Of Black Sheep, Flying Cows and Stale Porridge

Nursery Rhymes and lessons

Hi, folks!

One of the things I have learnt in life and about humanity is that we often ignore life’s lessons. Yes, we remember the bitter experiences and we see the scars and sometimes re-live the pain. But still conveniently ignore the real lessons.

I recently listened to a message by @AndyStanley where he highlighted three myths we believe in about life that often make us go through the same stuff over and over again. But that is a post for another day

In this post, I’m sharing some lessons our teachers (maybe unknowingly, depending on the kind of teachers you had) tried to teach us as kids in rhymes.

Remember the nursery rhyme Pease, Porridge Hot? (Its actually “Pease” not “Beans”) I bet you do.

I don’t know why but some days ago, it came into mind. And as I let it run through, the lines suddenly had fresh meaning to me. I decided it was intentional. I mean the author of the rhyme had put these messages there for us.

So, I began to ask my friends for other nursery rhymes they could recall. And as I looked at each one, behold, they also had messages, lessons and advice embedded in them.

So, the first goes:

Pease porridge hot, 

Pease porridge cold,

Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old;

Some like it hot, some like it cold,

Some like it in the pot, nine days old

The lesson here is simple. We all have different tastes and preferences. Same pease porridge. But some like it hot, others cold, yet others like it in the pot 9 days old!

I’m sure some of you already wrinkled your noses at the thought of 9 day old porridge. But let me ask you, is it your porridge? Is it your mouth or stomach it’s being saved for? Then why throw a fit? Why spasm out?

To be honest, many of us missed this lesson. And it’s a pretty simple one – Live and let live.

Get your porridge how you want it and leave others to theirs.

And another is the famous Mary (Jane?) and her little lamb.

Mary had a little lamb,its fleece was white as snow;And everywhere that Mary went,the lamb was sure to go.

It followed her to school one day,which was against the rule;It made the children laugh and play,to see a lamb at school.

And so the teacher turned it out,but still it lingered near,And waited patiently about,till Mary did appear.

“Why does the lamb love Mary so?”the eager children cry;“Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know”,the teacher did reply.

Well, Mary somehow came into possession of a pretty lamb with very white fleece. The story (thanks to @Yadah__ ) is that her brother encouraged her to take it with her to school. Why? We don’t know. Maybe the brother needed some privacy around the house, or had stuff to do and couldn’t be bothered about his sister’s pet lamb.

Take it to school she did. The reaction she got from “the rest of the world” was not quite what she expected. In the first place Mary had gone against the grain, for it was against the rules to bring a pet to school, but that didn’t stop her. She did it anyway.

She disrupted school. Mary had no intention to do this. She was simply busy being in love with her lamb, but see what she created! And even when the lamb was sent away, it refused to leave. It waited for Mary patiently around the school.

The other kids couldn’t understand it. Why bring the lamb? Why won’t it leave without Mary? The teacher explained it – Love.

For me, this speaks to my believe in my craft. It’s worth the time and effort because I love what I do. And maybe, I’ll bring some disruption to my “school”. Who knows?

Many people have changed the world we live in in definite ways because they “brought their sheep to school”. Why not do the same?

Break a few rules while at it. Hehehe!

Then there is this one:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,     How I wonder what you are!     Up above the world so high,     Like a diamond in the sky.

     When the blazing sun is gone,     When he nothing shines upon,     Then you show your little light,     Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

     Then the traveler in the dark     Thanks you for your tiny spark;     He could not see which way to go,     If you did not twinkle so.

     In the dark blue sky you keep,     And often through my curtains peep,     For you never shut your eye     ‘Till the sun is in the sky.

     As your bright and tiny spark     Lights the traveler in the dark,     Though I know not what you are,     Twinkle, twinkle, little star.”

I’m sure you all know this one. Maybe not all 5 stanzas but we do know some of it. Who even knew it was 5 stanzas long?

Before all the stuff I learned about the galaxy and astronomy, I often wondered about the stars myself.

There’s a simple lesson in this rhyme – Every thing in life is for a set time and under particular conditions (Time and Chance). Some of these we can replicate (airplane manufacturers replicate starry skies on the ceiling of passenger cabins), some we can’t and so learn to watch and wait.

The lesson of watching and waiting was surely lost on most of us. Instant gratification is rampant and have led many into tight conditions. I’m sorry, but someone did try to warn us.

On to the Black Sheep:

Baa, baa, black sheep,

Have you any wool?

Yes, sir, yes, sir,Three bags full;

One for the master,

And one for the dame,

And one for the little boy

Who lives down the lane

This is one of the shortest but quite loaded with lessons too.

See, at the point we all learned this rhyme, we didn’t know humans could be referred to as “Black Sheep”. But today, you know what a “black sheep” is and who the black sheep of your (nuclear or extended) family is/are. Maybe it’s you – because you like your freedom a little too much, or you drink a little too much, spend a little too heavily, your sexual inclinations are ‘unconventional’ or you decided to be a guitarist instead of a ‘professional’ like everyone else in the family or you are some kind of disappointment or disgrace to the family.

There’s hope for you.

This Black Sheep had its day! Glory! Wool was needed and someone decided to ask the Black Sheep. Wool is used in fabric production, but white wool is most desirable. Someone seemed to have no choice.

The great thing about this Black Sheep was that it seemed to know this day would come and he was ready. 3 bags full ready!

Never stay down for the count. Never count yourself out. No matter how society labels you. Make yourself count.

Permit me to highlight another lesson from the way the Black Sheep distributed its wool. The Master, the Dame and the Little Boy who lived down the lane. Black Sheep didn’t think only about his household, he remembered and made provision for someone else in need – The Little Boy who didn’t live with them.

Quick Fun Fact: Romanov lambs are born black, but lighten to a soft silver grey as they make their fleece.

Hopefully, any Black Sheep reading this will “lighten” as they mature.

This poem was always rubbish to me:

Hey diddle diddle,

The cat and the fiddle,The cow jumped over the moon.The little dog laughed,To see such sport,

And the dish ran away with the spoon

I didn’t know much when I came across this poem in a book, but I was certain there was no way a cow would jump over the moon. Then I saw “the dish ran away with the spoon” and I gave up. It was utter nonsense!

As at yesterday, it was still utter nonsense until @MinnieFourteen pointed out that it actually tells us to believe in the seemingly impossible. It’s that simple.

Nothing, absolutely nothing is impossible. There are no limits to what we can achieve as a race and as individuals.

NASA might never send a cow flying over the moon, though. I doubt it’ll be profitable.

And lastly:

Old Roger is dead and gone to his grave, H’m ha ! gone to his grave.They planted an apple tree over his head, H’m ha! over his head.The apples were ripe and ready to fall, H’m ha ! ready to fall.There came an old woman and picked them all up, H’m ha! picked them all up.Old Roger jumped up and gave her a knock, H’m ha! gave her a knock.Which made the old woman go hippity hop, H’m ha! hippity hop

This one we sang with a lot of pomp and action. And when we were being naughty, we landed a few knocks on unsuspecting classmates.

But for lessons? This is complete rubbish! Or maybe I don’t see? Maybe I need more light…

That’s all folks!

Fell free to share any life lessons you find in these or all the other rhymes I didn’t use here. Maybe we could do a second post? After all, nothing is impossible.


Greg Emuze

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  1. Great piece!This threw me aback, I miss my childhood day but above all, it inspired me. Thanks guys!

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