(la carte des choses: l'essence des choses)
Once there was a colony of ants. A group that
went about the proper business of being
and nothing less.
They dwelt not in the past, nor dreamed in the
They engaged themselves not in ideological war-
fare with neighboring colonies,
nor were there any personality conflicts
There were no discussions or debates regarding
individual duties; everyone had their own
position and responsibility,
everyone had their place.
All-in-all, everything was as it should be for a
society of ants.
and nothing less.
One fine day a band of scouts discovered a pic-
nic table far from the colony's home, and
it was covered with such a bountiful array
of foods that the colony could scarcely
believe the marvelous story the returning
scouts had to tell.
Gossip of the newfound cache spread throughout
the colony and excitement reached such a
fevered pitch that the leaders began to
fear a panic.
To help restore the natural calm of the commu-
nity, the leaders announced that they and
the wiseman of the colony would go person-
ally to investigate the unbelievable re-
Consequently, things returned to relative normal
as the ants awaited the returned and report
of their wise leaders.
When the leaders and the wiseman reached the picnic
table they too were astounded -- it was in-
deed a staggering sight to behold.
Not only was there more food than they had ever
seen before, but the quality and variety of
the edibles transcended all ant knowledge
After their initial delight in affirming the
scouts' story, the wise leaders became con-
cerned at the potential difficulty the col-
ony as a whole would have being suddenly
confronted with the unexpected magnitude
and diversity of the almost 'mystical'
They retired to the shade of a nearby tree and
pondered the problem.
Then one of the wiseman had what was, for an
ant, a most unusual idea.
To help prepare the colony for this shocking new
experience, and to minimize the possibility
of riot and pandemonium, he sugessted that
they devise a 'map' of the picnic table and
present it to the colony before they be al-
lowed to visit the area in person.
After much discussion, and after the wise ant
had formulated and described exactly what a
'map' would be, it was agreed that this
would be the best possible approach under
such unexpected circumstances.
To stall for needed time, one of the scouts was
sent back to the colony to report that the
leaders would yet be gone a few more days,
and that when they returned they would
bring most joyful and unexpected news.
That done, the wise ant began the formidable
task of constructing, from scratch, his
notion of a 'map'.
He first had to devise a means of transferring
his abstract idea of a map into physical
Among his immediate tasks were:
The invention of a written ant
The discovery of paper, and
the production of writing
A most redoubtable undertaking, -- an almost un-
believable sight; one lowly ant doing in a
few short days that which took man thou-
sands of years to accomplish.
But necessity and intent ruled the day,
and soon the task was completed.
On a small paper napkin, under the wise ant's
direction, they drew and labeled a precise,
scaled map of the gigantic picnic table,
complete with detailed pictures and
invented names for all the mirific
Indeed, the map was a work of art.
It was beautiful drawn,
carefully scaled, and
An ant masterpiece, without doubt.
(And, I might add, the dawn-
ing of a new day for the
Carefully and painstakingly they carried the map
back to the colony, and as they drew close
a lookout sighted them and rushed back to
tell the waiting populacer the news of the
There was unparalled excitement in the colony
as the ants anxiously awaited their return-
ing leaders and the findings of their ex-
After the leaders had quieted the populace, they
all gathered around the napkin-map and the
wise one explained its purpose.
He first interpreted for them the written lan-
guage he had devised. He then defined what
the scale of the map represented. He then
lead small groups around the napkin-map as
he attempted to explain its purpose and
After all of the ants had taken the tour of the
map and heard the wise one's exposition
thereon, the leaders were satisfied that
they made the proper decision.
But when night fell they
became less sure.
As the leaders roamed about the colony they
found a reign of excitement;
The ants had no idea of sleep that evening.
They were gathered in large and small
groups engaged in furious discussion, but
discussion NOT about the miraculous food
discovery -- no !
They were all
about the map!
The leaders gathered together with the wise one
to consider this unexpected turn of events,
and after staying up all night considering
the problem they called the colony together
the next morning and attempted a further
explanation of the map and what it repre-
But the ants showed no interest in the food that
the map represented: instead, they were
filled with questions regarding the map it-
Perplexed, the leaders withdrew once again to
deliberate the matter, and after a time the
wise one proposed a new plan. He reasoned
that if a new, enlarged map were made with
greater detailing on a scale that more
closely resembled the picnic table itself,
then the colony would more readily realize
its purpose and intent, and would be anx-
ious to address themselves to the practical
matter of journeying to the table and
availing themselves of its offerings.
So again the leaders secluded themselves and set
about the task at hand. They unfolded the
original napkin so that they would be four
time the size of its predecessor.
They worked both day and night, and again pro-
duced a work of art.
When the new, enlarged map was presented to the
colony the ants were more excited than be-
They ran here,
they ran there,
they ran everywhere.
What a sight to behold!
Thausands of ants scurrying to and fro.
Stopping first here,
Examining a drawed labeled 'chocolate
cake' and dreaming of what manner of exqui-
site delight this strange thing might be.
Then one would stop and contemplate the
area marked 'potato salad' -- potato salad
-- what a pleasant ring to the very sound
There was much pushing and shoving as they scur-
ried about, and there was graet discussion
concerning the possibble nature of these
mysterious 'cakes' and 'salads'.
It was a non-stop holiday:
running and looking,
looking and discussing,
discussing and running.
(I told you a new
day was dawning.)
The leaders were almost beside themselves with
bewilderment. The colony was ignoring its
everyday duties and responsibilities, and
the map, rather than providing to be a aid
in their assault on the picnic table, had
become an end unto itself.
In one final, desperate attempt, the wise one
persuaded the leaders to send back to the
picnic table for more napkins, which he
pieced together into one gigantic map, ri-
valing in fact the actual size of the
It was the ultimate masterpiece: faithful in
size, color and detail to the table and its
At its unveiling the colony
was in pandemonium.
The ants were so infatuated with this colossal
reproduction that it became impossible to
get them off the map and on to their normal
duties of securing food and building shelt-
The ants simply adopted the gigantic paper nap-
kin-map as their new home.
They lived, slept, made love and died on the
They developed stories and legends about partic-
ular areas and aspects of the map. Myths
grew up around certain of the unexperienced
substances depicted thereon.
Ants, here and there, gained a reputation con-
cerning their knowledge in certain of these
There were the 'Chocolate Cake Experts';
The 'Potato Salad Guides'
'Parsley Gurus,' and the
'High Priest of the Chopped Liver'.
Quite soon the colony fell into complete disar-
Being in such close confinement with one another
on the limited surface of the map, they
grew quarrelsome and discontented. They
began to fight among themselves over non-
material interests of 'opinions, beliefs,
and interpretations' of the map, and kill-
ings became frequent.
The final straw was that in ignoring their nat-
ural ant responsibilities they found them-
selves without a normal food supply, and
they began to try and eat the unnourishing
map and its pictures of food.
After this, the inevitable--cannibalism.
A few of the leaders and wise ones found this
all a most sorry sight, and with great re-
luctance decided to abandon the whole af-
Taking nothing with them but their experience
they silently retired to the picnic table,
where they ate in peace and reflected on
just what'n hell had all happened.
reposted by Jan Cox 1980 Chan Chal Imi Press