The Heart of the Matter
April 13, 2018
The Scorpion and the Saint

Adapted from a story I first heard from Prem Rawat many years ago.

Once a upon a time a traveling saint, on his yearly pilgrimage to the Holy Land, found himself being approached by a small group of agitated villagers. He could tell by the look in their eyes that something was wrong. So he stopped, put down his begging bowl, and asked them one simple question: "What seems to be the problem, my friends?"

"Oh, Great Saint," the first villager began, "less than a mile from here, a powerful scorpion is terrorizing our town. Every time any one of us tries to fetch water from our lake, the scorpion attacks. His sting is painful. His poison paralyzes. Everyone in our village is filled with fear. PLEASE, sir, can you help us?

"Hmmm", replied the saint, "yours is not a good situation. Not good at all. Bring me to the place you speak of and let me see what I can do."

And so the saint and the small band of villagers walked the distance to the lake. Ten feet from the water's edge, the villagers stopped dead in their tracks, shaking in their boots, but the saint kept on walking, wading into the water until he found himself just a few feet from the scorpion, now sunning himself on a rock.

Without a word, he lifted his arm, reached forward, scooped up the scorpion, and gently cradled it in his right hand. Immediately, the scorpion attacked, stinging the saint. And just as immediately, the saint let go, losing control of his prey, now free to return to his perch on the rock.

A few minutes passed. Then the saint, still wincing from the sting, reached out and cradled the scorpion again, this time in his other hand. And again the scorpion attacked. And again, the saint let go and again the scorpion made his way through the water back to his perch on the rock.

This little scene continued for the rest of the day -- at least 20 times -- the saint reaching and the scorpion stinging. In time, the sun went down and the saint, no long able to make out the shape of the scorpion on the rock, turned around and made his way back to the shore.

The villagers gathered around.

"Oh great saint," the first one began, "you have our eternal gratitude for the efforts you have made here today on our behalf, but with all due respect, kind sir, we are confused. Each time you reached and held the scorpion in your hand, he bit you, sinking his poison into your flesh. All day you worked to rid our village of this evil menace, but no progress was made. If you would be so kind, please explain. What kept you at your task?"

The saint took a long, slow breath, and looked to the sky. Then, slowly, oh so slowly, he began rubbing his hands together, again and again and again.

"My friends, it is really very simple. There is nothing mysterious about what happened here today. All I was doing was fulfilling the natural order of things. You see... it is the scorpion's nature to sting. It is my nature to save.:


Most experienced storytellers will say the same thing about the stories they tell -- that the really good ones stand on their own and need no explanation. Like Mozart's music. Or Picasso's art.

Talking about a story, after it is told, they believe, runs the risk of denying listeners the chance to discover, for themselves, the deep meaning of the tale -- not unlike the way political spin doctors hold forth on the nightly news, interpreting the so-called meaning of things for others.

Yes, this is true, but it is not always true. Sometimes, deconstructing a story after it's told has great value. Indeed, the act of digging into the nooks and crannies of a story often reveals the kind of insights that have the potential to change our lives for the better -- the way we think... the way we feel... the way we perceive... and the way we behave -- responses that increase our ability to make wise choices in the world.

And it is precisely these wise choices that all of us will need to make if we expect to survive during the challenging times ahead.

Clearly, the scorpion-like nature of the obstacles upon us has never been more apparent. Terrorism, war, greed, corruption, fear, hunger, homelessness, the loss of human rights, climate change, environmental collapse, and the toxic political posturing of our so-called leaders is at an all time high. The proverbial plot has thickened, big time, bringing with it the need for each and every one of us -- the CHARACTERS in the story -- to respond in ways that truly make a difference.

Our choices? Many.

Some of us choose to work within the system. We sign petitions. We call our political representatives. We meet with other concerned citizens. Others, having long ago concluded that the system is hopelessly corrupt, take it to the streets -- marching, waving signs, and blocking traffic. Civil disobedience is their approach. Still others, on the far out fringes of despair, call for revolution -- the complete overthrow of all existing institutions -- while others, highly doubtful of their ability to have any kind of impact, choose only to vent on social media. And then, of course, there are the peacemakers -- those who pray, meditate, chant, and quote from their favorite holy book -- firmly believing that only a change of CONSCIOUSNESS, not government, will make a lasting difference.

Does any of this stuff work? Of course it does. At different times, in different ways, ALL of it works. Not immediately. Not overnight. And not always as planned, but it works.

Is one approach better than the other? That's for YOU to decide -- a decision you will need to make very soon, as the scorpions of this world continue to take up residence all around us.

The hero of our story -- the traveling Saint -- chose to take the high ground. He did not attack. He did not kill. He did not demonize the demon. Did his efforts succeed? At first glance, no. Nothing was resolved. At second glance? Who knows what impact his efforts made on the villagers beyond the realm of their little lake?

Maybe his approach changed the way they related to their spouses or children that night. Or maybe the villagers, as a result of his efforts, became more courageous.. or more committed... or more tenacious in how they approached the challenges of their lives. True, the scorpion wasn't dead at the end of the day, but maybe something else was -- the villagers' unwillingness to lend a helping hand when all the odds seemed to be stacked against them.

I am not suggesting that you should become more like the saint. I am not suggesting you take the "spiritual path" and love thy scorpion as thyself. All I'm suggesting is that you pause by the water's edge and ask yourself one simple question: What is my responsibility?

When facing seemingly insurmountable odds.. when your back is up against the wall... when there is no easy solution, what choice will you make?

YOU -- part villager, part saint, part scorpion -- what is YOUR path forward during these days of political upheaval and unrest? What will YOU do to make a difference? What efforts will you make to help relieve the suffering in the world. And WHAT is your next step?


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at April 13, 2018 07:50 AM

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