During my weekly Saturday philosophy class, I came across the following story by Rudyard Kipling, the English poet and writer who, in 1894 famously penned The Jungle Book. The topic of the lecture was ‘Know Thyself’ and the debate that ensued centred on the idea that the unexamined life is not worth living (Socrates). Kipling’s fable perfectly explains where we must begin our examination in order to truly find ourselves.
Once upon a time, or rather, at the very birth of time, when the Gods were so new that they had no names, and Man was still damp from the clay of the pit whence he had been digged, Man claimed that he, too, was in some sort a deity. The Gods were as just in those days as they are now.
They weighed his evidence and decided that Man’s claim was good — that he was, in effect, a divinity, and, as such, entitled to be freed from the trammels of mere brute instinct, and to enjoy the consequence of his own acts. But the Gods sell everything at a price.
Having conceded Man’s claim, the legend goes that they came by stealth and stole away this godhead, with intent to hide it where Man should never find it again. But that was none so easy. If they hid it anywhere on Earth, the Gods foresaw that Man, the inveterate hunter — the father, you might say, of all hunters — would leave no stone unturned nor wave unplumbed till he had recovered it. If they concealed it among themselves, they feared that Man might in the end batter his way up even to the skies. And, while they were all thus at a stand, the wisest of the Gods, who afterwards became the God Brahm, said, “I know. Give it to me!” And he closed his hand upon the tiny unstable light of Man’s stolen godhead, and when that great Hand opened again, the light was gone.
“All is well,” said Brahm. “I have hidden it where Man will never dream of looking for it. I have hidden it inside Man himself.”
Image Credit: A Troy Dunham art piece created with photographer Jeff Eason (Wilsonmodels)