I’m writing this early in the morning of Election Day 2020 in the United States. This post is not going to be about political opinions, but about how they affect us, and today is the most salient day to bear this in mind, as we end a divisive & difficult season with hopes of more unity and a clear decision going forward.
What is In Us?
At a recent lodge philosophical meeting, there was a discussion about Enlightenment era values; the “sovereignty of reason“. As an institution, Freemasonry lands quite heavily in the “Age of Enlightenment” camp, because it’s in the organization’s DNA. Man was described as fundamentally a rational being. I think this is a point that Freemasonry gets wrong. Man is not fundamentally good, or rational. Those are nice ideas, I want it to be so, but we also have to admit that man is petty, violent and greedy.
But we’re also generous, kind, artistic, and calm as a species, all while being vengeful and everything else besides. Wait, what’s going on here?
The truth is that these are all just partial descriptions; we are all of those things and more.
The Story of Two Wolves
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
What Will You Draw Out?
The two wolves, representing the good & evil instincts of man, are a nice summary of the internal battle that’s happening whether we know it, or admit it, or not. In every person.
On a personal level, we can choose to feed one wolf or the other. With all of the decisions that we make, we reinforce our best impulses…or something else.
What will the World Draw out of You?
In the political season, the noise is deafening. Protests, news, opinions, social media, on and on. Because we’ve made it very easy to communicate globally, the noise level is high and continues to rise. This in turn puts pressures from the outside world on you. The media environment & your social circle gets to feed your wolves too. Which wolves are they feeding?
The world and circumstance has a way of proving that people who think they’re peaceful are actually violent, and that people who think they’re lost can actually think things through and improve their situation. Man is constantly surprising because we are all of those things. Some we draw out of ourselves, and some are environmental: the world draws them out of us.
These aspects of man are not a problem that needs to be solved; they are a situation that needs to be managed. The evil is not going to get fixed.
The first most important thing is simply to bear in mind how people work: that the attributes you don’t see right now are still there, just latent, waiting to be drawn out.
The second most important thing is to bear in mind personal autonomy: you can, with your actions & choices, draw the best out of yourself, or “choose which wolf to feed”.
The final thing to keep in mind is that personal autonomy isn’t an absolute. If you think of your life as a like a boat on the ocean, the weather isn’t in your control, but is going to affect you quite a lot.
Politics: Hope and Fear
No matter your personal political opinions, we’re at a moment of epic social polarization, and high stakes. In the current season, the outside environment is feeding one of your wolves probably quite a lot.
Which one, and what are you going to do about it?