The Detroit Free Press today had an article by Josh Linkner titled “Feed the Right Wolf”. It was a fairly typical self-help article based upon an old Cherokee legend.
I Googled the referenced legend and got the wording (as did Linkner, I imagine). The legend goes…
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside all people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all.
“One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
“The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
I like that story. It reinforces much of what I write about here. When I Googled it I noticed that there is a web site www.feedtherightwolf.org which I thought might also be an inspirational site. It is, sort of. It’s a porn addition self-help site. The site is devoted to trying to help those with sex or pornography additive behavior, I guess. I didn’t delve into it too deeply; but, it is the site from which I took the words of the story. I looked down the first page of Google results and 5 out of 7 entries are about porn and sex addition. Apparently, someone’s been feeding the wrong wolves.
The Cherokee legend follows the lines of every classical good vs evil in men story. From Wikipedia I found this information on that age old story –
The conflict between good and evil is one of the precepts of the Zoroastrian faith, first enshrined by Zarathustra over 3000 years ago. It is also one of the most common conventional themes in literature, and is sometimes considered to be a universal part of the human condition. There are several variations on this conflict, one being the battle between individuals or ideologies, with one side Good, the other Evil. Another variation is the inner struggle in characters (and by extension, humans in reality) between good and evil.
There are lots of live links in that little paragraph, if you want to explore that further. Reading that seems to cast some doubt on the validity of the “old Cherokee legend.” Is it just coincidence that the old man in the Cherokee legend came up with this good vs. evil allegory, or has someone who was aware of the historical precept created the Cherokee legend? I guess it doesn’t really matter. The Cherokee legend story is a good device for illustrating the point.
Obviously our more modern religious movements have picked up on the same theme of the conflict in men of good vs. evil. There is even an explanation in the Christian Faith about why God allows that to happen – the whole “free will” argument. I don’t know enough about other religions to comment on them, but I’m pretty sure that somewhere in all of them the concepts of good vs evil in men’s lives is covered and some rationale for why men are allowed to do evil is covered somehow. All religions have what the Ronald Regan team coined as “plausible deniability” for the evil acts of man.
So, no matter your religious beliefs, we can agree upon the raging conflict in us all about whether to do good or evil at every turn. Do you do the so-called “right thing” or do you feed the other wolf and take the easy way out or the shortcut or cop a lie? Feed the right wolf.
I find it humorous (I have a weird sense of humor sometimes) that, as a modern society, we have developed our own variation on the two wolves’ story. You’ve all seen ads in print or on TV with the two little characters sitting on the shoulders of the person trying to make a decision. One is depicts as a little red devil (horns and tails and all) of evil and the other is usually robed in white and may have wings, but is surely the angel of good. That somehow meets our modern need to simplify everything down to the level of a cartoon. So, now, instead of the two wolves battling it out to get fed in us, we have two little characters sitting on our shoulders whispering in our ears. It’s not which wolf gets fed; now, it’s which little character do we listen to. The effect is the still the same. Feed the right wolf.
The real point of the story in the legend, and in a great many stories from various religions, is that we have the power within us to choose which wolf we feed and which character we listen to as we make life decisions. The images from the legends and the modern TV commercials are there just to help us stop and think before we decide or act. They also force one more question to be answered – do we know the difference between the two? Feed the right wolf.
It turns out that evil does not always show itself clearly for what it is (that is part of its evil). The wolf occasionally hides in sheep’s clothing to fool us. Evil can take on many forms. Evil does not always show us its horns and tail and is not always an easy to spot red color. Sometimes evil can be a seductive siren calling us to the racks of destruction. Sometimes evil can be found in a crowd all angrily going the wrong way. Sometimes evil is even more insidious and is something that we just have to forget to do or decide not to do. Feed the right wolf.
One thing that evil cannot do is to hide from the glare of the light of truth. Evil likes to lurk in the darkness and lure us to join it there. Shining the light of truth on evil makes the darkness drop away and exposes the ugly thing that was hiding there. Evil is based upon lies about others or lies told to us; it is about lies that cannot stand up to the truth. Feed the right Wolf.
There is no truth that you can find to justify saying bad things about another person or hating another person because of something that they said or did that you don’t agree with. There is no truth to be found in your decision to by-pass the needy or poor because evil tells you that you are too busy. There is no truth to looking the other way when you see something wrong or someone wronged, because evil tells you not to get involved. Evil hates the truth ad will try to keep you from seeing it. Feed the right wolf.
So, it all boils down to the decision that the old Cherokee was trying to get the young boy to understand in the legend. You have choices in life. Those choices will always involve two wolves vying for your attention – good and evil. The choices that you make will determine the course of your life and to a great extent the course of your life (your ability at any point in time to discern the difference between right and wrong) will determine which wolf gets fed. Oh; and did I mention – Feed the right wolf!