Getting it wrong, screwing it up, and the best story ever told on how to fix it! I'd like to share a story about the white and black wolf told from the perspective of the black wolf. This seems urgent and relevant to our times and the story goes like this. A young man with a family, working very hard to put food on the table and provide for his family's welfare, develops a landscaping business. One day, he cuts back a bush and removes a small stump on a client's property. He digs down deep and nicks the water supply line. Water slowly trickles out and then the trickle becomes a steady stream. As more water gushes out and since the grounds are on a slope, dirt starts to move, then it starts to slide. Very quickly, a gusher becomes a landslide and part of the owners' embankment slides down toward the house and into a ravine. Days later, the young man calls the owner and tells him the recent rainstorm washed away part of the bank.
If you have never heard me tell the story of the white and black wolf, settle in a bit. This is a Cherokee story, and old as the mountains I live in.
"Once, there was a young boy. He was excited because today was his birthday. He woke early, and his parents, beaming with pride, presented him with his first hunting knife. His eyes went wide! Overjoyed he headed off to show the other boys. Later that day, his Grandfather was sitting on his porch, like every other day, and he sees his grandson, walking home. Streaks of dirt washing down his face where tears had been, kicking stones with angry grumbles, the young boy does not hear his Grandfather calling to him. Finally, Grandfather stands up and waves and calls louder.
"Not today," thinks the young boy, in a huff. Ignoring his Grandfather doesn't work, though, so he finally makes his way over.
"This should be a good day for you, why are you so angry?," asks his Grandfather. The young boy proceeds to tell what happened, how the other boys were mean, and didn't think he should have such a great gift, how he got into a fight because one of them tried to take the knife away, and how in the fight he lost his new knife. As he told his story, the young boy got angrier, felt ashamed that he lost his knife, and promised revenge on the ones that took it.
Grandfather nodded all the while, "hmm," he said, "yes, I see. Will you let me tell you a story? I told it to your father, and my grandfather told it to me. He told me there are two wolves living inside me. One black and one white. Now these are not just any wolves, these are my wolves and there is a chain that connects them, just long enough so they circle each other, always watching, fighting for dominion. They are there to this day." The young boy was quiet now.
"Why are they there, Grandfather?"
"Well, the black wolf is there to hold my anger and my need for revenge and my fear. He is quite ferocious."
"And the white one?," asked the young boy.
"The white wolf holds all that is light and wise and kind. The white wolf is my peace and compassion. But hear this, the white wolf will fight, he will fight the black wolf as they circle inside of me." The boy sat with this for a long time, and then finally he looked at his Grandfather and asked, "Grandfather, which one wins?"
Smart boy, his grandfather smiled, and he replied, "the one I feed."
On a daily, even hourly basis, we're all faced with choices that affect our well being, our means of living, and seemingly even our very lives. We live in a world full of consequences, perceived or real, and the fear of these consequences are like chains, reinforcing separateness, alone-ness, and isolation. This is when the black wolf is strong, and can win. If we face these moments with courage, if we tell the truth, accept we made a mistake, got it wrong, screwed it all up, even when it might mean we lose our job, friendship, relationship, ability to pay our mortgage, feed ourselves, we finally step out of a foggy sense of identity, and we step into knowing who we really are. We achieve a kind of personal mastery and that ultimately leads us to freedom from the image-makers of our times.
The black wolf must exist in all of us; even if we could, it is not in our best interest to starve this wolf, for s/he carries a gift. Anger is the great mover, and it moves us to do something; just as fear is the great changer, and shows us when we must discern our way and choose wisely. The idea here is to walk in balance.
Is the story of the young man a true story? Maybe yes, maybe no, however if it is true, then the young man will shortly be given a choice to tell the truth to the homeowner.
The wolves are circling....
Much gratitude to the Cherokee people for sharing this great story...
Photo courtesy of winningcovers.com.