The glory of… defeat.

two wolves

The Tale of Two Wolves.

This could be the title of my life. And not just my life – ALL of our lives. It is balance, it’s nature, it’s glory, it’s fear… it’s a warning. The story is quite old and is often represented by a lighter colored wolf (let’s say white) and a darker wolf (let’s say gray).

The story goes:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, 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 you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

In my past I would have immediately jumped to wanting to say that I desired to live in the realm of the white wolf. I blame it on programming. When a person is asked if they see themselves as mostly good or mostly evil, chances are that they will say they are good. It is a desirable trait and something that is rewarded in our society. It is natural to want to get along and be a part of the tribe. It guarantees your survival.

It is interesting to note that the legend does not dictate if it is the white, or black, wolf that is “good”. They are interchangeable. Both the gray and white wolves hold each other in balance and cannot be mutually exclusive. They’re what quantum physicists called entangled. What is “good” without the knowledge of “bad”? How would you describe it?

I”m not so sure that I would want to live in a world that was ONLY one way or the other. “Peace on earth”? All joy and no pain. All up and no down?

In meditation, the goal is not just to be blissed out, sending yourself to another dimension. The point, the reason to practice, is awareness and with that awareness, coming back into the world to “be” what you have learned. Spending too much time in the ether does not create balance – it creates divisiveness.

This got me thinking about the idea of enlightenment. More importantly, knowledge without wisdom. Zipping right to the top of the Zen food chain.

It is a lofty idea to want to become one with the universe and fall into a state of flow. But what is the use of that person if 1) they stay there or 2) they got there without doing the work it took to obtain this state? Can you imagine the feeling of surfing a 30 foot wave, but never getting in the water? It wouldn’t be worth it. Without the “work”, which I would argue is the gray wolf, what good is any enlightenment you gain? There are too many stories of people who have only gained their “a-ha” moment after something indescribably horrible happened. A plane crash, losing a loved one, losing a limb, war, cancer. How can this be explained in a world that preaches “THINK POSITIVE”?

The point, obviously, is that even when bad things happen you should try to see the silver lining. But we aren’t taught this. When our kids do something wrong, they do not rejoice. They have observed what adults do and show the shame in their apparent mistake. We don’t let kids take risks. We monitor everything. They wear helmets. They all get trophies. We protect they’re feelings. Have you ever thought of the damage you could do to someone by NOT allowing them the pain of learning that they’re entitled to?!

I’ve often think of this as I pass a stalled car on the interstate and then a short time later, seeing the owner carrying an empty gas can as they sweat in the summer heat, bullied by the wind of the passing cars. If I picked them up, what would I have robbed them of? Is it the up the right thing to do (white wolf) or does it only serve my ego as I see myself as a good person (gray wolf)?

Where in your life are you robbing someone of this opportunity? Where are you robbing yourself of the glory of defeat?

Here’s Jason Silva‘s take on it. Enjoy the ride!

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