screams and chaos in the chicken yard. Max looked up as Euripides, with great beating wings, came in for a landing on the fence post.  Max was almost blown over by the wind.


“HEY KID! Euripides screamed. “HOW’S LIFE AS A CHICKEN?”


You don’t say anything. It’s shit and you’re miserable, but you are loyal. You don’t want to disrespect your elders or your roots and you don’t want to leave your disciples. You want to minister to all the sick, ignorant, and downtrodden chickens. Your silence conveys the message.




With that, Max takes flight once again. You wonder if you are ever going to see him again.


Like this young eagle and everyone in the history of the world, you have grown up in a culture that has scripted and shaped you to fit in. It has not taught you to find yourself, know yourself, or be yourself, because that would be a threat to the stability of the culture. Consequently, you slumber within the context of your cultural assumptions. Your dreams validate this, and waking up in your dreams only brings those cultural assumptions more consciously into the dream state.  How could it do otherwise? With Integral Deep Listening dream yoga, you look at yourself not only from the perspectives of your chicken family and Euripides but from those of the seeds on the ground, the chicken coop, the worms, the ground, the fence post, farmer John, and the sky. You learn to look at life from any number of legitimate perspectives rather than simply from your habitual, self-centric one. When you interview potentials that appear as characters in your dreams or as the personifications of your life issues you dissolve your identification with habitual, scripted roles and the world views that they personify. Slowly, you find and begin trusting your inner compass to grasp.  You start to grasp the contours of an identity that is nowhere and no one. If you stay with it, at some point you will find undeniable the difference between who you have thought that you are and who your family and culture think that you are, and what you see, hear, and feel inside.Then, like Max, you will have to make a choice. Do I stay true to my roots or do I learn to become true to myself? If you choose the former you will never find the latter. If you choose the latter, you will find that you can continue to respect and support your roots and to give thanks for the nourishment that they provided you so that now you can soar high above the hills with other eagles, yet swoop down and pal around with old friends in the chicken yard whenever you want. Who knows? Someday you might be the eagle sitting there on that post, looking down with loving amusement at some kid eagle who thinks she’s a chicken.

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