Thursday, 25 October 2012

Feel No Evil

Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a fourth wise monkey. His name was Feel No Evil. The youngest of four brothers, he was by far the most compassionate. His heart was touched by witnessing and people confiding in him their life experiences, for unlike his siblings he was blessed with all senses: seeing, hearing, speaking and feeling. People travelled for thousands of miles to tell him their stories. He heard stories close to home and those from far away. Stories of hope, courage, faith and endurance. Stories of hardship, poverty and tragedy. Each night, he would return home and recount these stories. See, Hear and Speak would sit on the floor, the three points of a triangle formed around him. In the centre, Feel narrated and acted every part, feeling every emotion. He laughed and sobbed through the lines; gave contemplative speeches in sign language; he fell to his knees to pray for forgiveness, or danced in joy. He assumed the role of many characters and felt no malevolence towards them. He never judged, he didn't take sides. At the end he summarised the narrator's perspective, justified their attitudes. He saw the good in each of them and identified the moral of their story. He had a gift – he was born a storyteller.
At first, Feel did not realise this. He was a life scholar, content to be learning empathy and sharing this with his brothers. Over time, word spread of his gift, 'Seek him, confide in him. He is compassionate.' the rumour said. Each who told now wanted their story acted out in front of an audience. Feel didn't resist, he saw no harm in this. It wasn't fair to keep these lessons to himself. He reasoned that in passing these stories on, people would learn from one another's experiences.
Night after night Feel performed to growing crowds with his brothers seated around him. He was revered and given the best of everything. His ego grew and he believed it. His storytelling changed; he ridiculed the tellers and became insensitive. One by one, his senses began to desert him. Blinded by his wealth, his eyesight faded. He was blind to people's suffering. His hearing grew weak as he listened only to what he wanted to hear. He was deaf to people's suffering. His speech became judgemental and opinionated. He missed out pages of the script and invented others, possessed by his own self-importance. His voice, once rich, became hoarse, then silent. He could no longer speak of people's suffering. He was unable to put himself in others' shoes. He had felt too much and then not enough as people applauded him. He was numb to people's suffering. His followers left him. His brothers disowned him. He lost everything. Dead inside, Feel was shunned and forgotten.
His disgrace led to See, Hear and Speak spreading their own messages about communicating with evil. They quickly became known as the 'Three Wise Monkeys'. Their carved statues now inhabit homes, but each of their messages has been misinterpreted:
See No Evil: Do not be blind to people's suffering, see it.
Hear No Evil: Do not be deaf to people's stories, hear it.
Speak No Evil: Do not be silent to your voice, speak it.
If the fourth brother had been remembered, his message would be the wisest of them all:
Feel No Evil: Do not be numb to people's images, thoughts, words and experiences, feel it.

The moral of this unknown fable is: Do not lose your empathy. Feel and forgive.