Friday, February 08, 2008

Aesop’s Foibles #6 The Fox and the Grapes

The fable about the fox and the high hanging grapes is one of the more popular tales of Aesop. This is were the idiomatic expression “sour grapes” has been derived which meant denying one’s desire for an object that one has failed to get.

It was during one hot summer day that a fox espied high up in a grape vine a bunch of luscious looking grapes that was tantalizingly hanging at an almost reachable distance from the ground. As foxes are wont to do he circled the ground below the grape cluster and thought how sweet it would be to slake his thirst and assuage his growing discomfort made by the heat of an oppressive midday sun.

He made attempts at doing running jumps towards the cluster but missed the bunch by a few inches. His desire for the grapes increased at each unsuccesful attempt. By the end of more than a dozen tries he took a critical look at grapes and finding a slight tinge of green he decided that the grapes must be sour and moved on.

The moral of the story is … “ it is easy to despise something that you cannot get.”

These days sour graping is considered as a negative behavior and the fox having done so would be considered as someone who indulges in destructive criticism. On the other hand sour graping may be a natural defense mechanism to cope with disappointments. Making little of what one is not able to get is rationalization. It provides a psychological cushion to soften the impact of the denial of the desired object and necesssarily may be a good thing. It negates the value of the lost opportunity and it provides the optimism that the next grape bunch will be sweet.

The moral could then be… if at first you don’t succeed, the next opportunity will be better than what you have missed.”

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