By Rev. Jim Innes
A wolf happened to pass by the lane where the three little pigs lived; and he saw the straw house, and he smelled the pig inside.
He thought the pig would make a mighty fine meal and his mouth began to water… (from the fable, The Three Little Pigs)
In parts one and two of this article I spoke of the persistent and unpredictable hunger of the wolf. And since last article, in keeping with my premise that the wolf’s hunger, and its violent attacks upon its prey is an inevitable part of our society, more has surely followed.
One such incident, which speaks to the wolf’s indiscriminate taste, occurred late June when a 73-year-old man was killed after being pushed onto the subway tracks in Toronto’s Bloor Station. Most disturbing is that police believe it was a “completely unprovoked attack” (CBC).
The wolf is not a crazed creature. By thinking that, we fool ourselves into false hope that somehow we can tame it. But we can’t. The wolf is hungry and shrewd. It wears many masks (like the proverbial ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’). And its violence is the result of the wolf acting as wolves naturally do.
When I was a child, faced with the wolf about me, I, like in the fable of the Three Little Pigs, scrambled for safety: building walls and fighting back. For better, and for worse, these conceptions of self-preservation have stayed with me in most of my life.
Unfortunately, such guarded (and too often offensive) behavior can be counterproductive. We become hardened. And though I will never underestimate the courage to stand nose to nose with the wolf, if we (or those whom we appoint to protect us) are not careful, there is the potential of becoming the wolf ourselves.
Look for example at the uncertainty between wolf and victim in Afghanistan. It is a dangerous contradiction to be seeking peaceful goals by threatening another with violence. Every side is doing it, and cloaked beneath the chaos, the wolf breeds freely. “An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind” (Mahatma Gandhi).
The question we are left to ponder is how to best live in the reality of the wolf’s unending hunger.
One answer (albeit limited) is elevating the best of our nature – the ability to love and forgive. It requires a courageous decision to live alongside the wolf and, with the support of likeminded others, cultivating an inner resilience.
Cultivating inner resiliency means, after accepting the reality of the wolf’s existence, differentiating ourselves from the violence it causes, and finding the wherewithal to act in a manner that counters its destructive energy.
Differentiating ourselves from violence begins with accepting our potential to be violent. Even at times having felt ‘good’ expressing it. And though this potential is an arguably natural response to certain triggers, we can choose otherwise. The emphasis is on choice.
Not an easy task. We will not succeed in all circumstance because it means staying vulnerable. And this can be counterintuitive, especially to those who have been hurt and now suffer fear in anger. We must forgive ourselves and not let shame open the door to the wolf (in us).
Joan Baez once said that nonviolence is “organized love”. In this light, and as I see it, nonviolent choices are an intentional, highly conscious decision, to treat others better then they may potentially treat us. And by better I mean with compassion.
It is as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”
Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of the regional Ministry of South Huron.