A Political Tale of the Workplace: Truth Cannot Live with Fear
To agree or disagree? I guess it depends on what, where and with whom. In today’s incredibly fast paced work environment, it seems like there is incredible pressure to juggle an absurd amounts projects and take on more responsibilities. With our increased stress levels and anxieties, we look and turn to shortcuts to stay afloat. Especially during meetings. It can be seen as easier and less of a hassle to just agree with our teams, clients and managers. But where does that lead us? Groupthink. More routine solutions. Less creative options. Limited space and acceptance for dissenting opinions. Truth and fear cannot exist together.
Enjoy this short story based on a traditional Arabic tale and written by my dear friend, Brian Lee. If you have time, consider reflecting on how we ourselves can find our inner courage and encourage other team members to be courageous without letting supposed “restrictions” of stress, time and space stop us.
Once upon a time the king spoke to one of his kitchen workers and said.
“I haven’t eaten aubergine for a long time.”
And the kitchen worker said,
“Aah! Your majesty, may you live a hundred years, the aubergine is truly the best of all the vegetables and truly deserves to be on the plate of the king. It can be eaten fried, it can be eaten stuffed, it can be prepared in a delicious salad or made as part of an exquisite stew. It is so versatile and indispensable, truly it is a vegetable above all others.”
And the king replied,
“But I remember that last year I had a stomach upset after eating aubergine.”
To which the kitchen worker said, “Aah! Your gracious majesty, may you live two hundred years, the aubergine is the most perfidious and untrustworthy of vegetables. It can poison the system, it can cause the worst flatulence and the greatest imbalance to the humours of the organism. If you eat aubergine, it can lead to extreme constipation and damage the internal organs to the extent that only protracted bed rest and daily cupping can relieve the symptoms and prevent a decline into permanent invalidity.”
“Just a moment,” the king replied. “You tell me that the aubergine is the best of all vegetables and then in the next breath you tell me it is the worst! What are you trying to say to me?”
And the kitchen worker replied.
“Sire, you are the king and if you say that the aubergine is the best then it is the best, and if you say it is the worst then it is the worst. You are the king and it is not my position to disagree with you.”
“You are a very wise and perceptive man,” replied the king. “Why is it that you are only a humble kitchen worker? From today you shall be one of my ministers!”
* Those unfamiliar with aubergine, it is the British word for eggplant.
Brian Lee is a poet and a sound composer who lives in London, UK and works as a teacher and a coach. He counts among his influences, the lyrics of Captain Beefheart, and the traditional poetry of indigenous peoples. His poetry books and albums of sound compositions are available at Naked Light where you will also find more of his writings on this strange business of being a poet.