A Scorpion's Choice

Bloggified by Jake on Sunday, January 4, 2009

There's a fable--surprisingly not by Aesop--about a scorpion who wanted to cross a river. He tries to get some animals to carry him across, but they refuse because, "Dude, you're a scorpion. You're going to sting me!"

Eventually he gets a turtle or a frog--or in a Gingerbread Man inspired version, a fox--to agree after reasoning with him that, "Sure, I would normally sting you, but if I stung you while we're in the middle of the river, you'll drown and I, being on your back, will drown too. It would be suicidally stupid of me to sting you."

So the frog or the turtle lets the scorpion aboard and halfway across the river, sure enough, feels the sting. Paralyzed and sinking to its death, the turtle asks, "Why did you sting me?"

The scorpion, also doomed to die, says, "Because I'm a scorpion."

The lesson is you can't not be who your nature dictates you are. On the other hand, I think there's another lesson to be found. If you know who and what you are, you can at least aim it. If you're a scorpion and you know you're going to sting someone, you can choose who not to get close enough to sting.

Recently, I got in touch with an old friend from high school. I wouldn't say we dated, but I was closer to her than I was to a lot of girls I've slept with. She was a writer too and we collaborated on a project at one point that started as a heist story but slowly evolved into a romance between a burglar and his accomplice as we grew more and more attracted to one another.

There came a point where passions finally boiled. It was clear we wanted to be together and I had only one choice.

I pushed her away.

"Because I'm a scorpion."

I knew what I was and I knew I would ruin her if I got the chance. I knew I wanted to screw any woman I came across. I knew she could offer me something that I needed... eventually. But at that moment, taking advantage of her would be a scorpion's sting that she and I would both have to live with.

Months later, her family moved to Florida. She wrote me a letter and I don't remember whether I even bothered a half-hearted reply. In the years that followed, as this newfangled thing called the internet was born and as search engines improved, I would search for her name every few months just to see if I could track her down.

After fifteen years, I finally found her on Facebook while searching the people from our high school. We exchanged a few emails and spoke on Skype for over an hour and when I hung up, I relived that pain-in-the-gut emotion of knowing you did the right thing even though every fiber of your being said, "Sting her! You should have stung her, you sissy!"

She's married now and seems happy, but then she always did... which was a big part of why I knew I had to push her out from under the cloud of perpetual anger and misery I take wherever I go. Part of me wants to believe that maybe her sunny disposition could have broken through those cloud.

But experience suggests otherwise.

"Because I'm a scorpion."

7 sarcastic replies:

Ken said...

That's one of the saddest and stupidest things I have ever heard.

Jake said...

Damn, when I wrote it I knew it didn't feel right. I need to write non-"ranting about bullshit that doesn't matter" style every now and then or it'll all come out flat like this.

Thanks for the review, Ken.

Ken said...

I meant that it was stupid content-wise, not stylistically. I'm just not enough of a determinist to believe you, as an individual, are incapable of change. And it makes me sad that you have accepted yourself as is, if you genuinely possess such a character defect.

Jake said...

Oh, in that case it makes me sad and stupefied that you felt the need to get on here and call me sad and stupid.

Sorry that I fucked your girlfriend or whatever it was that made you feel the need to address me in that way... unless you have no idea who I am because we've never met, in which case I feel sad that you feel the need to boost your own self-esteem by seeking out the blogs of strangers to call them sad and stupid.

Good luck with that.

Ken said...

No, I wasn't calling YOU sad and stupid. I see a lot of myself in this post. Sometimes I worry that I sabotage my own happiness like you talk about doing in this post.

I just think it's stupid to resign yourself to not changing. I believe I am changing. I believe you can change, too. You're not a scorpion, you're a human being with free will. Change isn't easy and it doesn't happen naturally... but it can happen.

Jake said...

Ken, I misjudged your intent. I apologize.

In writing this, my point is kind of to acknowledge that I'd like to change, but I really don't know if I can or not. I've certainly tried, but more often than not I wind up in situations that are just fake.

When I was in TV, I eventually got out of the business because I just couldn't take the phony smiles and pointless, feel-good stories. I've broken up with at least three girlfriends I can think of because--in this light I see--I didn't feel like I was worthy of their love and figured I would just wind up disappointing them.

Now, on one hand, I can admit, a la an alcoholic, that I have a problem and try to fix it, but if I were an alcoholic, part of the fix would be avoiding alcohol, no longer hanging out in bars or with your drinking buddies, pouring your liquor cabinet down the drain, etc.

But if your problem is "I can't stop pushing away the people I care about" then the solution by that token would be to avoid the people you care about. Or maybe to force yourself to keep around those you care about and ultimately perhaps hurt them. Either option sucks.

Ken said...

It's all right. It's largely my fault for being so concise and abrasive. I was trying to be poignant, but I just came off as an ass picking a fight. Sorry!

You make a very good point. I like your writing and have followed your blog for a long time (before it was jakebell.com). I've also read your entire comics blog. I tried to comment before, but the comments never worked for me until now. I'm trying to say that I respect you, and sorry again for coming off as attacking you. I'd love to continue this conversation, but I feel stupid typing all of this in a comment box. Perhaps I could email you? My email is goken04@gmail.com

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