June 18NextPrevious   

“The ideal and the practice”–Daily Metta

“The propositions from which I have drawn my arguments are as true as Euclid’s definitions, which are none the less true because in practice we are unable to even draw Euclid’s line on a blackboard.”

-–Gandhi (Young India, October 8, 1925)

Remember the story from June 17th’s Daily Metta about the scorpion and the sage? Each time the scorpion fell, the sage picked it back up, at the cost of being stung. His response to it was that his nature bade him to save while the scorpion’s nature was to sting. The point of the story was to illustrate, primarily, an ideal about who we are. He could not ignore the suffering of the creature, and he was willing to suffer in place of letting it die unnecessarily. That is very noble.

At the same time, the story, like many good wisdom stories, has another side and gives us food for thought when we really get into the dynamics of nonviolence: why would the sage not move, or place the scorpion in another area where it would not fall into the river? Would it not have been better for both of them? This is the challenge with which we are faced as we strive toward our ideal: while we interrupt unnecessary harm, we are called to create, find, discover another way that anticipates the well-being of all involved.

That said, we do not know all of the details of the situation of the sage. Perhaps there were children on the other side of the tree, so this was the only way to keep the scorpion from doing greater harm. Or perhaps there is something about saints and sages that makes sense out of such a sacrifice in their spiritual economy which would not make sense in our own.  Perhaps the story is meant to represent a “Euclid’s line,” an ideal toward which we can orient our own striving even if we never reach it.  In any case, if the story has gotten us thinking more deeply about our choices, it has done its job!


Experiment in Nonviolence

Reach out to a distressed person or creature who needs your help.

The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 info@mettacenter.org