In the last piece I spoke of how Character is born when self interest struggles with concern for the other.
Let us go through this story from The Devil and Miss Prym to see how this struggle happens.
Even though Ahab (the evil one) had begun to sharpen his knife the moment Savin ( the saint) set foot in his house, safe in the knowledge that the world was a reflection of himself. He was determined to challenge the saint and so he asked him: “If tonight, the most beautiful prostitute in the village came in here, would you be able to see her as neither beautiful nor seductive?”
“No, but I would be able to control myself,” the saint replied.
“And if I offered you a pile of gold coins to leave your cave in the mountains and come and join us, would you be able to look on that gold and see only pebbles?”
“No, but I would be able to control myself.”
“And if you were sought by two brothers, one of whom hated you, and the other who saw you as a saint, would you be able to feel the same towards them both?”
“It would be very hard, but I would be able to control myself sufficiently to treat them both the same.”
‘They say this dialogue was important in Ahab’s conversion to Christianity’
The stranger did not need Chantal to explain the story. Savin and Ahab had the same instincts — good and evil struggled in both of them, just as they do in every soul on the face of the earth. When Ahab realised that Savin was the same as him, he realised that he too was same as Savin.
It was all a matter of control. And choice. Nothing more and nothing less.”
Mahesh Bhatt, the thought leader of the Indian film industry, recently narrated this story to me, which his mother used to tell him which describes this struggle. She used to tell him, “There is a bad dog and a good dog in everyone of us. Whenever we are at moral crossroads these two dogs start fighting.”
“Who wins?” he used to ask.
“The one you feed more,” would be his mother’s reply.
How do you feed the good dog? And what food do you provide?
Company of good people is one. Unshakable belief in the power that good ultimately triumphs, is the other. Believing that good lies dormant in some and a strong, selfless initiative can wake it up, is the third. If you feed the good dog within you with these three kinds of food, it is not only able to overpower the bad dog within you, but also the bad dogs around you. As the Dhammapada says:
No flower’s scent goes against the wind —