Thursday, December 13, 2007

Of Sheep, Wolves and Wolfhounds

Let me begin by stating unequivocally that I love wolves…the four-legged variety. For many reasons they are, however, symbolically used to describe bad things, bad people. They represent the terrifying and unmerciful evil waiting beyond the safety of walls. At least that is how Western society has used the wolf symbol for hundreds of years. Therefore, for purpose of illustration, I too will use the wolf this way in my discussion.

Most people are sheep, happily grazing in their pastures and spending dark hours safely behind walls. For in the dark hours there is danger and sheep are ill-prepared and ill-equipped to deal with that danger. Wolves lurk in darkness.

The world is full of wolves. Sheep fear them. One set of wolves seek to invade homes, steal possessions or harm sheep and their families. Sheep take measures to keep them at bay…they buy stronger locks, install alarm systems, leave the lights on. Sheep watch for the wolves – if they are wise. Unprepared and careless sheep fall victim to wolves more frequently than careful prepared sheep. Sheep read about the unlucky ones daily in the newspaper and see their stories on the evening news. Sheep shake their heads and bleat that something must be done. And then, they check the locks, alarm and lights. And they wait and watch – fearful.

Another set of wolves moves on a larger stage. They only differ from the first set of wolves in terms of the scale of their ambition. They do not necessarily want to destroy the sheep and they may not even care about the sheep's possessions. What they want is power over the sheep's lives. They want to control and dominate the sheep. If the sheep cooperate, if they are willing to surrender their free-will and freedom, the wolves may let the sheep live in relative peace – to be shorn at the wolves' convenience. Sheep that resist are mercilessly hounded and exterminated, for they are obstacles to the wolves' ambition.

There is no compromise with either set of wolves. They are relentless and merciless predators. It is their nature. They are creatures of violent action. They cannot survive any other way. Reason will not sway them. For them, compromise and reason are tools to manipulate their prey into submission, nothing more. Sheep may think they have dissuaded the wolves with peaceful approaches, but they are fools to think so. They have simply made the wolves' task easier. Sheep surrender part of the forest outside their walls to appease the wolves. In time, wolves want more forest. Once the sheep have ceded all territory outside the walls to them, wolves begin the assault on the walls.

Still, sheep hide behind their walls, incapable of comprehending the wolves' rapaciousness. Walls alone will not hold forever and the forest and pastures are only safe to walk because there is another presence – wolfhounds. Wolves fear wolfhounds and they are more cautious if wolfhounds might be about.

Wolfhounds are similar to wolves. They are creatures of violent action. They are quite willing and able to kill, to act violently on a moment’s notice. Yet, they are very different in one regard. Wolfhounds act for the benefit of sheep, often in spite of the sheep and their willingness to surrender. Wolfhounds fight the wolves, even if they must do so without the sheep cheering them on.

While sheep are incapable of comprehending the wolves' rapaciousness, they are equally incapable of comprehending the wolfhounds' willingness to fight wolves. Sheep cannot see the difference between wolfhounds' teeth and wolves' teeth. And so, they also fear wolfhounds. After all, wolfhounds are close cousins of wolves. Worse, they often equate the presence of wolfhounds with the presence of wolves. If only wolfhounds would go away, they bleat, wolves would be nice. Sheep, left on their own, lose to wolves every time precisely because they fail to comprehend the essence of the creature they face.

Therefore ye sheep, be thankful. Graze in relative peace while battle rages in forest and field beyond the walls. Wolfhounds will not go away. They understand the essence of wolves – and of sheep.