I find much diluted wisdom in other religions.
There is a Cherokee legend about an elderly Cherokee brave who tells his grandson about life.
“Son,” he says, “Within all of us there is a battle of two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
He continued, “The other is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
“The same fight is going on inside of you, and inside every other person, too,” explained the wise Cherokee elder.
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The grandfather simply replied, “The one you feed.”
I am choosing to feed the good wolf, even when the bad wolf howls hungrily within me.
My bad wolf, now, is sad and fearful. In my mind’s eye, I can see my father’s wan face on a pillow, my last sighting of him. My phone calls are not being picked up which scares me. He had asked me to call daily — he’s not answering. It’s probably a technical issue but still brings fear to my heart.
Amazingly, more when apart from him than with him, I am learning to love my earthly father. I fear his imminent death. I want to be with him when he dies, not here, in Paris. I want to hold his hand, kiss his forehead, pray over his failing body and send him off to whatever future God has chosen for him.
None of this is in my hands. Still, if I choose to feed my bad wolf, I won’t trust God to take care of my father. The bad wolf doesn’t trust Him to take care of the details of life here, too. My bad wolf doubts, fears and is sad.
Though I had felt led to come here, I was never certain why. I assumed His reasons and purposes for this foray would unfold gradually. Now, I’m wondering if I misinterpreted Him. I only intuited that I was supposed to do this. I believed this was the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart. Now, I doubt. I’m succumbing to my bad wolf.
I need encouragement. I pray something good happens. Something blessed. I pray to meet someone I can talk to. I pray to escape this horrible hotel for a nice little apartment of my own. I pray that the snafus, dishonesty and red-tape that has hindered me just goes away. I don’t want to deal with this stuff.
More than conquerors.
That’s the line I’m to believe. That’s a good wolf idea, that with enough faith I can conquer my bad wolf. I’m to be strong again. That’s part of why I’m here. I’m to rebuild a steely core but on a different foundation, one of faith. This I know. So, I must press forward. If I retreated and flew home to “daddy” to watch him die, it would be wrong though it seems right. The many years caring for him as he neared his own death softened me — now, I need to toughen.
One thing that some of you may understand — others will hate — is that I feel, as a woman, quite vulnerable and empty without a man. I’ve thought about this in the past, of course, but haven’t felt it as poignantly as I do now. Truly, two are stronger than one. By nature, I’m supportive, encouraging and giving to the few people I love. In the past, I was taken advantage of by a man who interpreted my gentleness as weakness. But, in retrospect, I did the right thing. I fed my good wolf, my better nature, by giving selflessly to another. I still believe in gentleness and love.
I not only believe in gentleness and love, I remain gentle and loving — this is one of my good wolves that I never stopped feeding.
Alone, on occasion I have felt a frisson of strength; most of the time, however, I feel a gut-level sadness that I never known a deep earthly love. I want this and God knows it. I’m looking for manly depth. Manly solidity. Manly character. The rest is frosting.
There’s a strength in two-ness. It shows. But it’s more than that — I believe in a deep love that germinates and grows between two people who both feed their good wolf within. Alone, love festers — together, love grows. I still believe that a good marriage makes both partners bigger and better than they would have been had they remained single. So, I pray to work by someone’s side, to sublimate my interests and abilities to his, to respect and build him up, to be joined together in a calling greater than our own love for each other.
This calling will be divine. We will love God together and let our love escape toward others. But that’s not for me today, alas. Alone, I’m clinging to God in this time of uncertainty. Begging for his comfort. His direction.
I’m an ambitious person. One of my ambitions is to write beautifully — this surprises you, no? Believe it or not, writing well is important to me. Though I hate the narcissistic culture of social media, I still think it’s important to be self-revelatory and honest. There’s a sort of honesty that isn’t voyeuristic in purpose, but, instead, exposes important aspects of character and life. That’s what I aim for: brutal self-exposure that cuts to the grit of what I believe and who I am, not because I’m so special, but because you may have experienced the same things yet haven’t been able to put them into a context or find a purpose for what happened to you.
A well-lived life demands explanations. It’s not something to which you react passively and chronicle with a line of Facebook photographs of what you wore and ate. I remember, in Japan, seeing many young girls and men walk around with little sticks on their cellphones. They used these sticks to hold the phone away from their bodies so they could photograph themselves with a background. Political and media figures get this treatment today. I’ll never forget this photograph of a crowd turning away from Hillary to take a selfie:
This is pure narcissism. The crowd wasn’t interested in Hillary, but in themselves as participants in a rally. Political values and ideals did not draw them to this venue, but rather their own shallow need to feel important, to be a part of history. It signals cultural sickness.
I don’t want to be like this and don’t think I am. I’m a far cry from a narcissist yet I feel I have something to say to a culture that doesn’t take the time to think. It’s not that my thoughts are so profound — often, they’re rather shallow, in fact — but that they’re so RARE. People don’t think about life anymore. They just let it happen. They’re weak and passive.
I pray, then, that my little scribbles cause you to ponder … really, anything, but particularly the interface between God and yourself, that slippery, often transparent barrier between your human and His divine nature. I want to write words that make you question your political values and those of others. I want to write words that challenge you to be bigger and better, to feed the good wolf inside of you, but only after you recognize that there’s a battle raging between your good and bad wolf. I want you to step away from the crowd taking selfies and turn around and face Hillary. Look at her. Don’t look at your experience of Hillary, but at Hillary herself. Look at her fake face. Stare at it. Ponder what she is. Think about her values and why she was running for office.
Then go look in a mirror. What is behind the visage?
Either one or another thing happens as you pass through the years of adult life. The choice is yours.
First, you can descend into a self that only slightly changes over the years — slipping into raising the grandkids because you never developed before your own kids flew the nest; into a job from which you retired leaving empty time on your hands without purpose or direction; into an identity that never quaked with meaning and now is hard to unearth. Your faith may have sustained you through many rough patches, but it never took off, never became “real.” In other words, you’re not a bad person, but you didn’t feed the good wolf enough.
Or, you can ascend into change, growth and strength. To do this you must admit your mistakes and then move on. You become bigger through the passage of tough trials. You learn to love, at last, not selfishly, weakly and cravenly but in a giving and honest way. Your career morphs into something new and better fitting, paid or unpaid. Your faith becomes alive as you grow … the past seems so shallow and wasted. In other words, you fed the good wolf in you, slowly and carefully, and you’re seeing him fattened and strong.
I’ve watched many old men shrivel in character when their career ended. What they were, they no longer are. They have no title. No office. No job description. Some men made this transition with tears and angst — most ignore it: they play shuffleboard, build second homes, buy Harleys or sailboats, and then stroll into the sunset.
I want you to be exceptional, dear reader. Atypical. I want you to gallop purposely through the years of adult life, not meander aimlessly. To do this you need to feed that good wolf which means developing yourself so you’re useful to God. In the end, it’s not self-help tricks or selfies that make life big, but submitting to a God that enlarges, not shrinks, your character.