TRYING TO CONTROL THE FUTURE – A Story by Huai Nan Tzu
A poor farmer’s horse ran off into the country of barbarians. All his neighbours offered their condolences, but his father said, ‘How do you know that this isn’t good fortune?’
After a few months the horse returned with a barbarian horse of excellent stock. All his neighbours offered their congratulations, but the father said, ‘How do you know that this isn’t disaster?’ The two horses bred, and the family became rich in fine horses.
The farmer’s son spent much of his time riding them; one day he fell off and broke his hipbone. All the neighbours offered the farmer their condolences, but his father said, ‘How do you know that this isn’t good fortune?’
Another year passed, and the barbarians invaded the frontier. All the able-bodied young men were conscripted, and nine-tenths of them died in the war. Thus good fortune can be disaster and vice-versa. Who can tell how events will be transformed?
THE AWAKENING OF COMPASSION
A young woman wrote about finding herself in a small town in the Middle East surrounded by people jeering, yelling, and threatening to throw stones at her and her friends because they were Americans.
Of course she was terrified, and what happened to her is important. Suddenly she identified with every person throughout history who had ever been scorned and hated. She understood what it was like to be despised for any reason: ethnic group, racial background, sexual preference, gender.
Something cracked wide open and she stood in the shoes of millions of oppressed people and saw with a new perspective. She even understood her shared humanity with those who hated her. This sense of deep connection of belonging to the same family, is the awakening of the great heart of compassion.
A NUGGET OF GOLD
A poor man was walking along a road when he met a traveller who stopped him and said: ‘My good friend, I see you are poor. Take this gold nugget, sell it, and you will be rich all your days.’
The man was overjoyed at his good fortune and took the nugget home. He immediately found work and become so prosperous that he did not sell the nugget. Years passed, and he became very rich.
One day he met a poor man on the road. He stopped him and said: ‘My good friend, I will give you this gold nugget, which, if you sell, will make you rich for life’. The mendicant took the nugget, had it valued and found it was only brass. So we see, the first man became rich through feeling rich, thinking the nugget was gold.
Every man has within himself a gold nugget; it is his consciousness of gold, of opulence which brings riches into his life.
SHARING OF HIS BEST
There was a farmer who grew superior quality and award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won honour and prizes. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learnt something interesting about how he grew it.
The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbours.
‘How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbours when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?’ the reporter asked.
‘Why sir,’ said the farmer, ‘didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbours grow inferior, sub-standard and poor quality corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbours grow good corn.’
The farmer gave a superb insight into the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbour’s corn also improves. So it is in the other dimensions.
BEING AN FREE PRISONER
There is an old legend of the Middle Ages that is very instructive. It seems that a citizen was arrested by one of the Barons and shut up in a dungeon in his castle. He was taken down dark stairs, down, down, down, by a ferocious-looking jailer who carried a great key a foot long. The door of a cell was opened, he was thrust into a dark hole and the door shut with a bang.
He lay in that dark dungeon. Each day the jailer would come, the big door would be opened with a great creaking and groaning, a pitcher of water and a loaf of bread would be thrust in and the door closed again.
Well, after twenty years the prisoner decided that he could not stand it any longer. He wanted to die but did not want to commit suicide, so he decided that the next day when the jailer came he would attack him and be killed in self-defence. He decided to examine the door carefully so as to be ready the next day. He turned the handle and to his amazement the door opened for there was no lock.
He groped along the corridor and made his way up the stairs where two soldiers were chatting. They made no attempt to stop him. He crossed the yard, passed an armed guard at the drawbridge and walked out, a free man.
He went home unmolested and lived happily ever after. He had for twenty years been captive, not of stone but of false belief.
WISDOM FROM THE ZEN MASTERS
Wealthy donors invited Master Ikkyu to a banquet. The Master arrived there dressed in a beggar’s robes. His host, not recognising him in this garb, hustled him away: ‘We cannot have you here at the doorstep. We are expecting the famous Master Ikkyu any moment.’ The Master went home, there changed into his ceremonial robe of purple brocade, and again presented himself at his host’s doorstep. He was received with due respect, and ushered into the banquet room. There, he put his stiff robe on the cushion, saying, ‘I expect you invited the robe since you showed me away a little while ago,’ and left.
“When I was about eight or nine, my mom burnt some toast.
One night that stood out in my mind is when she had made dinner for us after a very long and rough day at work, She placed a plate of jam and extremely burned toast in front of my dad. Not slightly burnt but completely blackened toast.
I was just waiting to see if anyone noticed the burnt toast and would say anything. But Dad just ate his toast and asked me if I did my homework and how my day was. I don’t remember what I told him that night, but I do remember hearing my mom apologizing to dad for burning the toast. And I’ll never forget what he said:
‘Sweetie, I love burned toast.’
Later that night, I went to tell my dad good night and ask him if he really liked his toast burned. He put his arm on my shoulder and said,
‘Your momma put in a very long day at work today and she was very tired. And besides, A burnt toast never hurts anyone but you know what does? Harsh words!’
Then he continued to say ‘You know, life is full of imperfect things and imperfect people I’m not the best at hardly anything, and I forget birthdays and anniversaries just like every other human. What I’ve learned over the years, is that learning to accept each other’s faults and choosing to celebrate each other’s differences, is one of the most important keys for creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship. Life is too short to wake up with regrets. Love the people who treat you right and have compassion for the ones who don’t.’
LESSONS FROM GEESE
Have you ever wondered why geese fly in V formation? As with most animal behaviour, God had a good reason for including that in their instincts. As each bird flaps it wings, it creates uplift for the bird following. In a V formation, the whole flock adds 71% more flying range than if each bird flew alone. Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation. Like geese, people who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier than those who try it alone. When a goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies at the point position.
If people had as much sense as these geese, they would realise that ultimately their success depends on working as a team, taking turns doing the hard tasks and sharing the leadership.
Geese in the rear formation honk to encourage those up front to up their speed.
It is important that our ‘honking’ from behind be encouraging. Otherwise, it is just honking.
When a goose gets sick or wounded, two other geese drop out of formation two other geese follow it down to help and to provide protection. They stay with the unhealthy member of the flock until it is either able to fly again or dies. They then launch out again with another passing flock or try to catch up with their own.
May we be so sacrificial that we may be worthy of such friends in our time of need.
We don’t have to be scientists to learn from God’s marvellous creation; you need only stop long enough to observe and let God reveal his wonders to you.
‘But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know,
that the hand of the Lord has done this?’
The Bible. Job 12:7-9
THE BAKER’S CART
In a small village, every morning a baker did his rounds with his donkey cart; the donkey in the front, the baker in the middle on the cart with his wares at the back.
While most of us were fortunate to be light-hearted and carefree as children and youth, the cart behind us being empty and light, at some stage we begin to load our cart with the weight of experiences which we have to then haul behind us. This makes our progress difficult, the load getting heavier each year. Eventually, the towering load of burdens makes life exhausting for the poor droopy-eared donkey to drag along.
Life was meant to be light, and having learned from our experiences we are meant to let them go and continue lightly on our journey.
ONE PIECE OF SILVER
In the 24th verse of Job we read, ‘Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks.’ The French version reads, ‘Throw gold into the dust, the gold of Ophir amongst the pebbles of the torrents, and the Almighty shall be thy gold, thy silver, thy riches.’
A priest went to visit a nunnery in France, where they fed many children. One of the nuns, in despair, told the priest they had no food, the children must go hungry. She said that they had but one piece of silver. They needed food and clothing.
The priest said, ‘Give me the coin.’
She handed it to him and he threw it out the window.
‘Now,’ he said, rely entirely upon God.’
Within a short time friends arrived with plenty of food and gifts or money.
THE THREE HERMITS
The great novelist Leo Tolstoy wrote a delightful folk take, The Three Hermits. His friend Nicholas Roerich summarised it, as follows:
‘On an island there lived three old hermits. They were so simple that the only prayer they used was: ‘We are three; Thou art Three – have mercy on us!’ Great miracles were manifested during this naive prayer.
‘The local bishop came to hear about the three hermits and their inadmissible prayer, and decided to visit them in order to teach them the canonical invocations. He arrived on the island, told the hermits that their heavenly petition was undignified, and taught them many of the customary prayers. The bishop then left on a boat. He saw, following the ship, a radiant light. As it approached he discerned the three hermits, who were holding hands and running upon the waves in an effort to overtake the vessel.
‘ ‘We have forgotten the prayers you taught us,’ they cried as they reached the bishop, ‘and have hastened to ask you to repeat them.’ The awed bishop shook his head.
‘ ‘Dear ones, he replied humbly, ‘continue to live with your old prayer!’ ’
(This story apparently has a historical bases; an editorial note informs us that the bishop met the three hermits while he was sailing from Archangel to the Solvetsky Monastery, at the mouth of the Dvina River.)
THE WAVE AND THE OCEAN
A little wave was bobbing along in the ocean, having a grand old time. He’s enjoying the wind and the fresh air – until he notices the other waves in front of him, crashing against the shore.
‘Oh, my goodness is this what’s going to happen to me?’
Then along came another wave. It notices the first wave’s concern and says to it, ‘Why do you look so sad?’
The little wave says ‘You don’t understand! We’re all going to crash! All of us waves are going to be nothing! This is awful.’
The second wave says, ‘You don’t understand. You’re not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.’
INSIGHT TO THE CONNECTEDNESS OF LIFE
There was a farmer who grew superior quality and award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won honor and prizes. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learnt something interesting about how he grew it.
The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbours.
“How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbours when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.
“Why sir,” said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbours grow inferior, sub-standard and poor quality corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbours grow good corn.”
The farmer gave a superb insight into the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbour’s corn also improves. So it is in the other dimensions.
WHERE LIFE ACTUALLY HAPPENS
A few searchers came to an old master and asked him: ‘Sir, what do you do to be happy and content? We would love to be as happy as you are.’
With a gentle smile the old man answered. ‘When I lie down, then I lie down. When I get up then I get up. When I walk then I am walking and when I eat then I am eating.’ The questioner looked around somewhat confused.
One of them found his courage and asked, ‘Please don’t joke with us. We do the same things but we are not happy. So please, what’s your secret?’
After a while the master answered. ‘Surely you lie down and you walk and you eat. But while you are lying down you already think of getting up. While you are getting up you are already thinking about where you want to go and while you walk you are already asking what you are going to eat. Your thoughts are constantly someplace else and not where you are at the present. In the spot between the past and the future is where life actually happens. Focus totally on this immeasurable moment and you have a change of finding complete happiness and contentment.’
THE SECRET OF WORK
Whatever we do, we want a return. We are all traders. We are traders in life, we are traders in virtue. We are traders in religion. And alas! We are also traders in love.
If you come to trade, if it is a question of give-and-take, if it is a question of buy-and-sell, abide by the laws of buying and selling. There is a bad time and there is a good time; there is a rise and a fall in prices: always expect the blow to come. It is like looking at the mirror. Your face is reflected: you make a grimace — there is one in the mirror; if you laugh, the mirror laughs. This is buying and selling, giving and taking.
We get caught. How? Not by what we give, but by what we expect. We get misery in return for our love; not from the fact that we love, but from the fact that we want love in return. There is no misery where there is no want. Desire and want, is the father of all misery. Desires are bound by the laws of success and failure. Desires must bring misery.
The great secret of true success, of true happiness, then, is this: the man, who asks for no return, the perfectly unselfish man, is the most successful. It seems to be a paradox. Do we not know that every man who is unselfish in life gets cheated, gets hurt? Apparently, yes. “Christ was unselfish, and yet he was crucified.” True, but we know that his unselfishness is the reason, the cause of a great victory — the crowning of millions upon millions of lives with the blessings of true success.
THE SEEKER OF TRUTH
After years of searching, the seeker was told to go to a cave, in which he would find a well. ‘Ask the well what is truth’, he was advised, ‘and the well will reveal it to you’. Having found the well, the seeker asked that most fundamental question. And from the depths came the answer, ‘Go to the village crossroad: there you shall find what you are seeking’.
Full of hope and anticipation the man ran to the crossroad to find only three rather uninteresting shops. One shop was selling pieces of metal, another sold wood, and thin wires were for sale in the third. Nothing and no one there seemed to have much to do with the revelation of truth.
Disappointed, the seeker returned to the well to demand an explanation, but he was told only, ‘You will understand in the future.’ When the man protested, all he got in return were the echoes of his own shouts. Indignant for having been made a fool of – or so he thought at the time – the seeker continued his wanderings in search of truth. As years went by, the memory of his experience at the well gradually faded until one night, while he was walking in the moonlight, the sound of sitar music caught his attention. It was wonderful music and it was played with great mastery and inspiration.
Profoundly moved, the truth seeker felt drawn towards the player. He looked at the fingers dancing over the strings. He became aware of the sitar itself. And then suddenly he exploded in a cry of joyous recognition: the sitar was made out of wires and pieces of metal and wood just like those he had once seen in the three stores and had thought it to be without any particular significance.
At last he understood the message of the well: we have already been given everything we need: our task is to assemble and use it in the appropriate way. Nothing is meaningful so long as we perceive only separate fragments. But as soon as the fragments come together into a synthesis, a new entity emerges, whose nature we could not have foreseen by considering the fragments alone.
THE OBSTACLE IN OUR PATH
In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.
Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.
The peasant learned what many of us never understand! Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.
A LITTLE CHILD WHISPERED
A little child whispered: ‘God, speak to me.’ And a meadowlark sang. But the child did not hear, so it spoke louder: ‘God, speak to me!’ A bolt of lightning struck down from the sky and thunder rolled through the valley. But the child did not understand, so it looked around and shouted: ‘God, let me see you.’ A star shone brightly, but the child did not notice. In desperation the child yelled: ‘God, show me a miracle!’ A new life was born, but the child could not recognise that this was God’s response. It knelt down on the Earth and prayed: ‘Touch me God, and let me know you are here and with me! Give me one single sign!’ In response God sent a butterfly to sit upon the child’s shoulder. Disappointedly, the child brushed it away and walked off, muttering to itself: ‘I knew it! There is no God.’
Take time to listen and know that the things we are seeking more often than not are to be found right before us. The trouble is that in many cases we are too blind to perceive them. So, let’s open our inner eyes and perceive the many blessings that are all around us, even if at times they come in a different way than we had hoped for.
Once upon a time, by the side of a dusty road in India, there sat a beggar who sold cocoons. A young boy watched him day after day, until the beggar finally beckoned to him and asked: ‘Do you know what beauty lies within this chrysalis? I will give you one so you might see for yourself. But you must be careful not to handle the cocoon until the butterfly comes out.’
The boy was enchanted with his gift and hurried home to await the emergence of the butterfly. He laid the cocoon on the floor and became aware of a curious thing. The butterfly was beating its fragile wings against the hard wall of the chrysalis until it appeared it would surely perish, before it could break the unyielding prison. Wanting only to help, the boy swiftly pried the cocoon open.
Out flopped a wet, brown, ugly thing that quickly died. When he told the beggar about what had happened, he explained to the boy: ‘It is necessary for the butterfly to beat its wings against the walls of its cocoon; the exercise helps them to grow strong enough to support it, when it finally emerges into the light of day. Only through this struggle can its wings become beautiful and durable enough to carry and support it. When this was being denied to the larva, its only chance of survival was taken from it.’
May the walls of your own cocoon be just thick enough – and no more – to help you in your struggle of once again fully becoming the beautiful being I have always known you to be!
One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do.
Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey.
He invited all his neighbours to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement he quieted down.
A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.
As the farmer’s neighbours continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.
Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!
Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.
LEARNING TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE
Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home. As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.
The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.
Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, “I know why.” Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try to live. He said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life, like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”
THE WINDOW THROUGH WHICH WE LOOK
A young couple moves into a new neighbourhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the washing outside. “That laundry is not very clean”, she said. “She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.”
Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her washing out to dry, the young woman would make the same comments.
About one month later, the woman was surprised to see nice clean washing hanging on the line and said to her husband: “Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this.” The husband said, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
And so it is with life. What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the window through which we look. Easy to discuss other people, their lives and things that really don’t even concern us – and we tend to forget – our own window isn’t that clean after all!
AN ATTITUDE TEST
When my brother and I we were children we spent a few weeks each summer in the countryside. Our childless uncle owned a big house there and didn’t mind having children around, so of course our parents were happy to loan us for a few days at a time.
Our uncle was a geologist and loved to go on long walks to find stones to add to his collection at the university. More often than not we followed him. One day we left early and this time uncle had bought us backpacks.
“You can help me carry the samples”, he explained. The whole day we then walked around the countryside and every now and again uncle put stones in our bags. We were a bit surprised he also took some stones out from our bags at times, but figured he had just found better samples than the ones we already had.
Still, when we reached the house in late afternoon, we were beat. The backpacks were so heavy we gave a big sigh of relief when we thumped them on the porch. Yet uncle’s backpack was half empty. “Why did you give us so many stones?” we asked. “I didn’t! You did”, he said cryptically. He waited for a while before continuing: “You did not know it, but I made you go through a little attitude test today.”
“What do you mean with attitude test?” we wanted to know. “It is something someone once did to me – and I shall always remember it. You see I listened to every word you said. And whenever you were complaining about anyone or anything, I added a stone to your bags. And whenever you talked about something in an attitude of gratitude and positive thinking, I took off a stone. And now look at your backpacks.”
We did. They were almost bursting at their seams. “I hope you remember this little attitude test. You see your negative thoughts are like stones. You carry them on in your mind just like those stones in a backpack. The more negative thoughts, the heavier your mind is. A positive thought, however, cancels a negative one. So look at those bags and start paying attention to what you say and how you say it.”
THE ELEPHANT AND THE FLY
A disciple and his teacher were walking through the forest. The disciple was disturbed by the fact that his mind was in constant unrest. He asked his teacher: “Why most people’s minds are restless, and only a few possess a calm mind? What can one do to still the mind?”
The teacher looked at the disciple, smiled and said: “I will tell you a story. An elephant was standing and picking leaves from a tree. A small fly came, flying and buzzing near his ear. The elephant waved it away with his long ears. Then the fly came again, and the elephant waved it away once more”.
This was repeated several times. Then the elephant asked the fly: “Why are you so restless and noisy? Why can’t you stay for a while in one place?” The fly answered: “I am attracted to whatever I see, hear or smell. My five senses pull me constantly in all directions and I cannot resist them. What is your secret? How can you stay so calm and still?”
The elephant stopped eating and said: “My five senses do not rule my attention. Whatever I do, I get immersed in it. Now that I am eating, I am completely immersed in eating. In this way I can enjoy my food and chew it better. I rule and control my attention, and not the other way around.”
Upon hearing these words, the disciple’s eyes opened wide and a smile appeared on his face. He looked at his teacher and said: “I understand! If my five senses are in control of my mind and attention, then my mind is in constant unrest. If I am in charge of my five senses and attention, then my mind becomes calm”.
“Yes, that’s right”, answered the teacher, “The mind is restless and goes wherever the attention is. Control your attention, and you control your mind”.
By Remez Sasson
IF YOUR DOG WERE YOUR TEACHER
If your dog were your teacher, you would learn stuff like…
When a loved one comes home, always run to greet them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and wind on your face to be pure ecstasy.
When it is in your best interests – practise patience.
Let others know when they are invading your territory.
Take naps and stretch before rising.
Run, romp and play daily.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
On warm days, stop and lie on your back in the grass.
On hot day, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.
When you’re happy, dance around and wag your whole body.
No matter how often you are scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout…
Run right back and make friends.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
Never pretend to be something you are not.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close and nuzzle them gently.
TO CATCH A WILD PIG!
There was a chemistry professor in a large college that had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab, the professor noticed one young man, an exchange student, who kept rubbing his back and stretching as if his back hurt. The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country’s government and install a new communist regime.
In the midst of his story, he looked at the professor and asked a strange question. He asked: “Do you know how to catch wild pigs?” The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said that it was no joke. “You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn. “When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. “They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side. “The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat that free corn again. You then slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.”
The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening all around the world. The government keeps pushing us toward Communism/Socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tax exemptions, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops, welfare, medicine, drugs, etc., while we continually lose our freedoms, just a little at a time.
One should always remember two truths:
There is no such thing as a free lunch and you can never hire someone to provide a service for you cheaper than you can do it yourself.
All of this wonderful government ‘help’ is a problem confronting the future of democracy.
But God help us when the gate slams shut.
A successful business man was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together.
He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you. “The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. “I am going to give each one of you a SEED today – one very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO.”
One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure.
Six months went by – still nothing in Jim’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn’t say anything to his colleagues, however. He jus kept watering and fertilizing the soil. He so wanted the seed to grow.
A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Jim told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick at his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the board room. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful–in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for him!
When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Jim just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” said the CEO. “Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!” All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the financial director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, “The CEO knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!”
When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed – Jim told him the story The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, “Behold your next Chief Executive! His name is Jim!” Jim couldn’t believe it. Jim couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new CEO the others said? Then the CEO said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead – it was not possible for them to grow. All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers.
When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive!”
THE KING’S BELOVED DOG
A king had been off to war and was returning to his castle. As he approached the last turn in the road on his way home, his dog sensing his homecoming and ran to meet him. This was his beloved dog that he had left at home to guard his baby and the castle. They had been companions for years. He trusted the dog more than anything else in the world.
The king noticed the dog was highly agitated and had blood all around his mouth. He knew instantly that something was wrong. The dog barked and ran toward the castle.
When the king arrived at home the halls were smeared with blood. He was terrified for his baby was in this wing of the castle. The dog ran toward the baby’s room. When the king entered the room he saw the baby’s crib overturned and he heard no sounds. Enraged, he took out his sword and killed his beloved dog.
Whimpering cries came from under the crib. The king turned the crib over and saw his baby with a dead wolf next to it. He took the baby in his arms and then realised what had happened. The wolf had gotten into the castle and his beloved dog had saved the life of his son. He held his son to his heart and wept with grief.
THE WOODEN BOWL
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.
The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult.. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. ‘We must do something about father,’ said the son.
‘I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.’
So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence.
One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, ‘What are you making?’ Just as sweetly, the boy responded, ‘Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.‘ The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.
The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks.. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.
That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
SOUL MATE SEARCH
The Master asked of his disciple, ‘What troubles you my son?’
‘Ah! Well might you ask, oh! Master, I feel it is time that I moved on and searched for my beloved soul mate, the one who is to be my perfect partner, the most beautiful woman in the whole Universe.’
‘So be it my son, but remember, when all your searching is over, do return here with her.’
‘Yes oh! Master that will surely be.’
Many years later the disciple returned to the Ashram, alone and disconsolate. The Master welcomed him warmly and inquired of his search, ‘Did you find that whom you sought?’
‘Beloved Master, yes indeed. I found her of whom I had dreamed. She was indeed the perfection of those dreams, the perfect woman.’
‘Well my Son, where is she?’
‘Oh! Great sadness, my Master. She too was looking for her perfect man. It was not me.’
One day, the father of averywealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.
On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?” “It was great Dad.” “Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked. “Oh yeah,” said the son. “So, tell me what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.
The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We gave imported lanterns in our garden and they have the starts at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.
We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”
The boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “Thanks Dave for showing me how poor we are.”
Isn’t perspective a wonderful thing? Makes you wonder what would happen if we all gave thanks for everything we have, instead of worrying about what we don’t have. Appreciate every single thing you have, especially your friends!
THE ROBBING HOOD SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENTS
The way things were:
All summer long, Mr and Mrs Ant worked diligently in the scorching heat to construct their home and stock their pantry with supplies for the long and cold winter.
From sun up to sunset, Mr Grasshopper, considering the Ants to be foolish, whiled away the summer in song and dance.
Throughout the long and cold winter, the Ant family, snug and warm in their cosy home, sustained themselves from their well-stocked larder. Mr Grasshopper died of cold and hunger.
Here the moral of the story is that we are each responsible for self.
All summer long, Mr and Mrs Ant worked diligently in the scorching heat to construct their home and stock their pantry with supplies for the long and cold winter. From sun up to sunset, Mr Grasshopper, considering the Ants to be foolish, whiled the summer away in song and dance.
When the first chills of winter arrived the shivering, Mr Grasshopper, in a government orchestrated incident, called a press conference and demanded to know why the Ant family were allowed to enjoy the harvests of their labours while the rest of the community were cold and hungry.
The media screened footage of the shivering grasshopper followed by a scene of the Ant family in their warm and comfortable home, their table laden with food. The world was stunned by the seeming unfairness of this sharp contrast. ‘How can a country of such wealth allow this poor grasshopper to suffer?’
The media took full advantage of the situation, when a group of placard holding demonstrators who had been hired by the authorities, marched on the home of the Ant family. The commentators explained that Mr and Mrs Ant had taken advantage of Mr Grasshopper and others. There were calls for an immediate tax hike to ensure that the Ants pay their fair share.
The Government drafted an Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of that summer. Mr and Mrs Ant are fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of Grasshoppers. With nothing left to pay their retroactive taxes, the ‘Receiver of Robbing You’ confiscated their home.
Mr Grasshopper instigated a lawsuit against the Ants, and the case was tried under the watchful and beady eyes of the trade unions. The Ants, or course, lost the case.
Mr Grasshopper moved into the now Government owned house, which previously belonged to the Ant family. He soon ate all the food in the Ants larder. Due to lack of maintained the property soon crumbled down around his ears.
A while later, Mr Grasshopper was found dead in a drug related incident. A gang of hairy-legged spiders invaded the abandoned house and then terrorised the once peaceful neighbourhood.
Mr and Mrs Ant had long since disappeared in the snow.
A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Texas town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.
As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger…he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.
If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry.
The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind. Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)
Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honour them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home… Not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our long-time visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. My Dad didn’t permit the liberal use of alcohol… But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.
I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked… And NEVER asked to leave.
More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents’ den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.
His name?…. .. . We just call him ‘TV.’
THE LITTLE COW
A Brazilian Folk Tale
A Master of Wisdom was walking through the countryside with his apprentice when they came to a small, dishevelled hovel on a meagre piece of farmland. “See this poor family,” said the Master. “Go see if they will share their food with us.”
“But we have plenty,” said the apprentice.
“Do as I say.”
The obedient apprentice went to the home. The good farmer and his wife, surrounded by their seven children, came to the door, their clothing, dirty and tattered.
“Fair greetings,” said the apprentice. “My Master and I are sojourners and want food. I’ve come to see if you have any to share.”
The farmer said, “We have little, but what we have we will share.” He walked away, returning with a small piece of cheese and a crust of bread. “I am sorry, but we don’t have much.”
The apprentice did not want to take their food, but did as he had been instructed. “Thank you. Your sacrifice is great.”
“Life is difficult,” the farmer said, “but we get by. In spite of our poverty, we do have one great blessing.”
“What blessing is that?” asked the apprentice.
The apprentice went back to his Master with the meagre rations and reported what he had learned about the farmer’s plight. The Master of Wisdom said, ‘I am pleased to hear of their generosity, but I am greatly sorrowed by their circumstance. Before we leave this place, I have one more task for you.”
“Return to the hovel and bring back their cow.”
The apprentice did not know why, but he knew his Master to be merciful and wise, so he did as he was told. When he returned with the cow, he said to his Master, “I have done as you commanded. Now what is it that you would do with this cow?”
“See yonder cliffs? Take the cow to the highest crest and push her over.”
The apprentice was stunned. “But Master …”
“Do as I say.”
The apprentice sorrowfully obeyed. When he had completed his task, the Master and his apprentice went on their way.
Over the next years, the apprentice grew in mercy and wisdom. But every time he thought back on the visit to the poor farmer’s family, he felt a pang of guilt. One day he decided to go back to the farmer and apologise for what he had done. But when he arrived at the farm, the small hovel was gone. Instead there was a large, fenced villa.
“Oh, no,” he cried. “The poor family who was here was driven out by my evil deed.” Determined to learn what had become of the family, he went to the villa and pounded on its great door. The door was answered by a servant. “I would like to speak to the master of the house,” he said.
“As you wish, said the servant. A moment later the apprentice was greeted by a smiling, well-dressed man.
“How may I serve you?” the wealthy man asked.
“Pardon me, sire but could you tell me what has become of the family who once lived on this land but is no more?”
“I do not know what you speak of,” the man replied.
“My family has lived on this land for three generations.”
The apprentice looked at him quizzically. “Many years ago I walked through this valley, where I met a farmer and his seven children. But they were very poor and lived in a small hovel.”
‘Oh,” the man said smiling, “that was my family. But my children have all grown now and have their own estates.”
The apprentice was astonished. “But you are no longer poor. What happened?”
“God works in mysterious ways,” the man said, smiling. “We had this little cow that provided us with the slimmest of necessities, enough to survive but little more. We suffered but expected no more from life. Then, one day, our little cow wandered off and fell over a cliff. We knew that we would be ruined without her, so we did everything we could to survive. Only then did we discover that we had greater power and abilities than we had ever imagined and would never have found as long as we relied on our little cow. What a great blessing from Heaven it was to have lost our little cow.”