Two Out of Three Ain’t Half Good

Sunday 15 February 2009, by Michael Ryan Wiseman

Two beings, alike in dignity,
determination and dedication,
became engaged in a standoff.
Neither was willing to blink for
fear that in that split second their
adversary would finally strike. The
result? Neither blinked. Their eyes
dried-out, blinding them both.

A scorpion happens across a frog
and asks him for a ride across the
river. The Frog, wary of his potentially
lethal interlocutor, queries, “If I
help you across the river, will you
promise not to sting me?” Quoth
the Scorpion, “Kind Frog, I am King
of the Scorpions, if you help me I
shall tell all of my subjects to protect
the frogs from all of the dangerous
creatures of the world. Besides, if I
sting you, we will both drown.”

He values life as much as I, reasoned
the Frog before adding, “I shall help
you, Scorpion, and to thank you
for your generous proposal I shall
tell all of the frogs to help all of the
scorpions across our many rivers.”
The Frog then put the Scorpion on
his back and began to swim across
the river. In mid-stream he felt a prick
and the poison, he then cried, “You
fool, you have killed us both! Why
have you done this?!” Came the
reply, “It is our nature.”

The theme of these two tales is trust.
Trust of the mutual rather than the
unrequited variety takes time, and
time is the one thing generationslong
conflicts and their countless
victims have had far too much of. But
neither is a slapdash bandage of any
help. Alas, if I had the answer, I would
not be writing this.

How easy it is to boil conflicts down to
a parable or fable. It separates us from
its reality and the toll it takes on our
common humanity. It allows us to move
into an abstract world of good and evil,
where we can separate ourselves from
others and divorce ourselves from the
universal ties that bind our species
together for better or— which is too
often the case— for worse.

And although this month’s issue tries
to look at the Israel/Palestine conflict in
terms of the human impact of the war,
we remember that theirs is not unique
in its carnage. The wake of war carves
up much of our planet, and so if we are
lucky enough not to have been caught
up in it, we owe it to those who are to
help them however we can. Whether
we conjoined twins like it or not, we
share the same heart.

A father will die, leaving his 17 camels
to his three sons to be divided thusly:
a half to the eldest, a third to the
middle and a ninth to the youngest.
They will want desperately to respect
their father’s wishes, but a number
such as 17 can never be divided. An
argument will ensue about how they
should proceed. Luckily, a sage on a
camel will come upon the brothers
just as the pique reaches a fever
pitch. “I can help you,” he says, “but I
will require one camel.” The brothers
will agree that this is a small price to
pay for peace and they gladly accept
the sage’s offer. The sage will get off
of his camel and add it to the 17, for
a total of 18. He will give the eldest
9 camels, the middle 6 camels, and
the youngest 2 camels. The sage will
then remount his camel and ride off
into the sunset, happily ever after.

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