Feb 02, 2018
Years ago, I read a play called The Fate of a Cockroach by a famous Egyptian writer, Al-Hakim. It is the story of a wife who woke up one morning to find a cockroach in her bathtub. The woman panicked and screamed waking up her husband who volunteered to kill the beast. The wife closed the bathroom door and waited outside for her husband to come out victorious. She waited and waited...
Starting to worry, she cautiously opened the bathroom door and peeked inside to see her husband sitting in front of the bathtub looking at the little beast in admiration.
- “What the heck are you doing?” Asked the wife in astonishment.
- “Shhh!” replied the man, “Come and look at this amazing creature. What a tremendous perseverance and patience it has!”
The wife came closer, still very cautiously. She saw the cockroach as it was trying to escape by climbing the slippery walls of the tub and sliding off again and again before even reaching half way out. Still, it kept trying … tens and even hundreds of times non-stop.
The wife, failing to see any meaning in what this ‘stupid’ insect is doing screamed at her husband: “Are you crazy? What are you waiting for? Just kill it!!!”
The husband totally ignored her and kept looking at the cockroach in admiration.
Desperate, the wife reached out to her neighbors for help. The couple came quickly and the man head straight to the bathroom to help get rid of the cockroach.
Again, time went by with no news. The two women went into the bathroom; they saw their husbands leaning on the bathtub with their eyes wide-open and big smiles on their faces. They were happily following the little insect’s trips up and down the tub wall with tremendous admiration for its perseverance, determination, and forbearance.
Soon, a fight started between the two couples. The men on one side tried to explain the reason for their amazement and the women on the other just asked for the death sentence of this horrible beast. The argument suddenly came to an end when they smelled a strange odor. Running into the bathroom, they saw the maid standing victoriously with an insecticide bottle in her hand and the cockroach lying on its back in defeat.
I loved the way each character in the story dealt with the ordeal. They symbolized the three different way of approaching a problem. One person can take some time to admire the meanings and learn useful lessons (the two men in the play); another can just deal with the problem anyway he/she can and get it over and done with while failing to perceive any hidden wisdom (the maid in the play). And still, a third can just panic and run around asking for help taking no action and blaming others for his/her failure (the wives in the play).
Setting aside the sexist orientation of the writer, I love the wisdom in his story: Don’t kill the beast… it is here to teach you something!
One of my favourite books about anxiety and mental illness is Sarah Wilson’s First We Make The Beast Beautiful. Sarah wrote about her life long struggle with anxiety and OCD and how she finally managed to get her life on track by admiring the uniqueness of her own mind and digging into the wisdom of her challenge. Instead of fighting and drugging ‘the beast’, she shifted her efforts into ‘making the beast beautiful’… It is not easy… In fact, it is much easier to drug the life out of our beasts… but it is much more rewarding to learn and grow with them.
We all have challenges, pains, and struggles… we all have ‘beasts’ that keep us awake at night and bring tears to our eyes… they are here for a reason… they are here to teach us something, to help us grow… Don’t kill the beast… you’ll find a way to make it beautiful…