A Wise Man
An Ancient Indian Parable
An old hermit man, who was tired of life’s troubles, lived high on the mountain away from everyone. In the meadow below the ledge where the hermit liked to sun, there was an ancient oak tree, and in the hollow of that oak tree was a hive of honey bees. One day the old man saw an old black bear enter the meadow and start walking towards the tree.
Smiling to himself, he left to let the bear eat in peace. But as he turned, a young brave stepped out of the forest.
“I am here to collect the honey of the ancient oak, grandfather,” said the young brave.
“You should go home,” said the old man, “Brother Bear is going to collect the honey. If you try to take it he will kill you.”
“My name is Runs-Like-The-Wind,” responded the young brave proudly, “Brother Bear will not catch me.”
“You are a fool,” said the old man.
The young brave sprinted down into the valley and, indeed, he ran very fast and reached the ancient oak before Brother Bear. But his hand became stuck as he tried to pull it free and he could not escape.
The old man watched from the hill as the bear closed on the, now terrified, young brave and killed him. The hermit shook his head and spent the night mourning the foolish young brave. The next day he recovered the savaged body from the meadow and returned it to the young brave’s village, where he told the people, “Life is not sweet for a proud fool.”
Then he returned to his mountain home and mourned the foolishness of man.
The next year, at the same time, the old hermit watched Brother Bear begin to return to the honey tree. He did not hear anything but suddenly a young brave appeared from the forest next to him.
“I am here to collect the honey from the ancient oak, grandfather,” said the young brave.
“You should go home,” said the old man, looking closely he could see a resemblance to the young brave who died the year before, “Brother Bear is going to collect the honey. If you try to take it, he will kill you.”
“My brother’s name was Runs-Like-The-Wind,” responded the young brave sadly, “Brother Bear will not catch me. I will catch him.”
“You are a fool,” said the old man.
Runs-Like-The-Wind’s brother merely smiled a secret smile and went back into the woods and down to the meadow. The old man sat on his ledge and waited, his heart heavy with sorrow. He nearly left but then stayed.
“The least I can do,” he told himself, “Is to watch the poor fool’s soul depart the earth.”
He saw the young brave enter the meadow. Brother Bear saw him as well, and now that he had a taste for human flesh, decided it was sweeter than honey. The old man prayed to the Great Spirit that the young brave would flee, even though he knew it would not help.
The young brave calmly sat down in the tall grass. The bear loomed closer and closer. The old man closed his eyes and waited for the screams.
A boom filled the meadow instead. The old man opened his eyes and saw a cloud of smoke drifting across the meadow. The bear lay in the tall grass and the young brave lowered his rifle.
The old man walked down and met the young brave at the honey tree.
“What is your name?”
“My name is Cunning-Like-The-Wolf,” replied he.
“Ah,” the old man said, “A clever man is far stronger than a strong but simple bear. Now, brave warrior, you must eat the heart of Brother Bear and become strong like him.”
“Brother Bear murdered my brother because he is old and simple. I will not eat his heart.”
And the old man rejoiced, and returned to the village because he had found a wise man.