It’s a big time in the world. It always is. It seems the rolling list of potential crisis and dilemmas continues to morph and unfold. And humans continue to work in a paradigm with a bunch of ‘leaders’ and ‘experts’ holding the floor in how we ‘officially’ navigate these times. Or at least it seems.
Whether the politicians, leaders, experts like it or not, the embedded wisdom within the collective society is profound. Just as it’s collective folly is equally profound.
This reminds me of the tale of the battle of the black wolf and the white wolf. Said to be an old Cherokee proverb speaking to the inherent duality of the good and bad inside all of us. An old Cherokee man tells a child about the battle of two wolves inside him - a black wolf of anger, sorrow, self-pity, guilt, inferiority, lies; and a white wolf of love, hope, humility, joy, peace, generosity. When asked which one wins, his answer is "The one you feed". Here is a sweet telling of that tale:
There’s something about this inherent duality of black wolf and white wolf traits that really speaks to me. What sings out is how we need each other to support the balance of our individual and collective wolves. We all have them, and the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts – what we collectively generate is so much beyond the individual good or bad we generate.
It seems we’re in a time of being blown around by the black wolf, a time where The Tragedy of the Commons seems to be in full effect. As Wikipedia defines:
“The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource through their collective action.”
It’s not only the economic driving this tragedy; it’s the related spheres of ecology, equity, energy and ultimately the existential. What are we humans doing here on the world? And what are the possibilities besides self-service with the side-effects of wide-spread destruction?
J.R Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ describes this darkness well - the Orcs dominate with terror and instability. The Black Wolf rules the land and the balance of harmony has been lost. Smorg, the red dragon, lies under the Mountain on a trove of treasure – the miser sleeping on his horde, waylaying it’s productivity and usefulness. Destruction from the dragon’s firey breath around the Mountain is wide-spread and desolate.
Then, something changes. The White Wolf rears it’s head, uniting former-enemies to defeat a common foe. Dwarves, Elves and Men drop grievances to unite in fulfilling the opportunity to defeat a dark enemy and also share in collective wealth and peace.
The parallels with the Standing Rock protests against the proposed oil pipeline through North Dakota, USA are clear. We see an emergence of collaboration, cultural sharing and strengthening, solidarity and a collective YES for another way. The Black Snake prophesied by the old ones of the Lakota people spoke of a threat to the people, enacting a unification.
There’s something about acknowledging the damage of the Black Wolf that allows the White Wolf to strengthen and be activated. The clarity of contrast works to activate the balance; where a hidden Black Wolf somehow renders the White Wolf less empowered.
There’s something about this coming together in collaboration, the acknowledgment of the Black Wolf, the embracing of the White Wolf, that is so potent and called for in these times… the world over. That underlying existential question rarely seen or acknowledged by the collective is becoming louder and harder to ignore: how do we live in our fullest potential in this world, in a way of resilience and fulfillment? The White Wolf wants to run free and full. But without recognising our individual and collective Black Wolves, we are forced to live in their shadows.
To talk of Collective Folly (via the Tragedy of the Commons), we must also speak of it’s counter-weight: Collective Wisdom. It’s there, always, wanting to be called-upon and expressed. There has been a strong yearning in me to speak and share and facilitate the Collective Wisdom amongst our communities; supporting the space to air our Black Wolves, to allow space for our White Wolves. This will be explored in future posts – deepening into what this asks of us and the frameworks we can embrace to support ourselves in being balanced in living with our individual and collective Black & White Wolves.
In the meantime, observe the Black Wolf and the White Wolf – in yourself, in those around you, in society. Observe what happens when people share their troubles. Observe what happens when they don’t. Consider what might happen if we fed the White Wolves in those situations and people around us, the one hiding away under the hungry Black Wolf who doesn’t quite know how to sleep.
It’s a consideration offered to each one of us 7.5 billion people living on Spaceship Earth.
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