indian-proverbThe other day I came across a Cherokee proverb that was shared on Facebook:

There is a battle of two wolves inside us all. One is evil — he is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, lies, inferiority and ego. The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth. The wolf that wins? The one you feed.”

A basic search on the internet results in many references to the legend of the two wolves, mostly stated as a dialogue between an old man and his grandson, such as this one.

It reminded me of the poem Gorg (گرگ) by the popular 20th century Iranian poet, Fereydoon Moshiri (1926 – 2000). Moshiri is well-known for his simple lyrical modern poetry on topics such as love and social values. He’s probably best known for his romantic poem Koocheh (کوچه), that I had memorized as a teenager. You can read the English translation of his Koocheh on his Wikipedia entry. Gorg is a profound poem about the wolf within. Here is my summarized and rough translation of the poem:

Every human has a wolf hidden within that he continuously struggles with. Dealing with this wolf is not a matter of physical strength, but one of wisdom. There are weak people who are in control of their wolves, while there are strong and brave men who’re slaves to theirs. Those who are able to control their wolves, become good humans. And those who yield to their wolves, become like wolves. Kill your wolf while you’re young. God forbid if you get old with your wolf. Those who’re fighting each other, it’s their wolves who’re leading and in control. Cruel and evil people team up because of friendship among their wolves. Alas nowadays the wolves are friends while people are strangers to each other.

Here is a clip from Moshiri reciting his poem Gorg during a reading in Portland:

As he notes in the clip, centuries earlier, Iranian literary giant and poet, Saadi Shirazi, also referred to the wolf within. Perhaps Moshiri had also heard or read about the Cherokee “two wolves” legend. Moshir’s poem has only one wolf in it but the parallels are obvious.

moshiri2sMoshiri was a prolific poet with a lot of humanity and sensibilities. He published about 15 poetry books in his lifetime. I had a chance to meet and hear him at a reading in the San Francisco Bay Area a couple of years before he passed away. It was a memorable night for me and I left with a stronger interest in poetry and a renewed faith in love and life. Reading his poetry yourself or hearing others read it is one thing; hearing him recite it is a whole other experience.

Shortly after his death in Oct. 2000, a memorial service was held for Moshiri in UC Berkeley with several speakers and poets and video clips from his readings. I cried hard that night.

May we all get rid of the evil wolves within us.

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