Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Shepherd in Wolf's Clothing

In our culture we often delineate between two types of people, the sheep, or herds of poor ignorant masses that follow the pop culture or buy into whatever the latest fashion is, i.e. the followers.  And then there are the leaders and promoters, those who manipulate these masses with media, misleading stories and propaganda that convince the masses that they can have all the riches if only they buy into the storyline provided.  No, these are not necessarily the wolves in sheep's clothing, they are mostly sheep too, having themselves bought into a picture of reality so deeply that they have become a part of it.  The wolves are the ones that see through this picture of reality, they discern the truth and then use it for ill or good.

Truth can affect us in a couple of ways.  We can become hard and cynical, sharpening our tongue with sarcasm towards anyone showing their ignorance.  This is the wolf in sheep's clothing.  They sit with us at work, but never a kind word is shared.  They await our perceived weakness or ignorance and then pounce, pricking us with their words in an attempt to puncture our belief, trust and confidence.  It is these acerbic, yet sharp-witted people that find themselves both admired and reviled.  Some make it into radio and television, using their talents to help manipulate the masses, to scare them into doing what their handlers want.  These wolves benefit in keeping the sheep fearful and unsteady so that when the time comes for them to bark the order, their followers are at the ready to obey, even if it means sending their own children off to the slaughter in a foreign land.

But then there are the others, the one's that discern truth without becoming cynical and hateful.  They become the shepherds sometimes donning the appearance of the wolf and sometimes of the sheep.  They care for the flock, attempting to give the truth in metered doses to gently persuade changes in attitude and direction. They know the direction the flock should turn, but often have to take drastic steps to get the flocks attention.  Examples are Gandhi, MLK Jr, and even Jesus.  But there are many many more that don't get the great accolades.  They are the peacemakers, activists, teachers, writers and even a few media personalities that attempt to remake this world into one of cooperation and fairness.  They see past the minimalized version of what humankind is.  While the wolf sees the sheep as animals, unable to control their impulses and easy to toy with, the shephard sees the sheep as potential shephards. 

There is a debate on human nature.  One side sees us as a slave to our primal impulses, to violence.  It gives us an excuse to be bad, to make the wrong choices to harm rather than heal, to neglect rather than nurture.  The other side argues that human nature is naturally cooperative and peaceful.  But reality seems to indicate that we exist somewhere in the middle of these two extremes with varying levels of free will, depending on early life experiences, and the crowd and environment we find ourselves in.  If we surround ourselves with wolves we are almost certainly going to participate in conduct that most people would deem immoral, just ask the soldiers that worked at Abu Ghraib.  They were normal American kids that decided to join the wolf pack that we call the military.  They did it for noble reasons, not realizing the reality of war, literally having the wool pulled over their eyes.  Yet there was one, a shephard in wolf's clothing, a hero, willing to risk all to show the atrocities being committed there.  All of us have a choice to make.  If we want peace, we must seek peace.  The world is only an unfair place because we make it so.  Let's shear the wool out of our eyes and begin the journey awake and willing to chose the road towards peace.


Tom H. Hastings said...

You are a good shepherd. Thanks for your wise words. Ironically, as you rightly note, the best shepherds are the ones who help the sheep learn to lead themselves...

Terri said...

To Anon: I won't post your comment as it is of a personal nature. I'd like to hear more of your experience. We all bear our scars and struggle with our ego-centricity which can make us at one moment arrogant and/or mean and in another moment needy. I'm no different. I've been called many hateful names, many have been well deserved, holding a small kernel of truth from difficult times when I've responded to the needs of others very poorly and even violently. I suspect there is some truth in your words, yet the reasons behind a persons behavior are difficult to unravel. We are all so very flawed and fragile. I will keep my eyes wide open and be, as always, the vigilant mother. Life is full of risk. Your cautions are duly noted.