Dharma didn't even wait for me to fully wake up before starting my lesson. As I stumbled around the kitchen making tea and toast he began speaking, "Irwin, the flipper in front has no pride and the flipper behind has no shame. They work together to get you where you need to go. You couldn't hop very well with just one, now could you my boy?" "Ah, no sir," I answered waiting for the toast to pop up. "Well, Irwin, life should be like your two flippers working in concert with one another; each one has a job to do. Neither one is better than the other. But together, they can make a very big hop happen effortlessly."
My wise teacher went on to explain how neither pride nor shame are useful to us. There's no shame in not being "out there in front." The one that's first can, soon enough, be second. Just as the one flipper that's behind will, in due course, be out in front...even if only briefly. That's simply the way life works, he reminded me. Things go good. Then, out of the blue, things go wrong. But, eventually, they return to good again. The important lesson to learn is to keep moving, just like those flippers. Life is an ebb and flow. It's neither all good, nor all bad. The key to a successful life is know that whatever is happening right now, is not permanent and that change is constant. We can learn from the bad and use that knowledge to make the good even better. We need to have both. It keeps us stabilized, just as having two flippers keeps us upright.
The same thing can be said of pride. It,too, can be both good and bad. Having pride in one's accomplishments after working hard, is an example of good pride. Pride can be a great motivator. Bad pride can often lead to feelings of superiority. When we start comparing our accomplishments to those of others, we experience a sense of pride at its worst. Bad pride makes us look down on those who don't have what we have; who's accomplishments we think are less valuable than our own. Only when we compare our proficiency to our own, can pride be good. The flipper out in front has no pride because he knows that he will soon be in the back. He's simply doing his job to the best of his ability.
The flipper analogy doesn't just work to explain the ups and downs of our personal life. It can also be used when speaking of community. Frogs, and humans too, need to learn to work together with one another to make the world better for all. It's a classic case of "United we stand. Divided we fall." Just as we see the value in both flippers, when we see each other as having value, we can then work together towards building a positive future that sustains each one of us. But when pride and shame enter in to it, then we become divided and lose much of our strength. It's easier for us to fall over. There's an ancient story about two bundle of reeds. Each bundle can stand alone, just fine, until the winds begin to blow. Then they both topple over. But when the two bundles lean against each other for support, they become very strong and can endure the harshest of weather.
After the Dharma Frog finished his tea and hopped away, I looked at my two flippers and realized how much I take them for granted. Both of them are important. They allow me the freedom of movement. As as I thought about my little froggy feet, I could see the connection between them and my life. My life is full of ups and downs, firsts and lasts, fronts and backs. We all need to have a certain amount of difficulty in our life. Adversity makes us strong. Without it, we couldn't appreciate the all good things we have. Both are important and it's good to remember that, inherently, neither one is good or bad. It's all a matter of perception; its how we view them. The good and bad we experience are simply working together to give us one amazing experience that we call LIFE!