Men were shouting, dogs were barking with great animation, but the thronging travelers in so long a journey had grown nearly indifferent to such terrors, though they still bleated piteously at the unwontedness of their experiences, a tall shepherd rising here and there in the midst of them like a gigantic idol amid a crowd of prostrate devotees.Far from the Madding Crowd p. 295
Sheep are unaware of how devoted to their shepherd they are. They’ll go about their ways on a hillside not thinking at all of the one on whose care they are dependent. But they know his voice—even in the throng. In the midst of chaos—especially in the midst of chaos—the attachment to their shepherd is made clear.
How so like people. On a sunny day on a hillside with grass abundant, our allegiances may not be clear. But throw us amid the shouting men and barking dogs of life—take us out of our element—and our colors emerge much like these sheep on their way to market day: “blue flocks and red flocks, buff flocks and brown flocks, even green and salmon-tinted flocks, according to the fancy of the colourist and custom of the farm.”
If we do not believe culture seeks to color us, to put us into factions and divisions, we are as dumb as the sheep. But we, unlike sheep, have the ability to resist that coloring. We do not, however, have the ability to not worship something. That is who we are. Sheep eat grass; humans worship. We all are prostrate devotees, and it is the chaos of life that reveals our loyalties, that shows the world to whom we belong, on whom we depend.