Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Perfect Freedom

There are several versions of Aesop’s fable of the hound and the wolf. Different cultures tell it in different ways, but it is basically the same fascinating tale. I wanted to tell a version of it here from memory because it has such an interesting and thought-provoking moral to it, one that we do well to visit from time to time, especially in uncertain economic times such as these. Now, I’m sure it will surprise you that I may have embellished the tale a bit and put a Dan spin on it, but it is essentially Aesop’s story: A lame and patchy old wolf, so hungry that his belly button was rubbing a blister on his backbone, came to an opening in the forest where he saw some light and evidence of human habitation. As he approached the clearing thinking he might find a scrap of garbage to eat, he saw a nice, sleek, well-nourished hound relaxing in the yard. “Hey, you,” said the wolf, (This, of course, was back when animals could talk) “how do you stay so fat. I’ve been hunting for something to eat all day and there is not a rabbit stirring anywhere in the forest.” “Oh, hello,” the hound replied, “I don’t have to hunt for my food. The humans in that house there bring me delicious victuals twice, sometimes three times a day. I’m so full from the last feeding; I still have some left here in the dish. I’ll be happy to share with you if you’d care to come visit a spell.” The wolf began salivating at this and crept cautiously towards the obese canine until he stopped short in his tracks just as he had come into the light. The hound said, “Come on. It’s fine. Just come on into the light and join me here.” “What’s that on your neck that trails down and glistens in the light?” “Oh,” the hound replied, “That’s my chain. The humans keep me chained up back here. They don’t want me wandering around. They need me here as a watchdog.” “Good-bye,” said the wolf, as he crept hungrily back into the darkness of the forest. Aesop’s moral here is obviously that it’s better to be hungry and free than satisfied and chained up. Applying that moral to our own lives can be somewhat worrisome. Many of us don’t mind a few chains as long as they give us security. As we grow older and more civilized, we see ourselves increasingly chained to the societally dictated “good life.” People who break away from the norm are considered foolish at worst and eccentric at best. If we take our Christianity seriously, though, it is as if we chain ourselves to freedom, which is a good thing. There is a statement in the Book of Common Prayer that “His service is perfect freedom.” To some the words “service” and “freedom” seem contradictory. Only when we experience the freedom that comes from faith can we say that losing our lives is a way of finding them.

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