Self Control: Full-time Job
There is an old story about a hermit who often complained that he had so much to do. People wondered about that because he lived all alone and asked him to explain what he meant.
His answer was: “I have two eagles to tame, two sparrow hawks to train; two rabbits to feed, a snake to look after, a donkey to load, a horse to saddle, and a lion to domesticate.”
“Well, if you’ve got to do all that, your time will be completely taken up, for sure. But where is your menagerie? Where do you keep all these animals which you speak of? We don’t see any of them.”
Then the hermit explained the story of the animals in such a way that they all understood, because they themselves had the same kind at home. We do, too. The two eagles are our eyes, which have a tendency to turn in all directions and sometimes to fix themselves onto objects, just as eagles grab and hold prey. It is often hard to tame the eyes.
The two sparrow hawks? These birds of prey are our hands, which automatically reach out for anything within sight. They grab and don’t let go. Sometimes they get out of control. But they can also do good things, like: caress, help, let go, soothe.
The two rabbits represent our feet which move to and fro with us, go here and there, and sometimes double back; they also make us unsteady.
Hardest to tame is the snake, which is our tongue lurking behind the fence of our teeth. Someone has said, “Thirty-two teeth are powerless against one tongue.” And not without reason do we sometimes talk about double-tongued ambiguity. But the tongue can also console and encourage and speak well of others.
Then comes the donkey that is our body. How often our body resembles a donkey: when it is overburdened, it rebels, it rears up, starts kicking in all directions, becomes uncooperative and stubborn. And yet we can’t do without it.
And then we still have the lion to tame. People call the lion the king of beasts; just as our heart is the centre of our strength, the seat of our courage, but also the source of hate and revenge. But it can also be big- hearted and generous.
_ Johannes Kuhn
Just like the hermit in the story, each of us, without exception, has the selfsame hard task of taming all or several of these wild beasts. It is a fulltime task for today and everyday without any letup.