Every day we’re in a battle for our attention; a battle we don’t realize we’re in and so every day we surrender much of it to a media army bombarding us with stories of fear, incompetence, corruption, natural disaster, war, terrorism, human tragedy, injustice, failure, prejudice., oh, and a sprinkling of cute pet stories; you know…for balance.
They paint us an ugly picture of the world by filling our head space with the most negative stories as they become available; and, unsurprisingly, that’s how we come to see the world—not because it’s representative of what’s actually happening, but because it’s most of what we’re shown. All the normal good stuff that happens every day doesn’t make it to the headlines.
It reminds me of the story of two wolves. If you don’t know it, it goes like this…
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, there is a battle between 2 “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, fear, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
You can choose
Two lessons are obvious: 1) You can choose where you place your attention and 2) your choice will determine your experience. But there is a third less obvious lesson: 3) The more of us that make the same choice the more powerful our collective or shared experience of the world and the harder it will be for individuals to ignore or change it.
Your choice determines your experience
Saying that reality, or at least your experience of reality is determined by what you give your attention to sounds somehow philosophical, metaphysical or spiritual. At worst; new age foo-foo—as an old teacher of mine used to call it—at best; the stuff of quantum physics. But all it’s really saying is that what you look at determines what you see, and you won’t see what you’re not looking for. Similarly, you won’t experience something you don’t believe is possible simply because your non-belief will stop you from seeking it’s existence. This applies whether you’re looking for the Higgs Boson particle, Big Foot or your soul-mate.
The obviousness of this belies its immense power to change the world or at least our experience of it. Many people believe the worst about the future; believe they’re powerless to do anything about it, and that certain groups of people are to blame; all because they’re giving their daily attention to narratives of hate, fear and violence. Many of the story-tellers are intelligent, nice well-intentioned people who think they are merely illuminating the world for us …as it really is.
But what they’re really doing is feeding our bad wolf.
Our collective choice determines the future of the planet
Focusing our attention on the bad wolf is not merely a sad choice for our personal experience, but a tragic choice for everyone because the story of the two wolves also describes our collective power—not just personal power—to manifest reality.
When we focus on fear, hatred, violence etc. we become fearful, hateful and vengeful without even realizing it. Our choices, attitudes and actions project these negative feelings out in the world and collectively contribute to the news reports and vitriolic talk radio that keep the fires burning—the textbook description of a vicious circle.
The more of us feeding the bad wolf, the more of us adding to the collective experience of fear, hate and violence in the world, and the only way out is to take care that our collective practices, customs and traditions feed our collective good wolf.
Unfortunately the news media thrives on feeding our bad wolves, and our education system fails to distinguish that for us. This is why the world seems aflame—it’s in the interest of those in front of the cameras, microphones and keyboards to make you think so. They and the system they represent make more money, selling wars, terrorism, ‘law and order’, military equipment, drugs, and advertising based on our biological need to watch out for and avoid danger; and with more of us believing the world is going to shit, our collective attitudes and actions contribute to make it so. We contribute to a vicious circle of violence, fear and hate not realising that we are in fact contributing to the very things we are trying to stop.
The good news is your awareness can change things.
Take care who is feeding your wolf
Feeding either the good wolf or the bad wolf is an excellent metaphor for the choice you must make every day. It’s your choice to feed or give your attention to the good things or the bad things happening around you, to what you want or what you don’t want, to what you love or what you hate. Your choice will affect what you contribute to the world; and that choice will either calm the fires or fan the flames.
But you’ll never make that choice if you believe—because people keep telling you—that there is spontaneous evil out there; evil intent on killing you the moment you let your guard down i.e. treat them with kindness, compassion and forgiveness. You could choose to believe that people react with violence not because they are evil but because they are either not given dignity and respect, or because of the narratives they accept as true. It’s your choice as well to choose which narratives you accept as true and your choice feeds one wolf or the other.
This is a hard enough choice for most of us without having to watch out for those on the nightly news, newspapers, social media, political platforms etc.,—even some at work and at home—who are intent on tossing treats to our bad wolf.
So choose carefully what and who you read and listen to every day by asking “Is this feeding my good wolf or my bad wolf?”
Here’s Trevor Noah’s funny take on politicians intent on feeding your bad wolf: