A flock of crows nested among the other flocks. Together they occupied not only the largest willow-oak but the neighboring oaks and all of the other trees anyone could see from high up in the forest. Each group had traveled for weeks, met other groups, flew together, and joined more.
As the flocks grew larger, more fights broke out. Sometimes the conflicts erupted between small groups that arrived to rest early and larger ones that arrived late and tried to take the best roosts, already occupied. Sometimes struggles erupted over matters of philosophy or the different cultures of the flocks. On the night previous, in a different part of the forest, three war parties had fought over matters of protocol. Two crows had died with a dozen more wounded.
A young crow with his eye to repeating the battle approached a veteran warrior from his troop.
"Old fellow," said the young. "Tonight we must correct the wrong-thinkers."
"If by that you mean 'kill the others because they speak oddly,' no."
"Come, now. You fought on our side when it was a matter of territory. Why will you not join us in holy glory? Are not moral principals greater than a mere the mere twigs and stalks of these boughs?"
"Yes, you and your friends talk a lot about ideals. They are vast, powerful things."
"They are everything. You must live your life for some cause greater than yourself. I have heard you say those words, old crow."
"And I do. I live for others."
"That is not what I mean."
"Yet it is exactly what I mean. Ideals accomplish progress. They help us make tools, heal ourselves, and achieve feats of endurance. But as great as they are compared to any one crow, they are limited. They mislead. They deceive us into a cycle of violence."
"Comrade, we fight for the glory of all creatures."
"You, young fellow, give life to your ideals. Without you and your friends, the concepts would be nothing. Do you not see? Even if your cause encompasses the whole universe, it is small in comparison to the mind of a single individual. All ideas, all transcendent loves, all undying passions, all unbearable depressions, all towering fears, hopes and inspirational ideas that our folks have ever held are combined in a single mind."
"Only one cause can be the just one, comrade."
"Many causes are just. As great as such concepts are, as much as we use them to improve ourselves, they are also so small that they all fit inside any reasonably bright child. The energy that moves you is so slight that it's in every individual. When you kill another, you kill a world of great ideas. You diminish our greatness."
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