Charlie's Blog: The Way of the Mule


The Way of the Mule

Mules have a strong sense of self preservation. This is one good reason why mules physically last longer than horses do. If they are overheated, overworked, or overused for any reason, mules will either slow down to a safe pace or stop completely. Mules are not stubborn. Neither are donkeys. Yes, if you want them to work too hard for their own well being, especially in hot weather, they will be "stubborn." We have never heard of a messenger running a mule to death the way legends say they ran their horses! The facts that mules are inclined not to panic, that they think about what is happening to them, and they take care of their own physical well being prevents many accidents that might happen if they were horses.

I love animals. I don't love them the way a pet hoarder loves dogs and cats. I love them because each animal represents certain traits that I admire. We are familiar with how people have the hearts of lions or can be as prickly as a porcupine or as stubborn as a mule. I think God makes animals this way to teach us something. Animals are nature's lessons in virtue.

I think people resemble animals in their traits. I remember telling my brother that he reminded me of the wolverine. The wolverine is an animal possessed of insatiable hunger, ferociousness, and fearlessness. A wolverine will take on animals many times bigger than himself like bears and take their food from them. What makes the wolverine like this is not his size but his hunger. My brother resembles the wolverine because he never let his apparent limitations keep him from doing awesome things.

For me, the animal I most closely identified with was the rattlesnake. The rattlesnake is a nasty creature that can harm you, but it at least warns you before it bites you. You can kill a rattlesnake with your bare hands, but you will also be killing yourself in the process or live scarred and wounded from the encounter. My identity with this animal was inspired in part by the Gadsden flag which Tea Partiers and libertarians fly often these days and also my atheism. The rattlesnake is a weak animal but a mean animal. Most people and animals give this creature a wide berth. That was definitely me for many years. I became a very mean person, but I restrained myself to only striking at those who deserved it. This strategy is what I called the Way of the Snake.

I wasn't born mean, but I can say that I had the good beaten out of me. I became mean as a consequence of the things that happened to me. The only trace of morality left in me was the rattle at the end of my tail. You always got a warning before I bit you. If you heeded the warning, everything would be fine. If you disregarded it, I was going to get you even if I destroyed myself in the process. I didn't care. I was going to make you pay. My venom glands filled to bursting, and I desperately wanted to hurt someone. But no one took me up on it.

The Way of the Snake was turning my soul black. Consumed by anger and a desire for revenge, I knew that I was transforming from a rattlesnake to a black mamba. The black mamba is not like a rattlesnake. It gives no warning. It bites and bites again. It is aggressive and will chase you. Its blackened mouth is like its blackened soul.

I can only say that it was God's grace that kept me from that fate. The hatred of your enemies will consume and eat your soul. I still struggle with the the residue of that hatred and anger. My antidote has been to offer prayers, rosaries, and divine mercy chaplets on behalf of all those who have ever wronged me. When you hate others, the hatred consumes you and destroys you. When you love others, you find your humanity once more.

Upon converting to Catholicism, I renounced the Way of the Snake. This is because the Way of the Snake is the way of the original serpent--the Devil. The Devil gets at your soul through your hatred. I struggle, but I seek to find the way to love those I have hated. I forgive because I wish to be forgiven.

Forsaking the snake, I have looked for another animal that best captures my thinking and ways now, and I have settled on the mule. The mule is not a glamorous animal but the sterile offspring of a horse and a donkey. This makes him a rare animal combining the best traits of the horse and the donkey. The mule is an animal made for work. Mules eat less than horses, subsist on lower grades of feed, and require less care than horses. They have fortitude and are robust to adversity and harsh conditions.

The mule is no fool though. If you mistreat the mule, he will show you the stubbornness that is famous to mules. Treat the mule right, and he will treat you right. The mule knows self-preservation and will not allow itself to be beaten or worked to death like a horse. If you go too far with a mule, the animal will give you a swift kick to the head and knock your teeth out. But if you work with a mule, he will give you few problems and more years of service than a horse.

I follow the Way of the Mule now. Basically, I just work and give few problems. But if you mistreat me or try to make me do what I choose not to do, I am going to dig in my heels and refuse. And if you strike me, I am going to bust your teeth down the back of your throat. This is not revenge but resistance. There is a difference. Revenge is when you want destruction for the other person. Resistance is when you don't want destruction for yourself or the ones you love.

The mule has another virtue. It is a protector. This surprises people, but a mule will protect its owner and livestock against predators. Mules will kick a coyote or wolf to death if it tries to take a calf from a herd.

The mule will never win a beauty contest, but I love this animal. I identify with it. The mule is blue collar and bad ass. I would take a mule over a horse anyday. The mule is my animal spirit.