Feeling the sting of human behavior

I’m not sure if many of you have read or been told the story of the scorpion and the turtle or frog in some stories.  I’ve heard the story in various ways with the cast of animals swapped in and out, but generally it’s a classic for reflection on human behavior and inherent vicious natures that cannot change. We all feel the sting, and living with my condition I feel I’m constantly both characters. Nevertheless, I wanted to share and pass along the story. It’s a story that’s been heavy on my mind as i’ve read through the diversity of the blogs here on wordpress. So here you go, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked a turtle to carry him on his back across a river. “Are you Scorpion mad?” exclaimed the turtle. “You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown.”

“My dear turtle,” laughed the scorpion, “if I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you. Now where is the logic in that?”

“You’re right!” cried the turtle. “Hop on!” The scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly said:

“Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there’d be no logic in your stinging me. Why did you do it?”

“It has nothing to do with logic,” the drowning scorpion sadly replied. “It’s just my character.”
[Braude, 1965]

15 thoughts on “Feeling the sting of human behavior

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  1. Mental illness is innate, just like my bilateral hearing loss….I was born this way through no fault of my own, just the luck of genetics or environmental factors– it’s part of my physical makeup not my character! The truth is we cannot fix innate flaws, we can hope to correct them with assistance, ie…therapy with doctors who may prescribe medications for mental support just like hearing aids, cochlear implants for hearing loss.

    Learned behaviors are a habit born of influence from family or society, a wholly different perspective from genetic impairments.
    Poor choices made from conscious awareness are not the same as the scorpion’s instinctive strike to kill to save himself, wrong or not, behavior is imbred in the scorpion to strike to protect. It’s a matter of survival the scorpion has no friends, except awareness of himself. Willful choice is conscious of the difference, it is based on the “I” principle, not “we”, I will do so because I choose so.
    Saying, one won’t and then doing exactly the opposite is conscious choose to lie and knowing it’s premeditated.

    The scorpion has no ability to choose between the differences and then deciding to do what’s right. It’s impossible.
    What is right for the scorpion is to instinctively kill to protect himself. They are a singular being and will kill their own species.

    The genetics of the turtle provides an external skeleton for protection because its body is soft and will easily injure. The turtle will withdraw into its shell in danger as it is instinctively bred in him to do so.

    Human nature is bred to procreate and survive for that sole function. We will hunt to nourish our bodies as so to continue our innately bred purpose. We will seek safety in numbers of people for protection, this is innate to survive. We are born of evolutionary influences, we learn behaviors from influences whether from nuturing or neglect.

    Choosing to harm without provocation is premeditated, a personality flaw learned through upbringing or societal or environmental influence.
    Choosing to be kind, helpful or believe the words of another person stems from learned influences, just as it to be cautious or skeptical results from lessons of harm and disappointed.

    That’s the paradox here….the metaphor of incongruity.
    This turtle and scorpion fable has contradictions, which are suppose to make us think in terms of being good at the risk of bad things happening.
    Hence the words, proceed at your own risk.

    In terms of mental illness, there is only so much medicine can alter, it cannot fix genetic impairments, it can only lessen or attempt to reduce the number of episodes. You cannot restore the mind to absolute capacity which was never functioning at normal, it is genetically impossible.

    Just like my hearing, it will never be restored perfect, it can only be corrected to a better level to function. As long as I wear the hearing devices/aids, I am able to participate in my daily life with minimal disruption. When the hearing aid breaks, or the batteries die, I must make the choice to buy new batteries or repair the aid. It’s a constant cycle of care.

    Everything and everyone is paradox, just some more than another.
    There is no perfect answer.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s an easy way out – it’s in my nature! The truth is we can change a perspective and an action at any time. It’s a matter of choice and then deciding to do what’s right. That’s the difficult part. It’s even tougher to follow through, to actually do what we say we will do. A person who chooses to do as the scorpion and says it’s in his nature has the heart of a scorpion..

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I see where you’re coming from, and I agree with you to a point. But some people have (or feel as such) no control. Mental health can be a problem. Some people were raised to not know what is right or wrong. For the most part, I agree. I just like to take other people’s point of views into account.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There was one evening back in 2003, I couldn’t sleep. I thought it was so easy to just let go and give in to the emotional and mental pressures. It felt like I could have allowed myself to be mentally ‘unhealthy’.. I didn’t. I shook it off and took it like a man, the strong woman that I had become (not forgetting that I tried to kill myself a couple or so times back in 1998). I understand though, I was/am blessed with a good enough family and upbringing. I was blessed enough with friends, and even opportunities, despite the challenges thrown at me. I had/have reasons to keep fighting. Perhaps others are not lucky enough and it’s easier to choose what I call the easy way out.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. It really is thought provoking, there are so many viewpoints you could take. ‘The turtle deserves it for finding it in him to trust’ or perhaps ‘The scorpion doesn’t dislike his character enough to make a change and instead uses his “character” as a justification’. Wherever you stand on it, it certainly makes you think!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. What’s interesting is that there are near identical stories with different endings in multiple cultures. One the scorpion rides the frog to sting a man across the river, and another where the scorpion is transported to protect someone from a snake bite. It’s an anthropologically fascinating as it shows that while the Greeks seem to see the scorpion as an evil while in the Islamic world they have long been considered embodiments of evil (divine or otherwise) while simultaneously able to be protectors to counter the powers of other evil forces.

    But then by the time these fables were being written down North Africa and South Asia were more stable than the Greeks, so whose to say how much that affected to flavor of the tale.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I guess it a matter of nurturing the two dogs in all of us. Bad Dog and Good dog. The one that is fed most will suffice. Over the years I have realised that all of us have some really sticky yummy good in us, but if pressed, your dark side will surface. Others are just mean and dark from the onset. I schooled with a 9 year old that killed two class mates by the age of 10 and a half. She went to jail, was ‘rehabilitated’ and set free. Twenty one years later she killed her own child of 6 years old. Was it a flaw in her character? I don’t know…she loved that child with her whole being.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Some people feel that the best way to care for the ones you love is to make sure they don’t have to deal with the pain of the world. In some cases, it’s because of a troubled past themselves. In others, its because of an illness. It’s sad, but true.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. The first time I heard the story was in the 1992 film “The Crying Game” when Forest Whitaker’s character Jodi, who was a kidnapped British soldier lured into an IRA trap, tells the Irish Republican Army volunteer Fergus, played by Stephen Rea , the story. Maybe it was the British accent when he concludes the story with the scorpion replied “It’s in me nature.”

    The scene has always stuck in my head (in part because the film as a whole was great in my opinion). Your post has me thinking, indeed, it would be a great analogy for myself when trying to to explain to others my self-destructive behavior driven by the bipolar and anxiety symptoms.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Wow, I never actually heard this story before, but I could certainly see the connection. Where sometimes nature takes over where logic takes place. Where what you want to happen just malfunctions to something so heavily inherent.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I was in a horrible, abusive relationship about a doze years ago or so and I kept trying to change him. A couple of people told me this story which I always liked, but I refused to see the analogy. I didn’t see the connection until after the relationship ended.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. It’s a funny story but I’m not sure I could read too much into it, if I did I’d have to believe that some people are not fundamentally good and that they will always, always do harm. I don’t want to have to believe that.

    Liked by 1 person

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