…A Few More Words…

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since the anniversary of when it all went down.

There have been a lot of new and exciting changes in my life, things I’ve working for and toward for many years are starting to come to fruition. Success is something to be proud of, to enjoy, to look forward to. This seems (to me) to be the natural order of things but that just isn’t true for everyone.

Some people fear success – are terrified of it in fact. They don’t believe they deserve it, they don’t think they can hold on to it – it makes them feel vulnerable;  the more you have the more that can be taken away.

When he first told me about how he burned his school laptop in a bonfire, I assumed this was a triumphant middle finger to the establishment he’d grown disillusioned with. I never recognized it for what it really was – an offering to Damocles, and a cry for help…

“Take a puppy, abuse him, kick him, mistreat him – he’ll revert to feral carnivore. That his litter brother, pet him, talk to him, let him sleep with you, but train him – he’s a happy, well-behaved house pet.

Take another from the same litter, pet him on even days, kick him on odd days. You’ll have him so confused that he’ll be ruined for either role; he can’t survive as a wild animal and he doesn’t understand what is expected of a pet. Pretty soon he won’t eat, he won’t sleep, he can’t control his functions; he just cowers and shivers.”

– Robert Heinlein, Citizen of the Galaxy

I began writing this post over a year ago. At the time, I wasn’t quite sure what happened to the friend I’d lost track of – all I knew was that he was in a bad place, and there was nothing more I could do to help him. I felt angry, bitter and betrayed. In fairness, he wasn’t the first person to make a fuck out of me… and probably won’t be the last – good-natured people are often taken advantage of.

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In time, that anger gave way to reason. I reminded myself that mistakes are how we learn… or don’t. In any case, they give you pause for thought. It’s not my place to dictate to anyone what they should or shouldn’t do with their life. Everyone has the right to go to hell in their own way. All one can do, all anyone can do, is the best they can.

“…Mate, go do what you gotta do.”
– Sassy the Sasquatch

The Nature of the Scorpion

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
– Ernest Hemingway

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

There’s an old fable that tells of scorpion that begs a frog for a ride across the river. The frog replies, “if I give you a ride on my back, you’ll sting me!”

The scorpion assures him, “if I sting you, we’ll both drown!”

The frog accepts this as logical, and agrees to take him across the river on his back. About half way there, the frog feels a sharp pain, and his legs go numb – they both begin to sink.

“Why did you do it?” asked the frog, “Now we’ll both die!”

“I couldn’t help it,” replied the scorpion, “it’s in my nature!”

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In other variations, the frog is replaced with a fox. Perhaps this was to illustrate that even a creature as clever and resourceful as a fox is not immune to the cruel indifference of nature.

A modern retelling has the fox place the scorpion on the end of his snout where he can keep an eye on him, flinging him off at the moment he raises his stinger. Interesting, but I think it misses the point (pun intended); The fox learns no lesson and instead, confirms only what he already knew to be true.

The last variation of the story replaces the scorpion’s fellow traveler with a tortoise. According Bidpai (as retold by Maude Barrows Dutton):

Halfway across he was startled by a strange rapping on his back, which made him ask the scorpion what he was doing.

“Doing?” answered the scorpion. “I am whetting my sting to see if it is possible to pierce your hard shell.”

“Ungrateful friend,” responded the tortoise, “it is well that I have it in my power both to save myself and to punish you as you deserve.” And straightway he sank his back below the surface and shook off the scorpion into the water.

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The scorpion pretends to understand logic and can parrot reasoned arguments, but he is and will always be a slave to his nature. Is there any point to being upset at a scorpion for being a scorpion?

The lesson here (if there is one) is this: You can only trust a scorpion to be himself. And if you are going to try help him, you’d better have thick skin.