Wednesday, August 29, 2007

postal scrotum: from Tam Gu Ja

My friend Tam Gu Ja wrote to alert me to an interesting American Indian story (here slightly edited for style):

An elderly Cherokee was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me; it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

"One wolf is evil-- he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego.

"The other is good-- he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

"This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too."

They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied: "The one you feed."

My own question to the grandfather: why is the good wolf fighting? Does fighting transcend good and evil? I'm aware that people talk about "the good fight," and even agree that fighting can be justified if done for the right reason, but I'm curious as to what that grandfather's answer to the question would be.

Other questions: fear is a trait of the evil wolf, but courage isn't a trait of the good wolf. Why? Also: why is sorrow a trait of the evil wolf? I can understand regret being evil: Buddhists would call this a kind of attachment.* But if you are, say, forced to kill someone, wouldn't sorrow be an appropriate response to such killing?

*In the Buddhist case, though, an attachment wouldn't be so much evil as unskillful.



Anonymous said...

I wonder if the "Good" and "Evil" are actually artifacts of translation. Not every culture has a similar concept, or expresses such a concept in the language. It may be closer to "Bad" than "Evil", or perhaps Cherokee has a word we translate as "Evil" but really represents something that only makes sense in Cherokee culture.

Better translation notes would help.

Anonymous said...

I think you may be reading too much into it. And besides, who knows how accurate this English translation is?