By Jason Stoub
The 1998 Disney movie A Bug’s Life is a story about the life of an ant colony that is busy storing up food for the upcoming winter months. In one of my favorite scenes the main character Flick is testing out his new seed picking machine that he hopes will make the ants more productive and have more time to do other, fun things, than just work. In this scene the machine is not living up to the task like Flick had hoped it would and utters the words “I’m never going to make a difference.” Upon hearing this the young princess ant Dot says “Me, neither.” Dot can’t fly yet and complains that she is too little. To help her see that being little is only temporary Flick looks for a seed to help his “little seed grows into a big tree” metaphor. Unable to find a seed Flick gives her a rock and proceeds with the metaphor imploring Dot to imagine it’s a seed. After an inspiring story about how she, like the seed, will grow up to be big and strong like the tree, Dot says “But it’s a rock.” At this point, Flick loses it and yells to her “I know it’s a rock!” and how he knows what a rock is.
Ever feel like Dot and wonder what in the world some people are talking about? We love Flick in this movie because he has a vision to live an adventure outside the confines of the ant hill. The other ants, including Dot, think he’s crazy and a pain to have around.
Dot is stuck seeing her world from the point of view of a small, young, and wingless ant. Flick has no use for the norms of ant life, picking up seeds all summer only to have grasshoppers come and take most of it. There must be another way!
We can so easily get stuck seeing what’s possible through a rigid and narrow lens that we miss what may be going on for others. Our point of view has worked for us in the past and certainly works on many levels. It’s important to realize that we really have a view from a point. A point that is informed by past circumstances, as well as our current religious, family, work, or country traditions and norms. This is what Flick is running up against with his ant family. Flick sees it as their rejection of him rather than of his idea.
Recently my son lost the motor in his (our) car that he bought just 6 months earlier. This is a real blow to a seventeen-year old’s dream and hard-earned money. I felt bad for him and I was feeling a bit lost in how to navigate my own feelings of disappointment about the situation. So, I made immediate plans for the car to be towed and scrapped within 24 hours of hearing the news and decided I would deal with my own disappointment by getting the car out of our lives as soon as possible. I was very clear on how this was all going to go down until my wife asked me to consider another possibility. A possibility that included my son and what he wanted. I responded with “but the car is junk” (read “but it’s a rock”). It took me a minute to realize that she was inviting me to consider what else might be possible outside the context of “bad motor = junk car”. As we talked, more possibilities opened up on the potential value of keeping the car and letting my son figure out what he’d like to do with it.
“I know it’s a rock!” – This short little phrase has playfully helped me snap out of my limited point of view more times than I can count. We have a view from a point and we need others to point it out from time to time so we don’t miss out on what else is available in the moment.