I haven’t read a better story about the human condition than the Cherokee legend of the two wolves. It goes like this:
An elderly Cherokee was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said, “There is a terrible fight going on inside me. Two wolves are fighting. One wolf is evil. He is anger, fear, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority and ego.
The other wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.
The same fight is going on inside you and everyone else, too.
“Which wolf wins,” asked one grandchild.
“The one you feed, of course.”
Could anything be said more simply? The wise Cherokee covered more than most scriptures cover in just a few short sentences. We all have these two wolves inside us. I know I do. I also know I feed the evil wolf at times, but I try not to feed it too much. I try to feed the good wolf as much as possible, but I’m only human and sometimes I feel all the emotions represented by the evil wolf.
Some of the traits of the evil wolf are obvious. Anger, lies, false pride and arrogance hurt others. What about regret, self-pity and guilt, though? Why are they on the side of the evil wolf? Those emotions hurt us as individuals and make it difficult or impossible to feed the good wolf.
I think Walt Whitman put it best when he said, “I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best.” We all have the capacity for good or evil within us. When we’re wallowing in a self-pity, guilt or a sense of inferiority, we can’t see that we’re as good as the best. If we extend empathy, kindness, serenity and compassion towards ourselves, we can forgive ourselves and feed the good wolf. It will have a ripple effect and we can extend the virtues of the good wolf towards others.
Standing Rock and the Legend of the Two Wolves
There is a reason why I chose the legend of the two wolves. I’ve been following what’s been going on at Standing Rock, North Dakota. According to the Cree tribe, the forces that are fighting the protestors are suffering from what they call Wetigo. Wetigo is a “psychosis” that “takes control of people and turns them into cultural, social and environmental cannibals.” Isn’t that what’s happening at Standing Rock?
- On one side you have the evil wolf. The evil wolf will do anything it takes to feed its greed
- On the other side you have the good wolf. The good wolf wants to protect the water and the land
It seems to me that capitalism is a system based on greed and competitiveness. It’s clear that capitalism is destroying the earth and has always created suffering. Those who defend it say, “Oh, but look at all the great inventions capitalism has produced.” They don’t see the dark side of those inventions. We’re:
- Raping and polluting the earth
- Paying barely livable wages to people in third world countries
- Forcing people to leave the land in search of work in the cities
- Making wage slaves of the general population
We don’t notice these things because they are normal to us. We hop in our cars and don’t know how we could get by without them. We clock in our hours at work and have little time to spend with our families. We don’t get out into nature and feel the healing that comes from being in touch with the natural world.
There is nothing natural about our lifestyle. We watch the clock, drive on freeways and live in homes on neatly organized streets. Our children go to schools that don’t teach them how to expand their consciousness or become better people. Our schools are designed to make our children better corporate workers.
We’re all caught in the trap, but we can start feeding the good wolf and perhaps find a way out of this mess. Otherwise, we’re all going to suffer the consequences. Maybe some of us will die first, but our children don’t have a very bright future to look forward to if we don’t start feeding our good wolves.