One day Otter, in tears, came to King Solomon: "My King, I have come for justice. This morning I asked Weasel to take care of my children while I went to the water to find food. When I returned, Weasel had killed my children." Solomon summoned Weasel and asked if what Otter had said was true." Weasel hung her head and said, "Yes, it is true. But I am not to blame for I was only responding to Woodpecker's striking of the War Drum and trampled Otter's children in my haste." Solomon summoned Woodpecker and asked if what Weasel had said was true. "Indeed, it is true that I signalled the call to war. But I did this as was expected of me when I witnessed Scorpion sharpening his dagger." Solomon summoned Scorpion and asked if what Woodpecker had said was true. "I admit that it is so," said Scorpion. "But I did this only upon seeing Tortoise don his armour." Tortoise, when summoned said, "yes, but I acted only when I saw Crab draw his swords." Crab, in turn, said, "I acted only upon seeing Lobster draw his javelin." Lobster then said, "what choice had I when I saw Otter coming to eat my children?" Solomon turned to Otter and said, "Neither Weasel nor any others are guilty. You, Otter, are responsible for your children's death. Who sows death, reaps death."
I've known this story a long time. And have mostly ignored it having quickly judged it as prosaic and obvious. But then a few weeks ago Taliesen responded to some situation we were looking at and said, "It's like the otter who went to Solomon." And this got me to thinking. I looked at the story again and thought about the place we find ourselves here at the beginning of the second fifth of the 21st Century on planet earth. A planet that human cultures and civilization has ravaged to the point that we have named a geological age to signify the changes we have wrought: The Anthropocene. Indeed, this King Solomon story is rather obvious and yet, is it not for lack of recognizing the ethics encoded in this wee tale that we find ourselves in the midst of climate catastrophe? This is obviously a story about interconnection and consequences and even some what-goes-around-comes-around-ism. And it is also a story that seems all-the-more harsh for the anthropomorphized cast of characters who are subject to Solomon's words though they are more observation than judgment.
Another initial (and naive) thought that I had was that this is a good story to tell kids. After all, it seemed to work to enable Taliesen to observe the kind of relationships about which this story tells. And I do have a lot of stories in my repertoire organized by age of listener. But now I'm thinking I've been somewhat foolish in consigning some tales for the young while taking for granted that older people don't need the messages of these tales.
Finally, this story reminds me of a couple of scenes in the weird and wonderful animated movie Rango in which a character is killed and one of the rodent creatures pipes up with a wry judgment/observation of "Circle of Life!" Hilarious in the context of the film and also, I believe, a stab at the overweening romanticism of The Lion King (which is really just Hamlet with animals, a kick-ass Elton John score, and always-impressive voice of James Earl Jones). The "Circle of Life" joke from Rango is one that Taliesen and I are always sharing back and forth when we see - on movies or in life - something that catches our attention. And I'm thinking that no ethic is more important for us to remember and teach and learn and live by. Thus my love of Martin Buber's I and Thou, my admiration for Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass, my wonder at Donna Haraway's Staying with the Trouble and Anna Tsing's Mushroom at the End of the World.