The Myth of the Stick

I’m reading Wrangham’s “the Goodness Paradox,” and I’m writing an entire corollary as I read it, but in the middle of that, out popped this

The Myth of the Stick

There was a mother and a child, alone on their farm, the child born while the father was away at war. The mother was kind, and doting, satisfying the child’s every need, nourishment, protection, warmth, but as the child grew and found its feet, while tottering about, it found a stick.

The child turned the stick about and poked at the ground with it, and when he found it in his hand at one end and he flailed, he saw it struck the Earth and made a noise. Soon, this was the game, find a stick and strike the ground. The mother worried a little for the animals, if one got struck and reacted, and she took the stick away, giving the child some food instead. The child liked his sticks though and found one when he could and one day when the mother was taking it away, the child struck her with it.

The mother worried but doing what she could to oppose the behaviour didn’t seem to be working, the child seemed wild and unwilling to talk about it. She worried, and she prayed and was amazed when Apollo himself appeared to answer her.

The god gave her a stout stick, the length and girth of her arm.

She didn’t object, but looked confused, thinking, surely I could find my own stick?

The god smiled.

“This rod is your answer. It is too long and heavy for the child, even when he has grown many years and can carry it, he will have his own children to deal with before he can swing it as fast as you can.”

When the woman still looked lost, Apollo frowned, also in wonderment.

“It will make him stop hitting you.” He said. “But it makes him want to even more. Use it sparingly.” The god disappeared again in a flash of light and the mother found herself alone, staring at the wood in her hands and promising herself to never, ever use it.

And the rest is history.



June 6th., 2020

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