Posted April 25, 2003
The Way the World Is
Anthony de Mello, SJ
When you awaken, when you understand, when you see, the world becomes
right. We're always bothered by the problem of evil. There's a powerful
story about a little boy walking along the bank of a river. He sees a
crocodile who is trapped in a net. The crocodile says, "Would you have
pity on me and release me? I may look ugly, but it isn't my fault, you
know. I was made this way. But whatever my external appearance, I have a
mother's heart. I came this morning in search of food for my young ones
and got caught in this trap!"
So the boy says, "Ah, if I were to help you
out of that trap, you'd grab me and kill me."
The crocodile asks, "Do you
think I would do that to my benefactor and liberator?"
So the boy is
persuaded to take the net off and the crocodile grabs him.
As he is being
forced between the jaws of the crocodile, he says, "So this is what I get
for my good actions." And the crocodile says, "Well, don't take it
personally, son, this is the way the world is, this is the law of
The boy disputes this, so the crocodile says, "Do you want to ask
someone if it isn't so?"
The boy sees a bird sitting on a branch and says,
"Bird, is what the crocodile says right?" The bird says, "The crocodile is
right. Look at me. I was coming home one day with food for my
fledglings. Imagine my horror to see a snake crawling up the tree, making
straight for my nest. I was totally helpless. It kept devouring my young
ones, one after the other. I kept screaming and shouting, but it was
useless. The crocodile is right, this is the law of life, this is the way
the world is."
"See," says the crocodile. But the boy says, "Let me ask
someone else." So the crocodile says, "Well, all right, go ahead."
was an old donkey passing by on the bank of the river. "Donkey," says the
boy, "this is what the crocodile says. Is the crocodile right?"
donkey says, "The crocodile is quite right. Look at me. I've worked and
slaved for my master all my life and he barely gave me enough to eat. Now
that I'm old and useless, he has turned me loose, and here I am wandering
in the jungle, waiting for some wild beast to pounce on me and put an end
to my life. The crocodile is right, this is the law of life, this is the
way the world is."
"See," says the crocodile. "Let's go!"
The boy says,
"Give me one more chance, one last chance. Let me ask one other
being. Remember how good I was to you?" So the crocodile says, "All
right, your last chance."
The boy sees a rabbit passing by, and he says,
"Rabbit, is the crocodile right?"
The rabbit sits on his haunches and says
to the crocodile, "Did you say that to that boy? The crocodile says, "Yes,
I did." "Wait a minute," says the rabbit. "We've got to discuss
this." "Yes," says the crocodile. But the rabbit says, "How can we
discuss it when you've got that boy in your mouth? Release him; he's got
to take part in the discussion, too." The crocodile says, "You're a clever
one, you are. The moment I release him, he'll run away." The rabbit says,
"I thought you had more sense than that. If he attempted to run away, one
slash of your tail would kill him."
"Fair enough," says the crocodile, and
he released the boy. The moment the boy is released, the rabbit says,
"Run!" And the boy runs and escapes. Then the rabbit says to the boy,
"Don't you enjoy crocodile flesh? Wouldn't the people in your village like
a good meal? You didn't really release that crocodile; most of his body is
still caught in that net. Why don't you go to the village and bring
everybody and have a banquet."
That's exactly what the boy does. He goes
to the village and calls all the men folk. They come with their axes and
staves and spears and kill the crocodile. The boy's dog comes, too, and
when the dog sees the rabbit, he gives chase, catches hold of the rabbit,
and throttles him. The boy comes on the scene too late, and as he watches
the rabbit die, he says, "The crocodile was right, this is the way the
world is, this is the law of life."
There is no explanation you can give that would explain away all the
sufferings and evil and torture and destruction and hunger in the
world! You'll never explain it. You can try gamely with your formulas,
religious and otherwise, but you'll never explain it. Because life is a
mystery, which means your thinking mind cannot make sense out of it. For
that you've got to wake up and then you'll suddenly realize that reality is
not problematic, you are the problem.