Are you a fly or a bee? Do you always see the good or the bad?

stpais1This has oft been repeated, but we cannot repeat it often enough:

“I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories.  A third category does not exist; people either belong to one of the other.  The first one resembles the fly.  The main characteristic of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt.  For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground.  It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell.  If the fly could talk, and you asked it it show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: “I don’t even know what a rose looks like.  I only know where to find garbage, toilets, and dirt.”  there are some people who resemble the fly.  People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively, and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good.


The other category is like the bee whose main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on.  When a bee is found in a room full of dirt and there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the dirt and will go to sit on top of the sweet.  Now, if we ask the bee to show us where the garbage is, it will answer: “I don’t know.  I can only tell you where to find flowers, sweets, honey and sugar; it only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all evil.”  This is the second category of people who have a positive way of thinking, and see only the good side of things.  They always try to cover up the evil in order to protect their fellow men; on the contrary, people in the first category try to expose the evil and bring it to the surface.

When someone comes to me and starts accusing other people, and puts me in a difficult situation, I tell him the above example.  Then, I ask him to decide to which category he wishes to belong, so he may find people of the same kind to socialize with.”

From Elder Paisios on the Holy Mountain by Priest-Monk Christodoulos, p.43-44

This metaphor is clearly based on the teachings of St. Basil the Great, on how we should approach secular learning.

Perhaps it is sufficiently demonstrated that such heathen learning is not unprofitable for the soul; I shall then discuss next the extent to which one may pursue it. To begin with the poets, since their writings are of all degrees of excellence, you should not study all of their poems without omitting a single word. When they recount the words and deeds of good men, you should both love and imitate them, earnestly emulating such conduct. But when they portray base conduct, you must flee from them and stop up your ears, as Odysseus is said to have fled past the song of the sirens, for familiarity with evil writings paves the way for evil deeds. Therefore the soul must be guarded with great care, lest through our love for letters it receive some contamination unawares, as men drink in poison with honey. We shall not praise the poets when they scoff and rail, when they represent fornicators and winebibbers, when they define blissfulness by groaning tables and wanton songs. Least of all shall we listen to them when they tell us of their gods, and especially when they represent them as being many, and not at one among themselves. For, among these gods, at one time brother is at variance with brother, or the father with his children; at another, |105 the children engage in truceless war against their parents. The adulteries of the gods and their amours, and especially those of the one whom they call Zeus, chief of all and most high, things of which one cannot speak, even in connection with brutes, without blushing, we shall leave to the stage. I have the same words for the historians, and especially when they make up stories for the amusement of their hearers. And certainly we shall not follow the example of the rhetoricians in the art of lying. For neither in the courts of justice nor in other business affairs will falsehood be of any help to us Christians, who, having chosen the straight and true path of life, are forbidden by the gospel to go to law. But on the other hand we shall receive gladly those passages in which they praise virtue or condemn vice. For just as bees know how to extract honey from flowers, which to men are agreeable only for their fragrance and color, even so here also those who look for something more than pleasure and enjoyment in such writers may derive profit for their souls. Now, then, altogether after the manner of bees must we use these writings, for the bees do not visit all the flowers without discrimination, nor indeed do they seek to carry away entire those upon which they light, but rather, having taken so much as is adapted to their needs, they let the rest go. So we, if wise, shall take from heathen books whatever befits us and is allied to the truth, and shall pass over the rest. And just as in culling roses we avoid the thorns, from such writings as these we will gather everything useful, and guard against the noxious. So, from the very beginning, we must examine each of their teachings, to harmonize it with our ultimate purpose, according to the Doric proverb, ‘testing each stone by the measuring-line.” 

From St. Basil’s Address to Young Men on How to Approach Greek Literature

A youthful take is here:

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