The Story of the Man and the Tiger

There is a man being chased by a tiger.  Considering this, things are going relatively well, in that he has not yet been caught.

However, as you may have noticed, this is not exactly his day, and his path ends in a cliff, dropping off in front of him.  Being a resourceful fellow, he notices a vine running down the length of the cliff, and he begins to lower himself.

Looking down to the bottom of  the cliff, he now sees a cousin of the tiger waiting below him, hoping that he will drop in soon.  With nowhere better to go, the man decides to hang out for a while.

Next, he notices a rat, out of reach above him.  The rat seems to be enjoying how easy it is to gnaw through a vine held so taut.

Just then, he sees a red, ripe strawberry growing next to him.  He immediately plucks it and pops it in his mouth, exclaiming, “Delicious!”

This is my retelling of an ancient story usually attributed to the Zen tradition.  What do you think of this man?  Is he insane, or does he know something important?

Consider this:  most of us have behind us a tiger of sorts along the path of life, in terms of our past struggles and troubles.  In terms of where our path is leading, the final endpoint of life is clear and irrevocable.

Further, most people I know have a rat or two gnawing on their vines in the present.

There is no questioning these rather innate elements of life.  The only real question posed by our story is the strawberry.  What will we do with that strawberry?

Will you wait for the rat to finish, or will you savor it?

This mindset suggested by the story contrasts with the “Big Fist Theory” described in the last blog.  Instead, this perspective seems to be that our lives provide us with troubles, some even irresolvable, and simultaneously offer us precious joys.

Not only can the bitter and the sweet mix, but they enhance each other, if we do not flinch from a full taste.

No strawberry is more sweet than the last one a person ever eats.  There is equally no tighter an embrace, no more joyful a dance, and no more meaningful an insight than the last ones you get.

By keeping in mind the tigers, we can pay less attention to the rats.

Instead, we can give more of ourselves to the delicious opportunities laced throughout  the moments of our lives.

In the next (and related) blog, I plan on giving you the gift that my grandfather gave me.

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This entry was posted on Friday, November 11th, 2011 at 3:10 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “The Story of the Man and the Tiger”

  1. Deborah Says:

    Great blog. Thanks. We used this story in our 12-step study group last night for Step 4 (“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”) as an example of what fears and resentments will do to us (when we turn our focus to the tigers and rats). I know that today I can mix the bitter with the sweet, if I stay present long enough to understand the lesson (breathe, meditate, pray). Pain is simply the difference between “what is” from what my ego mind wants it to be. It’s important for me to feel my feelings and then release them. So when my ego drags me into the story I’ve left the present, and I’m in my mind’s trap of the past or the future. I can’t enjoy the strawberry and all of the other delicious wonders of life. Blessings,

  2. Dr. Rick Blum Says:

    Thanks Deborah — what you’re saying is especially true of past events, where we can become so easily sidetracked into the pendulum of blame/guilt, rather than learning lessons to guide us into the future.

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