Sunday, February 21, 2016

Power and Darkness: or, The Difference Between Sheep and Wolves

"A sheep without its shepherd is lost; a wolf without its pack can survive."
(John J. Coghlin, Out of the Shadows)

It's interesting, isn't it, to see sheep mentioned in the same title with power and darkness.  Other than the term 'black sheep', which usually refers to someone who embarrasses their family by appearing odd or disreputable in some way, we almost never think of sheep as being anything but helpless, stupid, and always in a group, dependent on others to guide them.  I've talked before about being a 'shiny black sheep', and how it's actually a good thing. 

And yet, any group of people who feel angry, frightened or threatened in some way can become a dangerous mob of sheep, turning from prey into inadvertent predators in an extremely short time.  Think of the townspeople in Frankenstein, a stampede to exit a burning building, or a riot in any country.  This can occur whether or not there is a leader; sometimes it's the leader who incites the action, while at other times the leader gets left behind or even killed if s/he tries to calm things down.  A mob of sheep is mindless, running entirely on the instinct of "fight or flight", and the voice of reason frequently goes unheard because no one is capable of listening.

Ironically, the term 'lone wolf' also has negative connotations, since wolves normally live in packs with a definite hierarchy.  A lone wolf is usually someone who is very introverted and/or antisocial, preferring to live and spend most of their time alone instead of with a group.  Most of them are perfectly harmless, and are often very good people.  However, because they act differently from what is expected of wolves, they are often looked upon with suspicion by everyone, sheep and fellow wolves alike.

When you look closely at these two seeming opposites -- the black sheep and the lone wolf -- you find they have many things in common.  Both are mavericks who will not or cannot accept the hierarchy or rules of the group, choosing instead to follow the beat of their own drum.   

In fact, they are almost the same

When I read Coghlin's quote (at the very top of this post), it really resonated with me. I've been more or less of a lone wolf for a good portion of my life.  As a child and young adult, I tried being a sheep because that was what I was supposed to be, but the skin just didn't fit me properly, and I probably looked and sounded a lot like a wolf version of the sheep in the cartoon below.  Then I went through a period of trying to be a pack wolf, but but that didn't fit me, either, and it was obvious.  It wasn't until I "found myself" a few years ago (to use an old 1970's saying), that I realized I was a shiny black sheep all along.  And that skin fits me "just right", like the smallest chair, bowl and bed in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I am content.  Life is good.

So what about the power and the darkness?  The way I see it, the power belongs to those who think for themselves.  That would be the shiny black sheep and the lone wolves.  Pack wolves also have some power, because they choose to work as a team, and although they usually follow the rules of the hierarchy, they will argue with each other if they feel the need to do so.  However, their individual power is less because they usually do follow the hierarchy to avoid being turned out of the pack.

But the darkness truly belongs to the sheep.  Because a LONE sheep really is lost.  Without someone -- anyone -- to follow, a non-black sheep has no idea what to do or where to go, and is in serious danger of being devoured by any predator that comes along.  So the first order of business for a lone sheep is to find a flock.  Whether it's a club, a religion, a gang or a cause doesn't matter; it's having a flock to identify with that's important.  And if that flock ends up taking a header off a cliff some dark night, well, at least they went together.

So whether you identify as a shiny black sheep or a lone wolf, just remember: 

I think the power is worth it, don't you?


  1. I found this an interesting post to relate to this, as I still feel as though, I'm finding my true-self.

    It's definitely given me food for thought. I always feel somewhere between a black sheep and a lone wolf with the constant stupidity of repeating the same mistakes using sheepish mentality.

    1. I'm glad to hear that! This post took me a long time to write, as I was working through the whole "what am I" thing as well.

      I don't think, though, that you are stupid because you keep using "sheepish mentality". If you were raised that way, like I was, it's very hard to overcome, especially if you don't KNOW that it's wrong for you. I hope this post is helpful to you in changing some of that! :-)

  2. I'm a sheep. Says so right on my Chinese astrological mug. :)

    1. Baaaaa to you! Well, as long as you're a shiny black sheep, I guess I won't eat you.

      I'm a Tiger, by the way... ::big fangy grin::

  3. While I'm definitely a black sheep, I have a bit of the lone wolf in me too. I don't care for rules and hierarchy and I'm fairly solitary.

    1. I really am both as well, but have learned to function fairly well as a black sheep, since I have to be around people SO much in my job. Like you, I don't like rules much, and tend to be a bit too outspoken sometimes when I feel hampered by one!