THE TWO DROPS OF OIL

A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world. The lad wandered through the desert for forty days, and finally came upon a beautiful castle, high atop a mountain. It was there that the wise man lived.

Rather than finding a saintly man though, our hero, on entering the main room of the castle, saw a hive of activity: tradesmen came and went, people were conversing in the corners, a small orchestra was playing soft music, and there was a table covered with platters of the most delicious food in that part of the world. The wise man conversed with everyone, and the boy had to wait for two hours before it was his turn to be given the man’s attention.

The wise man listened attentively to the boy’s explanation of why he had come, but told him that he didn’t have time just then to explain the secret of happiness. He suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in two hours.

“Meanwhile I want to ask you to do something,” said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil.  “As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.”

The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was.

“Well,” asked the wise man, “did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,” said the wise man. “You cannot trust a man if you don’t know his house.”

Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers, and the taste with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen.

“But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?” asked the wise man.

Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone.

“Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you,” said the wisest of wise men. “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”

Source | Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist
(HarperOne; 1st edition, 2006)) pages 32-34

CONSIDER THIS

How often do we meander through our lives focused solely on ourselves or so caught up in the frenzy of work and assignments, that we fail to see the holes we are digging for ourselves?

How can we appreciate the beauty that surrounds us without losing focus of the drops of oil, the things in life that really matter, such as family, friends and the ties that bind us together?

 

 

 

CHILDREN WILL GET THE POINT

In the full bus, packed to overflowing actually, everyone’s attention was drawn to a small boy holding a scrap of wood with extreme care. One lady could not bear it any longer, and asked him why he was being so careful about this worthless scrap of wood.

He explained, “I am taking a little ant for a ride. She is my great friend. It is her first trip in a bus.”

Who would ever have thought the kid could have so much poetry and kindness in him!

I could not keep my eyes off him. When he got off the bus, I got off too. I felt that here was someone I could really talk to.

I explained that I too was very fond of little ants. And I told him about the only time when the ants and I had ever been at cross purposes.

One night, our little ants at home gobbled up our rosebush. Nest morning, I caught Sonja, a little red lady ant and one of the cleverest I ever met in my life. I didn’t squeeze her angrily – for God preserved me from anger! But I did hold her with a certain firmness. Her little foot was trembling and her heart was beating fit to burst.

I asked her why they had gobbled up my rosebush in a single night.

Miss Sonja replied, “Do you think you are the only person to like roses?”

At first I was taken a back, but then retorted, “Eating seems a funny way of loving!”

At which Sonja nearly made me die of shame by asking, “Isn’t that what you do at Holy Communion?”

I apologized to her and set her free, carefully putting her back on the ground. For the next three days, all the ants looked at me askance.

Unable to bear this any longer, I called Sonja and asked her to help me.

And this is how, be means of Sonja, I taught the ants to smell the roses instead of eating them. I explained to them that kissing roses goes on all over the place. But not up here in Nordeste – we just smell them.

I invited the little boy who was taking his ant-friend for a bus ride to come and visit our garden one moonlit night and see all the ants climbing up the rosebush and smelling the roses.

The child did not react like a grown-up: he was not surprised, he did not disbelieve me. He thought it was great!

So I then told him how, one day, I met a young ant called Claudia, who was limping. We were in the garden at home. With her permission, I turned her over on her back to see what was the matter with her tiny foot.

So it was that Claudia for the first time saw the sky – for ants are just like us – go, go, go, run, run, never pausing to look up and gaze at the sky.

On seeing the sky for the first time, Claudia lay open-mouthed with amazement and delight. I soon realized there was no point in asking her about the foot. She was not listening. She was looking at the sky.

I told the little boy as he got into another bus carrying his ant on the bit of wood, “If you come to my house one moonlit night, you may very well find the little ants lying on their backs with their heads in the grass, gazing at the moon.”

Source | Dom Helder Camara, A Thousand Reasons for Living
(Fortress Press, 1981) pages 5-7

CONSIDER THIS

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. | Matthew 18:2-4 (NRSV)

For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.” | Matthew 18:2-5 (the Message)

 

 

COMMITTED OR MERELY INVOLVED

A Chicken and a Pig lived on a farm. The farmer was very good to them and they both wanted to do something good for him.

One day the chicken approached the pig and said, “I have a great idea for something we can do for the farmer! Would you like to help?”

The pig, quite intrigued by this, said, “of course! What is it that you propose?”

The chicken knew how much the farmer enjoyed a good healthy breakfast. He also knew how little time the farmer had to make a good breakfast. “I think the farmer would be very happy if we made him breakfast.”

The pig thought about this. While not as close to the farmer, he too knew of the farmer’s love for a good breakfast. “I’d be happy to help you make breakfast for the farmer! What do you suggest we make?”

The chicken, understanding that he had little else to offer suggested, “I could provide some eggs.”

The pig knew the farmer might want more, “That’s a fine start. What else should we make?”

The chicken looked around…scratched his head…then said, “ham? The farmer loves ham and eggs!”

The pig, very mindful of what this implied, said, “that’s fine, but while you’re making a contribution I’m making a real commitment!”

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HERE’S ANOTHER VERSION OF THE SAME STORY

A pig and a hen sharing the same barnyard heard about a church’s program to feed the hungry. The pig and the hen discussed how they could help. The hen said, “I’ve got it! We’ll provide bacon and eggs for the church to feed the hungry.” The pig thought about the suggestion and said, “There’s only thing wrong with your bacon and eggs idea. For you, it only requires a contribution, but from me, it will mean total commitment!”

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AND ANOTHER VERSION

A pig and a chicken are walking down the road.

The chicken says: “Hey pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”

Pig replies: “Hm, maybe, what would we call it?”

The chicken responds: “How about ‘bacon-n-eggs’?”

The pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved!”

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SOMETIMES, THE STORY IS PRESENTED AS A RIDDLE

Question:
In a bacon-and-egg breakfast, what’s the difference between the Chicken and the Pig?

Answer:
The Chicken is involved, but the Pig is committed!

Source | Wikipedia

CONSIDER THIS

  • What is your level of commitment to your life, organization, team, or mission?
  • Are you committed or merely involved?
  • Are you willing to increase your level of commitment? If the answer is yes, how do you imagine yourself doing it?

HE’S MY BROTHER

Someone once met a lad going to school long before the days when transport was provided. The lad was carrying on his back a smaller boy who was clearly lame and unable to walk.

The stranger said to the lad, “Do you carry him to school every day?”

“Yes,” said the boy.

“That’s a heavy burden for you to carry,” said the stranger.

“He’s not heavy,” said the boy. “He’s my brother.”

Source |  William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude
(Westminster John Knox Press, 2002) page 116

CONSIDER THIS

No burden is ever too heavy when it is received and carried in love.

THE PHOTOGENIC LILY

One evening after dinner the master and the disciple were looking at some photos. The disciple picked a beautiful photograph of a water lily, held it in his hands, and gazing upon it, asked, “Tell me master, how were you able to take such a splendid picture?”

With a smile, the master replied, “Well, I had to be very patient and very attentive. It was only after a few hours of compliments that the lily was willing to let me take her picture.”

Source | Based on a story told by Henri Nouwen in
Clowning in Rome (Image, 2000) page 87

CONSIDER THIS

Our difficult and very urgent task is to accept the truth that nature is not primarily a property to be possessed, but a gift to be received with admiration and gratitude. Only when we make a deep bow to the rivers, oceans, hills, and mountains that offer us a home, only then can they become transparent and reveal to us their real meaning.

LAUGHING AT YOURSELF

There was nothing pompously about the Master. Wild, hilarious laughter prevailed each time he spoke, to the dismay of those who were solemn about their spirituality, and themselves.

Said one disillusioned visitor, “The man’s a clown!”

“No, no,” said a disciple. “You’ve missed the point: a clown gets you to laugh at him, a Master gets you to laugh at yourself.”

Source | Anthony de Mello, One Minute Nonsense,
(Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1992Chapter 35

Published in the USA as Awakening: Conversations with the Masters,
(Image, 2003) Chapter 35

CONSIDER THIS

“If you can laugh at yourself, you can forgive yourself and if you can forgive yourself, you can forgive others.” |  Susan Sparks, an ex-lawyer turned comedian and Baptist minister

“We can never truly learn to laugh at ourselves until we learn to accept the things about ourselves that are either impossible or impractical to be changed.” | Jeanne Robertson, humorists

THAT’S A HELL OF A DIFFERENCE

Long ago there lived an old woman who had a wish. She wished more than anything to see for herself the difference between heaven and hell. The monks in the temple agreed to grant her request. They put a blindfold around her eyes, and said, “First you shall see hell.”

When the blindfold was removed, the old woman was standing at the entrance to a great dining hall. The hall was full of round tables, each piled high with the most delicious foods — meats, vegetables, fruits, breads, and desserts of all kinds! The smells that reached her nose were wonderful.

The old woman noticed that, in hell, there were people seated around those round tables. She saw that their bodies were thin, and their faces were gaunt, and creased with frustration. Each person held a spoon. The spoons must have been three feet long! They were so long that the people in hell could reach the food on those platters, but they could not get the food back to their mouths. As the old woman watched, she heard their hungry desperate cries. “I’ve seen enough,” she cried. “Please let me see heaven.”

And so again the blindfold was put around her eyes, and the old woman heard, “Now you shall see heaven.” When the blindfold was removed, the old woman was confused. For there she stood again, at the entrance to a great dining hall, filled with round tables piled high with the same lavish feast. And again, she saw that there were people sitting just out of arm’s reach of the food with those three-foot long spoons.

But as the old woman looked closer, she noticed that the people in heaven were plump and had rosy, happy faces. As she watched, a joyous sound of laughter filled the air.

And soon the old woman was laughing too, for now she understood the difference between heaven and hell for herself. The people in heaven were using those long spoons to feed each other.

Source | Adapted from a Japanese and Chinese folk tale by
Elisa Pearmain, in Doorways to the Soul

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Here’s another version of the same story

A rabbi was talking with God about Heaven and Hell.

“Come,” said God. “Walk with me, and I will show you Hell.”

And together they walked into a room of cold, rough stone. In the center of the room, atop a low fire, sat a huge pot of quietly simmering stew. The stew smelled delicious, and made the rabbi’s mouth water. A group of people sat in a circle around the pot, and each of them held a curiously long-handled spoon. The spoons were long enough to reach the pot; but the handles were so ungainly that every time someone dipped the bowl of their spoon into the pot and tried to maneuver the bowl to their mouth, the stew would spill. The rabbi could hear the grumblings of their bellies. They were cold, hungry, and miserable.

“And now,” God said, “I will show you Heaven.”

Together they walked into another room, almost identical to the first. A second pot of stew simmered in the center; another ring of people sat around it; each person was outfitted with one of the frustratingly long spoons. But this time, the people sat with the spoons across their laps or laid on the stone beside them. They talked, quietly and cheerfully with one another. They were warm, well-fed, and happy.

“Lord, I don’t understand,” said the rabbi. “How was the first room Hell; and this, Heaven?”

God smiled. “It’s simple,” he said. “You see, they have learned to feed each other.”

Source | Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto

CONSIDER THIS

Oftentimes all it takes to taste heaven is to stretch beyond our limited horizons and myopic visions, and offer a helping hand to the other. It is all about the art of “one anothering”: to love one another, to forgive one another, to listen to one another, to help one another, to be compassionate with one another etc …