Chapter 34: A lesson in Life (A Lesson from a Finnish Elder, a story in memory of Charles Gust Biberg 1905-1961)
By- Mark James Bib erg
Intro to the 2016 edition: Charles Gust Biberg (1905-196) was a patriarch of sorts, although that title may better befit his father, John Bib erg (1856-1933). But both were Finn landers and people of the land. They farmed and worked hard all of their lives. John and Lisa (Charles’ mom) were part of a generation of immigrants who left their homes to find something better. They wanted nothing more than an opportunity. From that start, they worked hard and believed that tomorrow could be better than today.
The analogy that follows is an adaptation of a story from “A Cherokee elder” about how we work through the challenges inside of us.
I want to share a story with you. It is from the old days, back in the 60s and I had a chance to visit my Grandpa Biberg down on their farm near Kettle River. It was springtime and everything was coming to life.
Grandpa was busy getting ready for spring planting: the hayfield needed the manure spread on it, the oat-field needed to be plowed and have the rocks picked from it, and the potatoes were ready to be planted. It was a busy time for all on the homestead in the spring.
I was a bit sad and needed to talk with my wise old Grandpa. He was nearing 60 years old and had lived a life full of hard work, wisdom, and family. His parents had came to the United State from Finland about "four score and seven years" before and he still knew many of the stories from the old country.
On that day I needed someone to talk to and my Grandpa recognized this and he said let's take a walk. We walked down by behind the barn, across the "buska" smelling hayfield and down to the Kettle River. We sat on some rocks and watched the cool spring water flow by. It was very relaxing and thought provoking.
We talked for a while about my family, my father, his father and about life in general.... and then I asked him a question that was weighing heavily on me.
I ask the old man why I was so torn inside; why I had so many conflicting feelings; why I had so much anxiety, stress, and foreboding inside me. I told my grandpa that I also have many good feeling and positive thoughts as well, but often times these "other feelings inside" seem to win out. I just wanted to know why I feel the way I feel.
The old timer was silent for a while. He looked up at the sky and took a deep breath and finally looked at me. He looked deep into my eyes and I can still remember the look: in one eye he was happiness and hope, but in the other was sad and depressed.
He said, my grandson: there is a fight going on inside each of us and that fight can be understood by imagining two wolves. One wolf is brown and represent all that we think of as good: love, family, hard work, peace, frugality, fresh air, good crops, families getting along, good marriages, Vikings winning a super Bowl, respect, faith, joy, learning, hope, and people working together to make the world a better place.
But, he said there is another wolf, a white wolf that is sinister and cunning; that wolf is symbolic of all that is sad, things like, anger, greed, laziness, jealousy, false friends, faith, lying, cheating, being a Republican or a Packers fan, doing things that are against one's conscience and hurting people, these are things that we let out of Pandora's box and they are represented by the white wolf.
These two wolves are fighting inside each of us and their fight not only determines how we feel, but what kind of world we will live in.
I was amazed at how much the old many knew and wanted to know more. I said Grandpa, which wolf will win?
He looked at me and said: "THE ONE YOU FEED"
and then he said, now let's get to work picking rocks and planting wild oats.
Endnote to the 2016 Edition: At some point I will write a bit more about my father, Bradley B. Bib erg and his life and times. When I do I will ask the question about his formative years, his relationship with is parents (Charles and May) and his siblings (oldest son), and myriad other issues. I am interested in his nature and nature. I want to learn about house fires and memories of the Great Fire of 1918, hard word during the Depression, growing up in World War two, the Korean War and getting wounded; and making the choice to have a large family (13 children from 1957-1974) while knowing that the wounds of Korea were not healed. This is a story for another day, but it is also a story about the wolves we choose to feed; the places to we choose to put our attention, our hearts, and our minds.