Jack believed in myth. Lead by his mother’s fear of death, he was told to sell his cow after she no longer produced milk. His youth and naivete were such that he was willing to believe that what was proffered to him was an equitable trade; magic beans for cow. His mother, the widow, the cynic, the pessimist/realist denied that an alternate reality was possible. In her anger she neglects the idea that magic might be possible. But, when Jack climbs the stalk the next morning, he finds fear…he finds the possibility of death.

“Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum,

I smell the blood of an Englishman,

Be he alive or be he dead,

I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.”

How does Jack handle it, he refers to his reptile brain and to his ego…his greed prompts him to steal and run. This despite the kindness of the Giant’s wife who hides and feeds him. His egocentric fear based responses and  behavior are rewarded by his realist/pessimist mother. Thus validated momentarily, he finds that his wealth soon disappears and he is in the same straits as before. Hungry and in fear again, he returns to a system that provided him comfort before. Don’t we all return to our “coping systems” when in trouble. Like Jack though, often the stakes get raised. Though it is dangerous, he finds himself once more the thief as he returns to a life of crime. This time, Jack lies to the Wife of the Giant. She believes him and feeds him again. This time he steals a hen who lays golden eggs, and forces nature to yield to his will. Upon a third larceny he actually destroys the object of his malfeasance- the breaks the harp that makes beauty/music so that no one can hear.

Finally he kills.

The child was naive, he trusted, and was rewarded for that faith. However, he chose to use the wife to satiate his own hunger, and repays her kindness with theft. Deceiving her a second time, he compounds his first crime (a couple coins) ups the ante and steals again. At first he feared his own death, but he becomes the murderer. In the process he subjugates the land and the lesser beasts to be servants under his command. Finally, the initial gift—the stalk is felled and dead.

It seems that we all follow Jack’s path. We start out with the best of intentions but the fears of our parents/society are heaped upon us and skew our vision. We are told that unless we do this or that…we die! “Kill or be killed!” The cow was a servant, subjected to service, but when her service was no longer deemed worthy, she was discarded. Jack’s mother taught him to use others, and have no compassion for them when they are no longer of service. Stalks aren’t for climbing, but rather for growing food. Had the stalk been used for the beans it produced, perhaps other magic beans could have been given to others, but instead, he uses it in a purpose for which it wasn’t intended; he took some thing magical and perverted it.

So what then is the moral of this story. The “Hero”, fears, steals, lies, plunders, and violates the symbiotic relationship with others, the land, and other creatures.

For me the true hero of the story was the old man who sold him the beans. He had the magical beans, they were “worth more than any old cow”, he could have been selfish and kept them for himself. But, he gave the greatest gift to the naive young man with only the admonishment, “Sell your cow to me. I will pay you well. Look at these beans. Only plant them, and overnight you will find you have the finest bean plants in all the world. You’ll be better off with these beans than with an old cow or money.” The seller of the beans knew that he was getting the worse of the deal in the mind of most, but he had compassion upon an old cow named “Milky-White” (a symbol for purity or virtue). He did two great deeds in one act; he loved the cow and provided for a widow and her boy.

I see this tale as a great admonishment to me to serve and love others despite what they do with it. Even if I know that in their ignorance they might squander my gift. That isn’t for me to judge, but only to serve and love.

Today, I woke up in the softball dugout to find my bench floating in 5 inches of water that came down overnight. One small shift of my weight to the wrong side, and I would’ve been drenched. However, I woke up dry and I was grateful. My knee hurting again and the rain pouring down prompted me to take up residence in the town’s Starbucks. Here I was delighted to meet Gabe and Dennis who I gave drawings/paintings to. Dennis was kind to buy me a tea and Gabe gave me a solar flashlight. (no that isn’t a joke it really works)

After them, I met Linda who manages a RV park down the road who invited me to take a shower there when I arrived. (No I didn’t smell that bad) She just overheard me stating to Gabe that that was the biggest problem on the pilgrimage so far.

Next I met Richard. He and I talked for nearly 3 hours. Joseph Campell, myths, Gilgamesh, war, native Americans, plumbing, my pilgrimage and the whole kitchen sink were subjects. As we discussed I realized that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. There was no out there more important to where I was at the moment. If it takes me 3 months to get to SF…so be it. This path IS the destination.

Finally, I was able to draw Sam’s picture above. Sam told me he didn’t have any friends here. His politics, his views on religion, and the general opinion of the intelligence of those around Crescent City probably had something to do with it. He was a Spaniard, who would like nothing more than to leave here, but his life liked it here—so the only way he would leave here was if he got a divorce he joked.

I am Jack, I am the Giant, I am the Mother and the Wife, and I am the old man with the seeds. How will I choose to live today? I choose to be the old man, a life dedicated to serving, listening, helping, and loving others is so much better than one dedicated to greed, deceit, rape, destruction and murder.