By Shawn Barlow

Every once and a while, even in my advancing years, I get a “wake-up call” that seems to trigger a cascade of introspective self-analysis.  Out of the resulting epiphany of universal wisdom, I occasionally come to the conclusion that my conventional positions are wrong, have been wrong, and will continue to be wrong.  This puts me in the difficult position of having to admit that I was wr… wro…. wro.. wron…. wrong;  ..sort of like the “Fonz” in Happy Days.

My latest realization is in the category of personal relationships and general human nature.  These are the worst kinds of epiphanies because they not only invoke the disappointment associated with simply being  wro… wron.. wrong, but tend to overlap into the emotional world and all that related crap.

Here is the short form;

Despite best efforts, people are “who they are” and they won’t/can’t change.

Here is a longer form… as a popular metaphoric story;

One day, a scorpion looked around at the mountain where he lived and decided that he wanted a change. So he set out on a journey through the forests and hills. He climbed over rocks and under vines and kept going until he reached a river.

The river was wide and swift, and the scorpion stopped to reconsider the situation. He couldn’t see any way across. So he ran upriver and then checked downriver, all the while thinking that he might have to turn back.

Suddenly, he saw a frog sitting in the rushes by the bank of the stream on the other side of the river. He decided to ask the frog for help getting across the stream.

"Hellooo Mr. Frog!" called the scorpion across the water, "Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?"

"Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you won’t try to kill me?" asked the frog hesitantly.

"Because," the scorpion replied, "If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim!"

Now this seemed to make sense to the frog. But he asked. "What about when I get close to the bank? You could still try to kill me and get back to the shore!"

"This is true," agreed the scorpion, "But then I wouldn’t be able to get to the other side of the river!"

"Alright then…how do I know you won’t just wait till we get to the other side and THEN kill me?" said the frog.

"Ahh…," crooned the scorpion, "Because you see, once you’ve taken me to the other side of this river, I will be so grateful for your help, that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!"

So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. He swam over to the bank and settled himself near the mud to pick up his passenger. The scorpion crawled onto the frog’s back, his sharp claws prickling into the frog’s soft hide, and the frog slid into the river. The muddy water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. He kicked strongly through the first half of the stream, his flippers paddling wildly against the current.

Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from the frog’s back. A deadening numbness began to creep into his limbs.

"You fool!" croaked the frog, "Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?"

The scorpion shrugged, and did a little jig on the drowning frog’s back.

"I could not help myself. It is my nature."

Then they both sank into the muddy waters of the swiftly flowing river.

Self-destruction.. "It’s in my nature" … said the scorpion..

Ok… I’m assuming that I haven’t really succeeded in clarifying any wisdom.. just presented a little easily digestible philosophy.  The most important thing to get from this rant is that this is actually wise!  No doubt we all have a scorpion/frog story (or several) that we can attribute solely and inarguably to the inherent human traits of hoping and caring. 

At the end of the day, we will never stop giving those scorpions a ride.  Fortunately, most of us have built up a partial immunity to the venom so it usually takes more than one sting to drown us.  The trick is being aware of just where that threshold is and getting that scorpion off our backs before that last, fatal jab.

I made it to shore… and my back is killing me!