August 24, 2011

Sister Assumpta – The Story of the Monk and the Scorpion

When I was but a wee lad (that’s the Irish in me) there were many difficulties facing me.  Those difficulties translated themselves in tough times both behaviorally and socially.  This was, of course, no more evident than in my school life.

Needless to say, the fact that I was having a very tough time was an understatement.  Yet, through it all, there remained this tough old nun (I went to Catholic school) who was there for me in some of the darkest moments of my young life.  Her name was Sister Assumpta, and although she was tough I have yet to meet a person who offered such unconditional love to me as she had.  In some ways she was a savior to me, and although it took many more years for my savior to arrive, she was there to do her best in guiding me through a time when I was utterly alone.

So, in this post, I wish to honor her, and you, with a story and explanation.  The story is one that she told me during one moment when I felt an intense anger and was suffering horribly from it.  This moment was a harbinger of things to come, but in this instance she was there to try to light a different, truer, path for me.  It is with tears in my eyes with love in my open heart that I offer you this memory in honor of a loving woman who will live eternally in my Soul.

A monk was walking besides a river swollen with torrential rains looking to see if there was anyone he could help.  As he scanned the raging river, he noticed a scorpion struggling to stay atop a boulder.  It was surely going to be swept away as the river rose.

The monk noticed a tree near the river’s bank that offered a sturdy branch reaching out directly over the scorpion.  Without hesitation, the monk climbed the tree, shimmied across the branch, and reached out to grab the scorpion as a large crowd gathered to watch.

Each time the monk reached out, the scorpion would sting him.  Still, the monk persisted until finally, after many, many tries, he successfully grabbed the scorpion and carried him safely to the shore.  The amazed crowd watched as the monk let the scorpion go, staggered, and fell at the base of the tree surely to die.

“Why would you kill yourself to save a scorpion?” someone in the crowd asked.  “Surely you would know he would sting you and you would die!”

“Of course I did,” said the monk.  “Yet just as it is the scorpion’s true nature is to sting in fear, it is my true nature to serve in love.  We were just being true to Who We Are.”

And with that the monk died, a free man true to his Self.

Now, I altered the end a little to more fit my current understanding.  I simply added those seven words that, to me, sum up the moral of the story.  What Sister Assumpta was trying to tell a young boy losing himself in sadness, anger and chaos was to not lose sight of the true Self.  Even then I understood what she was trying to say, but at that stage of my life I wasn’t sure who my true Self was.  It seemed my true Self was the one getting me beat at home, teased at school, and in trouble everywhere.  I simply did not have the tools or the experience to take that understanding and do something with it.  Frankly, those few moments with Sister Assumpta just were not enough to stem the tide of the raging river within me.  I eventually changed from being the monk to the scorpion and back to the monk again.

Actually, in my current understanding, I have always been the monk, the scorpion and the crowd.  Those experiences are “who I am” in this lifetime.  Today, however, I understand I have a choice.  I have no need to protect myself.  I have no need to cater to fear.  I have no need to worship the ideas of who you are or who I am; I simply have the understanding that we are truly no different except in those meaningless ideas.  In those moments when my ego rears up I try to go back to that scared and angry little boy.  I see the smiling face of Sister Assumpta as she grabs my cheeks in love to share some light.  This time, however, I smile back and tell her, “thank you, I understand, and I love you too.”  Those moments of focus are coming quicker to me now as the hold anger has over me evaporates with the ideas that spawns it.

See, the scorpion allowed the monk to be who he was in shining glory.  “No greater love is there than when a person dies for his friend.”  In return, the monk allowed the scorpion to be who it was.  Both allowed the crowd to be who it was.  All accepted and none suffered.

I love you.  I can’t help it.  Even when the scorpion decides to sting (both when I am the stinger and the stingee) I love.  As my mind conjures up ideas about you and yours about me, we both love each other in ways we simply have yet to recognize.  I have to find ways to recognize that love in myself and express it to you.  That’s the light that needs to shine.  If Sister Assumpta tried to do anything it was to shine a light for all to see, and I will be eternally grateful to a woman who can still inspire a warm feeling of love within me.

Anyway, I hope this foray into memory and love had some meaning to you.  I look forward to seeing your light shortly.  Peace!

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