The Parable of the Corn

Sometimes, a Facebook post makes you stop and think. This one certainly spoke to me:

“There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

So is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…

So many of the issues I deal with on this blog–and so many of the subsequent thoughtful conversations among regular readers–revolve around this lesson, this “parable.”

We humans really are all in this together. Ultimately, our individual prospects are bound up with the prospects of those with whom we share our communities, our nation and our planet.

Understanding that, and acting accordingly, used to be called “enlightened self-interest.”


  1. The authors of the Preamble of the Constitution knew this and penned the same idea in those words. I always told my students, the Preamble IS the Constitution. The rest is just mechanics.

  2. Then along came Monsanto: the farmer whose field was next to a field of their GMO corn which adulterated his corn was sued for violating their patent.

  3. A few years ago a rediculously small percentage of my 37.2 trillion cells got led astray by some nefarious circumstances in my cardiac blood supply system. Stuff happened and at one point medical odds makers declared a virtual tie – 50% chance that the revolutionaries would get their way, 50% that order would be restored. So the way vast majority of the gang that comprises me would either continue to be, or not, depending on how the chaos of a tiny number of us resolved their difficulties.

    Of course I’m here so we know the outcome. But there was another path not taken. One that would have ended me and all that I was in my mortal sphere then.

    Are we as one of 7B people in the current world any different than that handful of necessary cells in my body was then?

    Life happens because under normal circumstances all cells which are necessary accept that none are sufficient for the functional whole that they and I are equally dependent on.

    We either each do our job or none can.

    What is life? A single cell capable of birth, function and death or huge collections that are way more than the sum of their individual limitations?

    We are absolutely stuck on needing each other.

  4. It doesn’t get any better than this brief “parable” and those who chose the brief comments which followed.

  5. Pete; those of us with more…sometimes much more…to say, are usually the ones who have a personal interest in or connection to the subject at hand. Or; maybe this is their/our only outlet to connect with intelligent people who are deeply concerned with conditions in this country as they are today. “The Parable of the Corn” is a welcome relief from what passes as “news” in the media hour after hour, day after day. Yet; it is newsworthy as a reminder of better things in days gone by and provides a glimmer of hope for better things in the days to come.

  6. I very much agree with you JoAnn. I’m so interested in these pages continuing to be what they have been, an oasis of shared experience and ideas and thoughts about these critical days in America’s history, that I’d them to be as much as possible friendly to all participants. There’s nobody that doesn’t add something to the discussion.

  7. What is with the debate over the length of reader’s comments? Short. Long. Just as long as it is interesting. The ones I like best are the ones that give me a better or different perspective about what the topic is.

  8. Steve Smith; I totally agree with you about the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States saying it all. When you begin expanding and expounding on issues; meanings often get lost in the words and you lose the heart of the matter. So much of the Amendments is open to interpretation; causing much of the confusion we are forced to deal with today. Pence’s RFRA in Indiana and Kim Davis denying marriage licenses (or deeming same-sex licenses invalid) in Kentucky are two prime examples of bastardizing the 1st Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…” into allowing laws to be passed supporting the religion of some and denying religion to others. It omits the substance of “…and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,…” as stated in the Preamble.

    Wayne’s example of Monsanto and GMO corn rights conflicting with Sheila’s “The Parable of the Corn” presents conflicting rights of two sides of one issue. I am old enough to remember the early days of cable TV when the dish came into being. Our viewing options were wide ranged on cable; currently running movies, live sports events, live theater, etc. Then the dish companies were sued for “stealing signals from the air” showing the same quality programming as cable for one flat fee rather than optional costly “packages”. They were found guilty but we all lost the variety and quality of programming to prevent anyone from “stealing signals from the air”. How could Monsanto continue producing their GMO corn and prevent the natural process of winds picking up the pollen and cross-pollinating the corn – in both directions depending on which way the wind was blowing? Now I have confused the original simple, straight-forward issue and the positive lesson the blog was addressing. Can this be considered, “enlightened self-interest”?

  9. Steve,

    Too bad the Supreme Court has never found the Preamble to be binding law or of any constitutional authority.

  10. Gopper. If we substitute the definition of “constitution” in place of the word it’s clearer that it’s the basis for all of our laws.

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this system of fundamental laws and principles that prescribes the nature, functions, and limits of a government for the United States of America.

  11. Pete, What? Quit wasting people’s time.

    Neither the Preamble to the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence has been held to be binding legal authority in the United States. Both are great works. Both have great ideas. Neither is law.

    That’s all. It’s a legal fact. Nothing further needs to be said, unless you want to discuss how absurd judicial review is that it allows the court to ignore laws it doesn’t like.

  12. I agree with you completely about the Declaration of Independence.

    The Constitution however must be taken in its entirety, including the Preamble, as the bylaw that defines what American government must and can be and can’t be and as that government is the source of our law, with the responsibility to create, administer and adjudicate our laws, it’s license to rule, IMO, must be the fountainhead of everything legal and American.

    It’s just good writing to flow from the general to the specific and that applies to our law as well. The Preamble is the briefest most general statement of what Americans agree to be ruled by. The rest of the Constitution adds detail and specificity. All the laws created under the Constitution more so.

    This is my view. How about some of the real lawyers here adding their academic views?

  13. Sorry I missed reading “The Parable of the Corn” on its day of publication; moreover, the simple parable left me smiling and remembering how grateful I am for having grown up on a large working farm in the rural South where the majority in my county also were farmers. The first thought that popped into my head was “The ox is in the ditch” meaning there was urgent work to be done, either on your own farm or on a neighbor’s farm. It mattered little if you particularly liked your neighbor, it simply was understood that neighbors pitch in when other neighbors need assistance, urgent assistance. Additionally, it was the community kiss of death to ignore a neighbor’s need.

    For those Biblically inclined, “The ox is in the ditch” is referenced both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

  14. Gopper; leave Steve alone. He and I are old and fragile.

    Steve, I can’t see where we as a nation are ready as yet. We are yet a noble experiment yet to be decided. Sentiment has swung back and forth but, like MLK says it bends toward justice. Most of you here, can’t remember how things were. Even with cops gone crazy, it’s nothing like what Southerners used to practice as ‘entertainment’.

    I am prone to believe the experiment eventually will work.

    Keep the faith.

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