The Calf Path LO19933

John Dicus (
Thu, 19 Nov 1998 16:02:24 -0500

I received the following verse from a participant in one of our recent
Systems Thinking workshops. I thought you might enjoy it -- I had not
seen it before. It looks like a good S/T dialogue catalyst.

We had discussed Robert Fritz's introductory comments from his book "The
Path of Least Resistance" where he talks about Boston's roads being built
upon crooked old cowpaths. Since cows are reluctant to climb or descend
sharply, they tend to walk along paths that are as level as possible.
Hence they wind all over the place. We continued to build on that
metaphor -- the paths representing "structure" that helps you connect what
you get with what you've done. The peom below arrived today by mail.

Warm regards,

John Dicus


one day through the primeval wood
a calf walked home as good calves should;
but made a trail all bent askew,
a crooked trail as calves all do.

since then three hundred years have fled,
and I infer the calf is dead
but still he left behind his trail,
and thereby hangs my moral tale.

the trail was taken up next day
by a lone dog that passed that way;
and then a wise bell wether sheep
pursued the trail o'er vale and steep,
and drew the flock behind him, too
as good bell wethers always do.

and from that day, o'er hill and glade,
through these old woods a path was made.
and many men wound in and out,
and dodged and turned and bent about,
and uttered words of righteous wrath
because 'twas such a crooked path.

but still they followed... do not laugh,
the first migrations of that calf.
this forest path became a lane,
that bent and turned and turned again.
this crooked lane became a road,
where many a poor horse with his load
toiled on beneath the burning sun
and traveled some three miles in one.

and thus a century and a half
they trod the footsteps of that calf.
the years passed on in swiftness fleet
the road became a village street;
and this, before men were aware,
a city's crowded thoroughfare.
and soon the central street was this
of a renowned metropolis.

and men two centuries and a half
trod in the footsteps of that calf.
a hundred thousand men were led
by one calf near three centuries dead.

for men are prone to go it blind
along the calf-paths of the mind
and work away from sun to sun
to do what other men have done,
they follow in the beaten track,
and out and in, and forth and back.

and still their devious course pursue,
to keep the path that others do.
they keep the path a sacred groove
along which all their lives they move.
but how the wise old wood gods laugh
who saw the first primeval calf!

-- Author Unknown


John Dicus | CornerStone Consulting Associates -- Bringing Systems To Life -- 2761 Stiegler Road, Valley City, OH 44280 800-773-8017 | 330-725-2728 (2729 fax) |

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