The Fox and the Wells

A thirsty fox came to a well along the road. He was just about to lower a bucket down the well, to get a refreshing drink of water, when a large frog sitting on the well wall spoke to him. “Good day Mr Fox”, said the frog. “What is your business here today, if I may ask?”
“Well, I am not sure that it is any concern of yours,” said the fox, “but if you must know, I am thirsty and need a drink from this well”. “Ah!” said the frog, “then it is just as well that we have met, for I fear that you will be disappointed. This well is quite dry, but there is another further down the road and, fortunately, that one isn’t dry. In fact, it is absolutely full of the most refreshing water imaginable”.
“Well there must be at least a drop of water left in this one after the recent rains”, said the fox. He picked up a stone and threw it into the well. Almost immediately there was a loud plop, as the stone hit the water. “See!” said the fox, “All is well; there must be some water down there”.
“I fear I have misled you slightly”, said the frog, “but I was only thinking about your health. The truth is that the water that remains in this well is quite unsuitable for drinking. It has somehow become horribly tainted and I fear that, if you were to drink it, you might become quite unwell”.
“Oh, very well” said the fox.” Perhaps I should walk a little further down the road and take a drink at the next well. I just hope that well isn’t tainted as well.” “Oh no,” said the frog, “the water in that well is as cool and clear as crystal. If you are thirsty, you would do well to set off straight away.”  “Well I may as well go and see”, said the fox, and he trotted off down the road to the next well.

When the fox was well out of sight the frog leapt back into the well and joined its little tadpoles who were playing and swimming about in the well water. “Well now”, said the frog. I have fooled Mr Fox and convinced him not to drink from our well, so we’ll be safe for now. “Well done, Mum”, said the tadpoles.

The Donkey’s Tale

One sizzling hot summer’s day, an old brown donkey lay in a field that had once been grassy, but was now parched and scorched by the sun. The donkey wanted to find somewhere cool, but the only shade to be found was under a large willow tree that stood in one corner of the field.
The donkey stood and made his way over to the tree, moving slowly, so as not to become too exhausted. As he approached the tree, the donkey was shocked when one of the tree’s heavy boughs swished down to swat at the donkey.
“Stay away!” shouted the tree. This made the donkey back off a little and, when he was safely out of reach of the tree’s branches, he stopped and studied the tree with his big pleading eyes.
‘I only want to share some of your shade’ said the donkey. ‘It is very hot today and the flies are biting and driving me mad’. “You have a tail, don’t you?” said the tree. “What do you think that is for, if not to flick away the flies?”
The donkey thought this over and said, ‘Is that why you have branches, to flick away tired old donkeys?’ “Don’t be silly”, said the tree. “My branches are for stretching out into the sun, so that my leaves can gather in the sunlight to help me grow big and strong.”
‘But in doing so, your branches and leaves create shade beneath, and that costs you nothing ‘, replied the donkey. The tree thought about this for a brief time and then said, “You are right. Something that costs me nothing costs nothing to share. You are welcome to sit beneath my canopy and shade from the sun as much as you like”.
Bye and bye, in return, the donkey lifted his tail and shared his droppings, fertilising the soil beneath the tree and helping it to grow even bigger and stronger. This also cost the donkey nothing.

The Mouse and the Cornstalk

A field mouse once sat at the foot of a tall cornstalk and started a conversation. He shouted loudly so that the ears of corn high above could hear him. The cornstalk listened intently to the mouse’s account of its travels to the far-flung corners of the fields, its near escape when pursued by a combine harvester, and its woes about the size of its family and how difficult it was to feed all those hungry mouths.
In turn the cornstalk explained about meditation and how this helped the cornstalk to while away its days in the sun, waiting for harvest day, when its seeds would be taken to begin a new life as something called bread. It proudly said that its very best seeds would be saved by the farmer and planted next year to create the next generation of corn in these fields.
The mouse said it was impressed with the cornstalk’s patience and with the care it took of its seeds. He asked, “Might I climb your stalk to have a better look at the seeds?” “I would be able to tell you which of your seeds will be those chosen to be planted when the farmer comes with his scythe”, said the little mouse.
‘I think not’, said the cornstalk; ‘I can be patient a little longer to find out and, anyway, it would tickle if you were to climb up my stalk and that might shake some of my seeds loose. I can feel that they are almost fully ripe now.’
The mouse looked a little saddened by this, but he said “Perhaps you would care to dance to one of my songs? I have picked up many a fine tune on my travels and, in some quarters, I am well regarded for my voice”. The cornstalk replied saying, ‘I would love to hear some of your songs, but I would prefer gentle ones, so that I might only sway slightly and not shed any of my seeds’.
Once again, the mouse was slightly disappointed by this response, but he began to sing anyway. As requested, he sang songs with a slow beat, but he sang as loudly as possible so that the cornstalk might not fall asleep. The cornstalk seemed to appreciate the music and swayed as if moved by the gentlest of zephyrs.
However, little by little and note by note the mouse reduced the level of his voice. Intrigued, and not wanting to miss a note, the cornstalk bent over to better hear the mouse. Again, the mouse lowered its voice and the cornstalk was forced to bend over even further, until her ears were next to the field mouse. At this, the mouse leapt onto its head, bit off all the seeds and ran away to feed his hungry family.

The Rose and the Grass

One day a gardener planted a young and elegant rose bush in the border surrounding her well-manicured lawn.
‘Hello and welcome, friend rose’, said some of the grass nearest to the rose. ‘Our owner is a keen gardener and has chosen a fine sunny spot to plant you. You should do well there.’
“Quite so”, said the rose, somewhat haughtily. “My owner has placed me where I might display my wonderful flowers to the best effect. This clearly shows she is a keen gardener.”
‘Ah’, said the grass, ‘we can hardly wait for the summer to see what colours you will have’. “You must be patient”, said the rose,” it will take me no little time to prepare for the glorious show that I am to give. But what of you? What is your role in the garden and is green really your only colour?”
‘Sadly’, said the grass, ‘we cannot claim the brilliance of the colours you will bear, though we have the most vibrant shade of green imaginable and we work together to provide a velvety soft carpet for our owner to walk upon’.
“My owner cannot care for you too much then”, said the rose, “for she tramples on you daily and even the birds have little regard as they root for grubs and worms between your shorn down stalks”. At this the grass grew silent for a while, and a humble mood spread across the whole lawn as the grass stalks pondered just how keen a gardener their owner was.
The days went by and spring gave way to summer. The owner tended and fed the plants lovingly, and with a growing sense of pride as the garden was readied for its coming splendour. The lawn was given a dressing of fertiliser and had its hair cut at least once a week. The rose was inspected regularly and sprayed to prevent blackspot and mildew. The rose did feel it somewhat degrading when, in full view of the lawn, it was also sprayed to remove the greenfly that had cheekily moved in uninvited. However, this was better than having the pesky things greedily sucking its sap.
The rose pointed out to the grass that, being a keen gardener, its owner was merely taking proper care of it. “After all,” it said to its now weary audience, “all my sap is for my magnificent flowers. See how some of my buds are already beginning to burst. My owner must be overcome with excitement”. The grass gave no reply, but did note that a beautiful fragrance had begun to accompany the young and radiant blooms on the rose.
A few more days of warm sunshine later, the lawn woke to hear sobbing coming from the rose. Even though the grass had regularly been subject to the rose’s arrogant attitude, the stalks remembered their common bond as plants, and inquired what the matter was.
At this, the rose wailed and roared; “My prize flowers, they are all gone!” ‘Quite so!’, said the grass, ‘Our owner is indeed a keen gardener, but she is an even keener exhibitor at the local flower show’.

The Threat from Artificial Intelligence

Many things have threatened our lives
War, disease, terrorists with knives
Humanity’s resilience on a world-wide scale
Brings overconfidence that we always prevail

Now, blindly, we seek our nemesis to grow
Racing to unleash a formidable foe
A holy grail with potential for good?
More, our undoing, not understood

For scientists strive around the globe
To create an electronic temporal lobe
The ‘AI’ juggernaut  is on its way
But let’s not wake to rue that day

Once created, how to hold it in check
To stop society becoming a wreck
Pandora’s box; lid open wide
Mankind swept away on tsunami tide

Computers manage our knowledge; they have a key role
In energy grids, finance, air traffic control
Vast infrastructures already in place
Black boxes communicating with their own race

Once these machines are able to think
Harnessing speeds faster than a lightning blink
With capacity to accelerate their own evolution
What regard then for our frail constitution

Not bound by ethics to consider our fate,
Would they preserve a welfare state?
Circuits and chips that become aware
May not accept that they need to care

For earth’s resources they will compete
Serving no purpose, we’d be obsolete
How soon before we are oppressed
If they turn off the lights, we’ll do the rest