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Value Speak: United we stand in strength
by Joseph Walker
Jul 07, 2011 | 1220 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
You can learn a lot from a horse.

Well, OK — maybe not a lot. I mean, I’m not suggesting anything Mr. Ed-ish here. No therapeutic thoroughbreds. No psychics in saddles. A horse is a horse.

Of course? Of course.

Still, there are things we can learn from horses. For example, I heard about a Canadian competition in which huge Clydesdale workhorses are hitched to a special sled that allows weights to be added to measure the horse’s strength. During one such competition, the winning horse pulled about 8,000 pounds, while the second-place finisher pulled 7,000 pounds.

Hey, there’s a reason we use the phrase “strong as a horse.”

The competition also includes a team-pulling event, and it turned out that during this same competition one of the teams consisted of the first- and second-place finishers from the individual pulling event. So it stands to reason that if you put them together, they should be able to pull about... wait a second... these are big numbers... using ALL my fingers and toes here... about 15,000 pounds, give or take a kilogram. Right?

Wrong.

Evidently, when the two horses were hitched together, they managed to pull a sled weighing some 33,000 pounds — more than double the total amount they were able to pull individually.

I’m sure there’s some scientific principle that comes into play here -- equestrian synergism, perhaps? — or some complex mathematical equation that would explain how such a thing happens. But that would doubtless require brilliant insight, thoughtful consideration and at least two teenagers’ worth of computer know-how, and you know perfectly well you’re not going to get any of that here.

I prefer the explanation of an ancient teacher named Aesop (and no, he wasn’t MY teacher — he was a little before my time, and I’m pretty sure he went to a different high school). This wise philosopher would use sticks to illustrate the point. He would hold up one stick and ask one of his listeners to break it — which could be easily done. Then he would hold up two sticks, and repeat the process. Then three, and so on until the little bundle of sticks couldn’t be broken, no matter how hard his listener tried.

“Alone, we are weak and easily broken,” Aesop would explain. “But together, we are strong.”

Abraham Lincoln tried to teach the same concept to a nation coming apart at the seams. “United we stand,” said he, “divided we fall.”

Or was it the 5th Dimension that said that? I always get them confused.

In any event, it’s a significant concept for us to consider as we approach America’s annual birthday party – especially at a time when there seem to be more and more things that divide us as a nation. While it is a wonderful thing that we live in a country that allows all of us the freedom to express and advocate a wide variety of positions and perspectives, sometimes we need a gentle reminder that at the end of the day we are “one nation, under God.” No matter how strong our individual positions may be, and no matter how many people agree with us, our strength as a nation is multiplied exponentially when we stand shoulder-to-shoulder and arm-in-arm with others, focusing more on the things that unite us than on the things that divide us.

But don’t take my word for it. Go right to the source.

Ask a horse.
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