The One You Feed

The One you Feed

An old grandfather told his grandson: “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, and resentment. The other is good. It is joy, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and bravery.

The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?

The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”

I don’t remember where I first heard this parable but I remember hearing it and thinking, “Oh, wow…”

And then I totally forgot about it.

Thank God for reminders, as I realize now I need to read this parable on a daily basis.

So, I had forgotten, and like many things I forget, I had the joy of remembering it again. This time, my husband, Michael, was the vehicle for the remembering. He came across a great podcast called The One You Feed, produced by Eric Zimmer and Chris Forbes, and suggested I check it out. I have been binging on it ever since.

Side note: Eric and Chris both have great voices and the podcast has an equally great logo.

I have listened to a bunch of episodes, including interviews with Amy Banks, M.D., Brigid Schulte, Kevin Breel, Anna David, Dr. Rick Hanson, Johann Hari, and Paul Gilmartin. They were all excellent and I totally recommend each one of them.

However, in this post I want to talk a bit more about a concept brought up by Brigid Shulte:

Note: This is my own subjective interpretation of the interview. While I’ve pulled some quotes, give a listen here to make your own assessment.

Overwhelmed doesn’t ever go away so it really becomes how you look at it: what you choose to think about what you do.

Brigid goes on to talk about the way society views doing. She notes that busyness is a badge of honor and that there are societal pressures to do too much.

Oof. As the daughter of a Portuguese immigrant, who worked over 12-hour days pretty much every single day, with every other weekend off (when I was growing up), and at the age of 66 continues to work six days a week, — I  can relate. I love my dad but he is just one of countless many that I have encountered (including myself) that is, almost by definition, BUSY.

Think about it: When you ask someone how they are, they almost always reply with some version of  (you guessed it) busy. Usually, they also follow it up with this look that implies “there’s just too much to tell” and they “don’t have time to tell it” but “how are you?”

For a little while I was determined to answer something other than “fine, okay, busy,” because none of that says anything about how I really am, so I would say how I really felt:

  • Kinda scared by this big project I have coming up :-/
  • Lonely because I haven’t seen my friends in a while 😦
  • So excited about this new podcast I found! 🙂
  • Or, more recently… like I was shot out of a cannon three weeks ago, have been flailing full speed through the air, just landed, and am now walking back to the cannon to get stuffed back in again <~ This one might just be a wordy way of saying busy but there are more of the feelings in there too, no?

However, after my experiment in answering honestly, I quickly learned that most people really weren’t expecting much more than the usual small talk, and hearing all that made some of them uncomfortable. Story of my life.

The question of “how are you” is routine, the answer already known, and there’s something about saying busy that implies your life is being well-spent. Busy is good, right? If we are busy, then we aren’t out doing drugs and getting into trouble, because that’s what people who have time on their hands do, right?

That brings me to another point Brigid brought up:

…idleness used to give social status and now busyness provides the social status.

When the hell did that happen? The greatest thinkers and artists of all time had one… maybe more but for the sake of this article… thing in common: time to think and create. Now, those are considered luxuries; things to do in your off-time. You know, when you aren’t so damn busy. Want time to think or create? Take a vacation day.

But where would we be without Plato or Aristotle or Salvador Dali or Shakespeare or Einstein or Da Vinci? I doubt people looked at them and thought: I don’t really see them doing much. How many hours did they work this week? You mean it took them years to produce this one thing? What were they doing all that time? 

No way. So why now is it so ingrained in us to not leave work till the sun has set for a few hours? Why do we think that sitting at our desks for nine hours straight without a break means we are being oh-so-productive? Why do employers think they get more out of people when they can actually see them in the same space for a pre-determined set of hours?

Here’s my response to that:

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Okay, so I didn’t write that. It’s an anonymous meme but man, do I dig it. I’m thinking that busy might be a bad wolf kind of meal. Don’t believe me?

Here are some synonyms for the word busy:

You guys… buried? slaving? Something is not right here.

Do you deem yourself a busy person? Why do you work so much? What would you do if you had more time? What would it look like if you fed your good wolf a big hunking delicious meal of time?

Let me know in the comments. I want to see all the wonderful things you could be doing more of 🙂