Friday, March 23, 2012

Of Sour Grapes

There is this fable (Aesop’s) about a fox that found a grape vine with luscious grapes hanging from it. It tried every means at its disposal and found that it could not reach it. At the end of it all, it walks away muttering, ‘These grapes are sour!’

I don’t know how it was taught to you (if, indeed, it is still being taught) but my teacher turned the fox into a figure of fun for deciding that the grapes were undesirable merely because it could not get it. I laughed along with the rest then and, for a long time, the phrase ‘Sour grapes’ only gave rise to a sort of contempt for the ludicrous fox.

Now, I find that the fox was wise after all. The option that it chose to deal with its failure to achieve its goal was one of the saner options available. There are a few other options – as good or better – to deal with the situation but there are innumerable worse options.

You can have your own opinion about whether these options are better than the one chosen by the fox. The fox could have been a devout fox and have decided, ‘If God wanted me to have those grapes, he would have allowed me to reach it’. If the fox believed in predestination, it would have thought, ‘Nobody gets anything before the right time and more than is destined for him’. If the fox were a happy-go-lucky sort it would have just shrugged and said, ‘If I can’t get grapes, let me eat cake’!

Not all options are healthy and sane. The fox could have thought, ‘This is the story of my life! Such sweet grapes and I am incapable of reaching them!’ It could have whined, ‘Nothing ever goes right for me! How, then, could I have expected to reach those grapes?’ It could have thought, ‘Nobody likes me! Not even God! If he did, he would have allowed me to reach those grapes!’

There can be options far worse for Society. Think of the fox that says, ‘How dare the grape vine deny me my grapes! I shall destroy it’. Or the fox that says, ‘These grape vines are in a conspiracy against foxes! Let me lead an army of foxes to destroy all grape vines!’ A fox could even think, ‘The world is conspiring against us. The only way to have a peaceful life is to conquer everyone else!’

The fox of the ‘sour grapes’ was a very wise fox indeed! It seemed to have been granted the fruits of the prayer that goes, ‘God! Give me the Courage to change that which can be changed, the Patience to endure that which cannot be changed and the Wisdom to know the difference!’

22 comments:

  1. My God. I did not know that there could be so much behind the Fox's decision to call the grapes sour. The options you have generated are interesting. But I do not see what is wrong if the the fox was devout and consoled itself that if the God wanted me to, he would have allowed me to reach.
    Concluding sentence is very good.

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    1. Maybe I was not very clear. That para with devotion, predestination and happy-go-luckiness were supposed to be the other sane options :)

      Thanks for coming by and commenting

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  2. WISE WORDS SIR !
    loved the story and BOOKMARKED :)
    "Give me the Courage to change that which can be changed, the Patience to endure that which cannot be changed and the Wisdom to know the difference!’"

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    1. Thanks for coming by and taking the time to comment. Great to hear that you felt it was worth book-marking. That line, however, is a prayer I read somewhere..not my own line:)

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    2. Hi Suresh, I think that is part of the serenity prayer, the first part of which has been adopted by the members of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer

      The wisdom to know the difference between what one can change and what one cannot is truly the key to success in this life of ours. Without this wisdom one can view all failures as a personal failure :)

      Regarding the statement about predestination, it reminds me of the saying in hindi which i first heard from Manoj "Waqt se pehle aur kismat se jyada kisi ko kuch nahi milta" meaning no on gets anything before ones time or more than ones due :)

      But I agree the fox indeed was wise and I am sure not many of us give that fox that credit :)

      -Shiva

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    3. What do you think I was doing when I wrote that? Translating 'waqt se pehle....':):)

      In fact that is what I was trying to do in this write-up...explaining the various ways in which people can take failure and what it does to them and society:)

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    4. Hi Suresh,

      I think at times it is the society which decides whether you have succeeded or failed at something, no matter how you yourself feel about the event :)

      -Shiva

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    5. It is always you who decide whether you fail or not since it is you have the choice to accept or reject society's verdict. In any case, my points about your reactions are related only to when you yourself have decided that you wanted something and failed to get it.

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  3. Just added a line to the para that had an ambiguous meaning. Thanks Hari

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  4. I remember having read this story when i was in school and very often use the phrase in day to day life...an interesting read ,thanks for sharing!

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  5. I used to love aesop's fables. We all tend to look at a fox as wily and laugh if it is outfoxed by grapes out of his reach. You have a unique take on that story - the fox's reaction could've been worse, which thankfully, it wasn't! A great way to look at it.

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  6. Amazing analysis of the simple stories. Even I am fond of re-interpreting those timeless tales in current contexts.

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    1. However did I miss replying to this comment. Apologies and thanks for your kind words.

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  7. Thanks for dropping in and for your kind comment.

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  8. I quite agree with the conclusion. We are taught this story as a type of lesson for never giving up. That's total crap. In the game of chess, we sacrifice many of the pieces with our final objective to win the game. Here the game is life. And a win in this game symbolizes a happy life. We needn't stick to each piece thinking that we will reach the goal with all the pieces we started off with. We will have to let go here and there but the final objective should be in focus.

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    1. Thanks, Ramakant, for your comments. You can only be happy if you have the right attitude to the inevitable failures in life

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  9. What an interesting analysis! I have never thought about these fables. Yes sour grapes is always associated as a terrible attitude, even belittling the object of desire because one cannot reach it. I think it depends upon the approach. We can always choose to look at a situation from many angles. You looked at the positive and rational ways. Enjoyed the post!

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    1. In this case I thought the fox had adopted a reasonably sane means of handling the disappointment :)

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  10. I kept thinking of the 'Indian' fox...you know, the one who bribed the monkey 20 rupees to go get the grapes for him!

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