Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Philosopher and the Wolf

Some lessons from one of my favorite books, The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death, and Happiness by Mark Rowlands (Brenin is the name of the Wolf who lived with him for ten years).

If we humans place a disproportionate weight on motives, then to understand human goodness we must strip away those motives.  When the other person is powerless, you have no self-interested motive for treating them with decency or respect.  they can neither help you or hinder you.  You do not fear them, nor do you covet their assistance.  In such a situation the only motive you can have for treating them with decency and respect is a moral one: you treat them this way because that is the right thing to do. And you do this because that is the sort of person you are.

But when I remember Brenin, I remember also that what is most important is the you that remains when your calculations fail – when the schemes you have schemed shudder to a halt, and the lies you have lied stick in your throat. In the end, it’s all luck – all of it – and the gods can take away your luck as quickly as they confer it. What is most important is the person you are when your luck runs out.

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