Anybody remember those Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation shows that use to go around in the 80’s and 90’s? Kinda dating myself here, but I loved those things. They were collections of all this amazing animation work that’s done all over the world. Get a collection of Oscar nominated animated shorts and you’ll see a bit of the incredible art that’s created in this medium.
Of course Spike and Mike also included a lot of... well, sick and twisted stuff as well. The artful and the banal.
One of them I remember so clearly, but I haven’t been able to find it since. I so loved the story - and it’s helped a lot when I find myself or others in certain situations. This is the story.
We start with our guy, he has a young son who is playful and active running around outside playing with his friends, and next door is this grouchy, negative, cranky old man who is their neighbor. (I remember that guy! We used to live in terror of the ball going over the fence into THAT yard).
Anyway, we’re with our guy in his house when we hear a crash and broken glass, some yelling and then a loud knocking on the door. There stands the grouchy neighbor, scruffing the young boy, complaining that the lille lout broke his window and what a terrible father our guy must be to have raised such an insolent, careless, thoughtless child.
Our guy responds by telling a story. He says “Once there was a nightingale, perched on a branch above a trail in the forest. And she sang her beautiful song as the breeze blew bright in the woods. An old crow came and settled on the branch and listened a bit.”
‘I don’t think you sing very well at all.’ said the crow ‘I can sing better than you!’ And the crow began caawwing like a car horn, knocking the leaves off the branch he sang on.
‘The nightingale listened a bit, and when the crow stopped. She sang again, so sweetly and easily the notes flew from her like shooting stars.
Seeing this the crow puffed up and started honking and cawing drowning out the little bird, who faltered and stopped singing.
‘I have a proposal’ she said, and the old crow turned to listen. ‘We’ll have contest you and I. A singing contest. And the next one to come by this way will determine the winner and who sings the best, and that one will get to sing in this lovely tree by the path.’
To this the crow readily agreed and they waited and waited by the forest trail.
At last, waddling down the way, came a pig - a fat and a dirty pig, covered in the mud it had been rolling in, and it stank and it chewed as it waddled on its way.
So the two birds called to iit and laid out their proposal, and the pig agreed to play his part. Then the nightingale sang, sweeter than a jasmine scented evening, notes floating like dandelion seeds scattered in the air.
She finished, and turned to face the crow, and the pig did the same. Old crow cleared his throat and started cawing and keening his hair-raising racket. Conking and flapping as if stamping his ugly feet would make his genius clear.
When he stopped they both turned and looked at the pig, who stood blank faced and chewing for a minute. ‘The crow sings best!’ said the pig, turning to go.
The crow whooped and hollered and cackled his delight. He bragged and he strutted, while the nightingale hung her head and slowly cried.
‘See!’ Said old crow, ‘Look at you cry! You can’t take losing! You can’t stand that you lost!’
‘No.’ Said the little bird. ‘I don’t mind that I lost. But... look who my judge is.’
‘And so...’ said our guy, reaching out to take his son under his arm, ‘would I say to you.’ As he gently closed the door, his neighbor’s mouth hanging open.
Please remember this the next time some hater, some crank, some bummer of a human being judges you.
For whatever anyone may say, you sing beautifully just as you are.