There was once a bird who had been entrusted with the greatest treasure of its kind. This bird wasn’t the wisest or the swiftest or the strongest bird. It wasn’t even from an especially important bird family. So it seemed strange, in a way, that this bird among all the other birds had been given this treasure. Why had the leaders of the birds done it? Because this particular bird was very, very, very lazy. It was a bird that valued comfort and routine above all else and as a result the other birds knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they could trust this bird not to give away the treasure or to lose it or to do anything at all with it, because that would mean change, and change was not a thing that the lazy bird was into at all.
Now, this bird, whose name was Kai (see? So lazy that even its name was only three letters) was perfectly fine with this arrangement, because it meant that its highest values and greatest desires were appreciated. It’s a lovely thing, to be told that what you already want most is exactly what’s needed.
Now, time passed, and Kai kept the treasure safe – which is to say that they put it in the dresser and did nothing with it. And more time passed, and more time passed, and still more time, and Kai – true to their principles – continued to do absolutely nothing, and as a result nothing changed. This was great. It was wonderful. It was perfect.
(You knew there was an “except” coming, didn’t you? There is always, always an “except” coming after the word “perfect.” It’s one of the fundamental truths of story.)
The perfection that Kai was serving was perfection for those who wanted their greatest treasure to be locked away in the dresser. And not all the birds wanted that. The ones in charge, certainly. Many of the others, probably. But not all of them. These other birds, the ones who thought that treasure should be out in the light, had a plan.
Their plan wasn’t to boost the treasure, or to lead a revolt to liberate it, or even to convince Kai to give it over. No, their plan was much simpler than that. They told stories.
You already know the stories they told. Stories of adventure, and of grand quests and noble heroes and wise fools and plucky sidekicks. Stories of struggle and of joy and of love and of fortune. Above all, they told stories that asked that most dangerous of questions: What if?
Now, these were only stories, of course. They didn’t really mean anything. The leaders of the birds knew that there had been some grumbling about the treasure, and they were very happy to find that the hubbub had died down and that the troublemakers weren’t doing anything more worrisome than telling stories. But just to be certain, they gave Kai a little more food, a bit of extra money, a touch more comfort.
Listen to the stories! the rulers said. They’re entertaining enough. Here, have some more birdseed.
It’s harmless fun, and sure, we could all use some escape every now and again. Say, have we mentioned what a great job you’re doing hanging onto that treasure? Really top notch work.
Wine! More wine for our good friend Kai! They’ve certainly earned it.
Big fan of your contributions, Kai. We couldn’t do it without you.
Stay the course!
See you in the morning, all right?
(What if? What if? What if?)
You don’t need me to tell you what happened next. That night or the next or another one a year later, Kai opened the drawer, and retrieved the treasure that they had been entrusted with. And they flew off, of course – that’s what birds do. Kai hadn’t been flying for a while so it was rough going at first, but they got back in the swing of things soon enough. Kai flew out into the world with the greatest treasure they could put their beak on, leaving behind the comfort and perfection that no longer served them, all to answer that dangerous question.