Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


The One You Feed

Solano Avenue, Napa, California, USA

January 23, 2015



"A Cherokee elder is teaching his grandson about life. 'A fight is going on inside me' he tells the boy. 'It's a terrible fight. It's between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.'. The grandson is quiet for a moment, then asks 'Grandfather, which wolf will win?'. His grandfather replies 'The one you feed.'."

  ... old Cherokee tribal legend
This essay, The One You Feed, is the companion piece to


It's one of my all time favorite analogies: "Which wolf will win?", and the answer is "The one you feed.". In the annals of the poignant old Cherokee tribal legend which launches this essay and from which the essay inherits its title, the wolf which emerges victorious in the battle between good and evil, is the one you feed. Wow! It's awesome, brilliant, this "which wolf will win" analogy, yes? There's hardly anyone, even from a very young age on up, who won't grasp its significance, get value from it, and appreciate it.

The thing about this analogy however, which is to say the thing about this, any, and all analogies, is each one fails at a certain point. They all fail because they reference something  in terms of something else, and that "something else" is always at least one step removed from the issue at hand. When the issue at hand isn't referenced in terms of the thing in itself, there's an absence of rigor. There really aren't  any wolves ... but you get the idea anyway. Since there are no wolves, there's nothing to feed ... but you also get the idea anyway. It's not only when we deploy analogies which reference something in terms of something else, when there's an absence of rigor. It's when we talk in general  about almost anything and everything, we talk with an absence of rigor. More than that, talking with an absence of rigor most often also includes talking without presence of Self.

All that said, I'm not dismissive of the premise  this old Cherokee tribal legend disseminates - it is, as I said, one of my favorites. Rather I'm interested in building on its poignancy by tightening its language so it points to something imminently tangible and therefore immediately useful - and by this I mean directly  rather than analogously. Out of respect for the Cherokee nation, I don't intend to rewrite its entire text. Instead my contribution will be to make only one change to only one word, and to leave the rest of it intact. Changing just this one word however, allows an entirely new possibility to emerge, allowing the main body of the legend to segue  into something even more pragmatic, to morph  into something else even more useful than it currently does, something I suspect was the Cherokee elder's intention for his grandson all along - and changing this one word realizes his intention directly rather than analogously.

The one word I would change is the verb "feed". I would change "feed" to "speak":  "Which wolf will win?", and the answer is "The one you speak.". It's not a trivial difference. It's not splitting hairs. It's not just semantics either. When I feed a wolf, it's what I do  which empowers the wolf. To be sure, what I do counts for something. It counts for a lot. But when I speak  a wolf to empower it, I bring who I'm being  to bear ie I bring who I am  to bear. "Feed a wolf" empowers it, with who I am not necessarily being present (that's powerful). "Speak a wolf" empowers it, with who I am fully present, front and center stage (that's very  powerful).

If the difference isn't clear, create "feed a wolf" for yourself, and notice the space it evokes; then create "speak a wolf" for yourself, and notice the space it evokes. "Speak a wolf" not only has presence of Self: it brings forth  presence of Self (the act of speaking brings forth presence of Self). But that's of only secondary import in the context of this conversation. Primarily it's presence of Self which gives the correct perspective on, and new possibilities for the battle between good and evil.

Of course I wasn't there personally when that very wise Cherokee elder said "The one you feed.". Still, I'll bet if he was familiar with Werner's work, he'd agree "The one you speak" works better. Furthermore, I'll bet you good money this was the exact form of the expression he intended, undistinguished, for his grandson all along.



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