The Scorpion and the Frog
In the 1955 film, Confidential Report, Orson Wells, in the role as the mysterious tycoon Gregory Arkadin, introduces to the world the following story:
“And now I’m going to tell you about a scorpion. This scorpion wanted to cross a river, so he asked the frog to carry him.
“No,” said the frog, “no thank you. If I let you on my back you may sting me and the sting of the scorpion is death.”
“Now, where,” asked the scorpion, “is the logic in that?” (For scorpions always try to be logical.) “If I sting you, you will die. I will drown.”
So, the frog was convinced and allowed the scorpion on his back. But, just in the middle of the river, he felt a terrible pain and realized that, after all, the scorpion had stung him.
“Logic!??!?” cried the dying frog as he started under, bearing the scorpion down with him. “There is no logic in this!”
“I know,” said the scorpion, “but I can’t help it—it’s my character.”
“They aren’t supposed to shoot at people,” Annie tells me in the kitchen. It seems these days we are always in the kitchen.
My 11-year-old is trying to understand why our dear 24-year-old millennial friend Sarah was hit by a rubber bullet.
Not able to think of any better route to an explanation, I start, “Imagine if you just got a new hammer. You’d want to use it. Right? The police with their guns and power want to use their guns and power. And power isn’t really power, or fun, unless you use it.”
At this, she drops her inquiry.
Moments later, still all four of us in the kitchen, she launches verbal assault: “Who moved my computer!? Who moved it!? It was right here!”
While we re-search the kitchen, I make a reminder to myself to compliment her the next time she starts out a topic softly. As she begins again— “Because it was right there, right there, and one of you moved it. I can’t stand this whole family! It’s not fair. I mean it.”—I walk upstairs, into her bedroom, find the laptop on her desk, and then come down.
While handing it to her I say catch her eye and say, “Annie, you just acted like the police. Shooting first.”
Obviously, with hindsight, this was not the right thing to say.
Just moments ago I had resolved to catch her doing good.
Her eyes pierce me. Tears form. I’ve assaulted her character. A chin tremor. “You’re saying I’m no better than the police?!”
I backtrack, apologize, and comfort.
Me : Power :: You : Ingrate
Bengali polymath Rabindranath Tagore wrote:
“Power takes as ingratitude the writhing of its victims.”
Those in power—and often they know not what they do—cause the suffering of those with less power. When those with less power speak up, the abuser considers them to be not only unjustified but also ungrateful.
Power causes suffering and feels no remorse.
Abusers feel they deserve thanks, not recrimination. Caesars and Tzars think they should be thanked by those they cause to suffer.
Power takes as ingratitude the writhing of its victims.
And I figure so must I.
I am a parent. I have power over my children. I have, at times, thought of my children as ingrates. So, I ponder: “In what ways have I caused their suffering, not wanted to see it, and shamed them for it? “
Your character: logic and love.
As it is in the scorpion’s character to use logic and sting, it is in your character to use logic—logic far more penetrating than that of any fabled scorpion—and love.
It is logical and in your character to abhor aggression and violence.
“When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game.”
It is logical and in your character to know fighting doesn’t.
Sun Tzu, the 6th century BCE military strategist:
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
It is logical and in your character to know that peace is the path.
Martin Luther King, Jr:
“One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means”.
It is logical and in your character to know love is the answer.
Again, Martin Luther King, Jr:
“Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.”
It is logical and in your character to know that Jesus was right: we must love our enemies.
It is logical and in your character to not lambast those with whom you disagree, but by listening attentively to them. Choose to connect with those with whom you disagree. Not to convince them with the force of your argument but by the nature of your character—love.
When they find no enemy in us and we find no enemy in them, then we can all find peace.
Our true character is love.
– – –
If you would like to hear more of my exposition of the revolutionary call to love of “that rabbi,” you will enjoy episode two of “This Rabbi On That Rabbi”— a program I co-produced with the wonderful people of Progressive Christianity.
Episode 02. ReLOVEution: How turning the other cheek, walking the second mile, and giving your second garment were acts of sedition and brilliant acts of fighting power with love.
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