Of Similes and Rhymes: Semut Tak Tamak (Ants ain’t greedy)

Ants are not greedy. I have come to that conclusion one morning recently.

I left some biscuit crumbs on top of the table outside as I was having my simple breakfast of plain toast and a cup of tea at the back porch. After a while, I observed the ants making a bee line to the pieces of crumbs. I can see the erratic and excited movements of the ants as they picked up the crumps, one at a time, and hurried back to the tiny break on the wooden table. They must be living in the cracks of the table.

After a while, I noticed that they only took just enough crumbs which they presumably needed and left the rest on the table – perhaps for the birds and squirrels later. The story of King Solomon and the ants came to my mind – a tale which demonstrates that ants are indeed intelligent creatures who live in well structured societies of their own. Apparently, their most industrious and hardworking members are the female ants. Not surprising huh? In the stories of the tradition of the ants it is narrated that King Solomon could hear the language of the ants and actually has had conversations with them. It seems that ants have evolved to a much higher civilisation, having a more refined existence, compared to us humans. From these accounts we find that ants are indeed amazing and wonderful creatures. Maybe, we can learn a lot from them. If only we could speak their language. Or maybe, we don’t have too – we just need to observe them more closely.

My daughter’s cat too, from what I observe, shows no hint of greed at all in her. Tora, her name, will only eat what she needs, even-though you fill up her bowl with her favourite food to overflowing. But she is really a special cat, she is partial to durian! Kind of like me, can’t resist this pungent but sweet fruit. So whenever I have some, I would give Tora a piece. Man and cat, in sublime ecstasy over the King of Fruits!

Sitting down outside can be a torture at times. Mosquitoes are relentless, they will swarm upon you and suck your blood until they are full – so filled up that their stomachs are bloated and bursting with reddish content. Some are so full, they can’t even fly away after they have gorged themselves. Also, their bites are painful and itchy. If you are unlucky, they would inject some kind of disease into you as they release their enzymes to thin your blood after they have bitten into you. Mosquitoes, I found, they are vociferously ravenous and greedy. I don’t really like them or the likes of them.

I find that birds are not greedy either. Often my wife would scatter some seeds or leftover rice on the back lawn, she said it’s for the birds. But I noticed that the birds do not immediately swoop down onto the largesse. Sometimes it takes a day or two before they come around to investigate, often from a distance in the trees nearby. And when they do fly down to the ground to peck on the food, they will make all kinds of noises as if to invite the other birds to share their finds. Amazing souls they have. They share whatever they have.


As I sit down under the tree, a huge ‘Bunga Kertas’ tree with brilliant red and pink flowers, a sense of ease overcomes me. Probably, virtually everyone without exception will feel the joy of observing the vibrancy of trees and the beauty of flowers. That is exactly how I feel under the Bunga Kertas tree. Actually, I just love trees of all kinds. I think that are among the greatest of the created things on this earth. They just give, give and give and do not seem to take anything in return for themselves except the sunlight. The have a generous nature, providing man, animals, birds, insects and all manner of creatures with shade, fresh and plentiful oxygen and absorbing all the carbon dioxide that we exhale. Imagine if we do not have lungs, how long could we survive, I wonder. Yes, the forests and the trees are the world’s lungs. Apparently, just one tree can absorb over 48 pounds of CO2 each year. Yet, we don’t even bat an eyelid when we cut down whole swarths of our rainforests that have been there for millions of years. They have been here well before us. But in just a generation or two who have inflicted an unspeakable genocide on one of God’s beautiful living beings. I think we’ll live to regret our shortsightedness and unmitigated greed.

The wind is a playful one. She comes and goes as she likes. But she has good intent. She cools you down on a sultry afternoon, brings in fresh air and takes away all the bad smell and stale air. When you are sweeping the fallen leaves from your porch or veranda she will come and blow away the leaves just when you thought you are about done. You have to start all over. She is is like a child, playful and innocent – you can say that about the wind. She enriches our lives.

The sea is like a mother. Majestic, nurturing, upholding and also at times, a disciplinarian. If you don’t play by her rules she will chastise you. But she is not stingy about what she gives. She is tireless. Constantly on the move and working hand in hand with the wind. She is consistent, she lets the rain drops fall onto her directly, droplet by droplet and she’ll wait patiently for them to return to her from the sky through the rivers and streams. She graciously lets the water evaporates and leave and then patiently awaits their return. Letting the cycle repeat ad infinitum. I am lucky I live in this rented place overlooking the sea, right on the water, as they say. I can see how alive the sea is, never stops moving. A calming scene to watch, the sea. She is a beauty. A comforter.

As you look further afield you will see the mountains in the distance. The mountains are like fathers, in my reckoning. They are steadfast but aloof. They like to challenge climbers and all comers to climb them, often putting all kinds of obstacles in there path. The mountains stand for strength and steadfastness. They are rooted like stacks planted in the ground. They are difficult to move and stubbornly stand their grounds, no matter what may come. They act as signposts and beacons for travellers over the ages. They lead and nurture in their own unique way. But the toughest mountain to climb lies within us: “The mountain that we must conquer rests within ourselves. “. ~ Roxana Jones

The sky is like the conscience. It has stars and constellations placed up where all could see, creating a sense of wonder. During the day, it holds the sun, the source of power and energy that drives all living creatures. The sky works on the imagination and hints of the possibilities and wonders that lie beyond. Helping to create a sense of wonderment and provoking deep questions about life and existence. Some traditions populate the sky with monsters and dragons, others with celestial beings and animals. What is obvious is there are myriads of stars in the sky. Definitely, the sky works on the imagination of man.

The moon she is like a shy and chaste maiden. Always protecting her modesty. She seldom shows herself in full and instead reveals just bits and pieces of herself at times, unlike the sun who likes to exhibit herself and manifests her full power, everyday. Day in and day out.

So, we can learn a lot from observing what is around us. But we must know our responsibility towards nature and our planet. Let’s ponder on this saying:

Cheat the earth and the earth will cheat you. — A Chinese proverb

Writer: Maya_Green
Shah Alam, Selangor DE