John Smith ignored the question of his prisoner. After a moment of silence, he said: “There is this story about three cats and mice. Do you know this story?” Without even waiting for an answer, he continued with: “It goes like this. In a house lived three cats. To avoid trouble, each of the cats was fed individually and each had its own bowl.”
Despite this measure, one of the cats was ogling the bowls of his two neighbors even though there was more than enough food for his heart’s content. He had all that was needed. But it was not sufficient. He had to possess the bowl and the food of his two neighbors.
This desire constantly gnawed at this cat. So much, he now had troubles eating his daily meal. Being satisfied was not enough. Sufficiency was creating a deprivation felt in his gut that was filling his thoughts with jealousy. Possessing what did not belong to him was the only thoughts occupying his mind nights and days.
One night, he suddenly had an idea. After each meal, he would be leaving a few crumbs of food behind him knowing the mice would notice such a strange gesture. He was right but the mice were not foolhardy. They suspected it was a trap. For the first few days, the mice ignored the crumbs of food but this did not discourage the cat. He continued with his plan leaving the crumbs for another day, another week and another month knowing that need’s imperative would conquer and prevail over prudence’s necessity.
He was right because one day, one mouse which was more famished than another ignored fear and reason to jump on the crumbs to eat them thinking if she was to be eaten as a result, she would at least know what it meant to be satiated. All of the other mice stayed in the shadows, observing, all expecting a cat to appear to devour this foolish and desperate mouse. However nothing happened.
The following day, it was 2 mice which had the courage to devour the crumbs. This number grew with every passing day and soon these crumbs became part of the daily life of the mice. The mice even started to thank in their prayers their mysterious benefactor; the cat.
The cat in question was not remiss of this situation. From the corner of a corridor, he had been observing the mice each time they got out from their hole to take advantage of his seemingly innocuous gift. He smiled knowing he had won and it was now the time to tempt destiny and to take possession of his due.
One night, as it was a tradition, he left a few crumbs behind him. He observed the mice which got out without fear to gather this offering and suddenly, out of nowhere, the cat jumped in the middle of the mice. There was no panic. Surprise and fear froze the mice into place and before they were able to regain the ownership of their little legs, he said:
“Hello, my little ones. Do no to be afraid because it is me your benefactor who each night gives you a respite from the hunger which assails you decimating your families. I am amongst you tonight because of my fear concerning the inadequacy of my contributions to your well being. Certainly a group of mice like you in full growth have a right to more than a few crumbs from my individual plate?”
A mouse more reckless than another answered: “You are right Master Cat. While your charity has helped us considerably against hunger’s aggression, we are living from crumb to crumb never able to save one crumb against less generous tomorrows.”
“Ah my little ones,” declared the cat seeing the opportunity he was seeking, “this is exactly what I expected. I would love so much to offer you more help but I can only share what I have and one bowl of food is only sufficient for these few crumbs.”
The mice lowered their heads ready to forget such a futile idea of requesting more crumbs. “We are still grateful for your help and the charity you are giving us.”
The cat knew he had already won. “If I told you there was a way. There is after all two bowls I could use to increase the amount of crumbs available to you…”
The next night, the cat placed himself in front of the 3 bowls and started to eat nonchalantly ignoring the 2 other cats who were looking at him curiously. The greedy cat could feel their anger rising as a reaction to his behavior. He turned slowly and looking calmly at each cat he made this address: “From this day forward these 3 bowls and all the food they contain belong to me. If you dare take what belongs to me, you will suffer the consequences.”
“And who will do this? You against us two?”
“Who has said I was alone?” At this moment, all around them, the mice exited from the holes where they were hiding. They were everywhere. On the shelves, windowsills, chairs… The 2 cats were surrounded by these mice which were staring menacingly at them. This was so unnatural; the 2 cats retreated forgetting their claim upon the food which had been their property.
After telling this story, John Smith asked this question to his prisoner: “Do you know what the moral of this story is?”
“I don’t know. Is it that numbers prevailed against strength?”
“No there are many morals to this story differing based on whether you are mice, one cat or 2 cats. The moral of this story for the mice is to be suspicious of a cat’s charity. There will be 2 hungry cats now roaming the house. A cat which is hungry will learn to hunt mice. The mice will pay dearly for the right to a few more crumbs. For the 2 cats, the moral of the story is different. You should never stop being hungry as this invites aggression and exploitation. A cat which sleeps is a prey which is awakening. Finally for the greedy cat, the moral of the story is quite surprising. He is not deaf. He hears the cries of terror of the mice being hunted and devoured by the 2 hungry cats. He shares this terror as he knows it is only a question of time before the 2 cats have enough faith into their claws to claim back their bowls and food and probably much more as vengeance rarely equals the sum of the wrongs which have been committed.
“So the moral is there is no winner?”
“Not exactly. The greedy cat is not stupid. He has already negotiated the protection of the dog of the house. It takes a lot of food to feed a dog. The greedy cat will have at the end less food than he had when he started at the beginning with one bowl of food. However he is the winner because his desires have never been motivated by his needs. His desires were motivated by what he wanted and what he wanted was to have more than the other 2 cats. To support such imbalance he will learn you have to be willing to feed the dog at any cost.”