There is a story attributed to Cherokee wisdom:
One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces. “There are two wolves struggling inside each of us,” the old man said.
“One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self-pity, fear . . . The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love . . .”
The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: “Which wolf wins, Grandfather?”
His grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”
—From “Harmonies of Liberty” (January 21, 2009 National Prayer Service sermon), The Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
We watched the inauguration on TV. Despite the lure of history and the fact that we could have walked to the Mall, we sat in our cozy attic office and watched. We took a break for lunch and went to our “local” for our first drink of the new administration. With a good buzz working, we had Carlos’s brother and his wife and their son over to watch the parade. Everyone sank into beanbag chairs in front of the TV, ate some salteñas and popcorn, drank some beer. An hour later I looked around and everyone else was fast asleep while what seemed like every marching band in America passed by the almost empty reviewing stand. The TV cameras would capture the kids stealing a glance to see if President Obama was watching. Where were the rest of the people that were supposed to be in that stand? We caught a glimpse of a friend in the White House Social Aide program. She was in uniform, saluting as President Obama left the reviewing stand at the end of the parade. A captivating C-SPAN moment.
Yesterday I watched the National Prayer Service on TV. The sermon was given by Reverend Sharon Watkins, the first woman to give the sermon at an inaugural prayer service. This seemed a bland milestone, but we are celebrating our progression, so we’ll take evidence of progress wherever it appears. The self-congratulation and delight and relief in the air is affecting, but treacly with sentiment. At odd times on Tuesday (“odd” as in I could never predict what would set me off) happy tears trickled down my face. I laughed at my own indulgence in mass goofiness. Politics and the chaos of reality may wear down the sharp angles of our current optimism. What the hell, it felt good to be goofy and hopeful and to give praise.
Bland milestone or not, I watched Reverend Watkins give her sermon and was struck by the bad wolf/good wolf story, even if the sermon itself was a bit toothless. But then, what else could it be? (And where were the Buddhists?) On one of my trips to the fridge I noticed my own little shrine to good and bad wolves. The theme seems to be transformation, of self, of history.
Photo: The front of my fridge. Clockwise from top-right: Obama pin I bought at the Manassas rally the night before election day; a clipping from The Washington Post, November 17, 2008, Unseen Iraq article about “singing parties” in Baghdad; the doggie photo; a dry cleaning receipt; a quote from a Buddhist sutra, the Majjhima Nikaya 131 (“An Auspicious Day”); a cartoon by S. Beck from 1989 in Tricycle Magazine that reads: “And with great passion he approached another day of the same thing”; at center is a photo of us in the back garden of George Bernard Shaw’s home.
Reverend Watkins said that hard times are “…pawing at us, trying to draw us off our ethical center.” I loved that line for what it said to me personally, what the little shrine on my fridge was saying: Madam, which wolf are you feeding?
The quote from the Majjhima Nikaya 131 is about seizing the duties of the present without being confused by memories of the past or fear of the future: “Ardently doing what should be done today for—who knows?—tomorrow death may come. There is no bargaining with Death and his mighty hordes. Whoever lives thus ardently, relentlessly both day and night, has truly had an auspicious day: so says the Peaceful Sage.”
I think I’ve done enough watching. The speeches are over, the songs are sung. We’ll leave our new president to his work. Time for me to get up and ardently feed my own good wolf. Which wolf are you feeding?