The Forked Path
An elderly Cherokee chief took his granddaughter for a walk to teach her about life. “There has been a fight happening inside me for many years,” he tells the young girl, “a fight between two wolves. One wolf is evil. It’s full of malice and anger. The other is good. It’s full of peace and love. This same fight is happening inside you and everyone else on this planet.”
The granddaughter ponders over the revelation and asks, “Grandfather, which one of the wolves usually wins?” The old man smiles, “The one I feed more.”
Moral: All of us have a choice, we have the power within to dictate our decisions.
Soon, the two come across a shallow river and notice a scorpion struggling helplessly to come out of the river. It was almost touching the bank but not enough to gain hold of the ground.
The old man carefully picks up the struggling scorpion in his left palm and proceeds to set it down gently on dry land, when suddenly the scorpion stings his finger and rushes off his palm in rage, landing in the water again. The old man is in extreme pain but repeats his actions using his right hand this time. However, the scorpion panics, stings again, and speeds off back into the water. With both hands now in unbearable pain, the old man cups his hands together, lifts the scorpion in one swift movement, and safely drops it on the dry land before the scorpion can react.
Shocked, the granddaughter asks, “I understand you tried to save the scorpion out of your kindness, but I am quite surprised that even after it stung you so ungratefully, you persisted in your efforts to save him. Why didn’t you just stomp it after it stung you?”
The chief smiles, “It’s because the scorpion is a slave to its base nature – to sting and inflict pain. I, too, am a slave to my base nature, and therefore, I acted accordingly.”
Moral: None of us have a choice, it’s our base nature that dictates our decisions.
The two episodes deliver conflicting views on the power of choice. That’s because the story was not meant to delve into the role of choice to follow the honourable path. For most of us know too well the difference between moral and immoral. Yet, often, the challenge is that we don’t choose the right path. Why? Because it is very hard to follow the righteous path! It takes training, years and years of it. It was the old man’s perseverance of feeding the good wolf within for decades, that prepared him to repeatedly attempt to save the stinging scorpion.
You see, it doesn’t take rocket science to identify what is good and what is evil. But the journey from what we know to what we do about it requires eons of practice!