A traveler who had to cross a desert plain hired a donkey to carry him on the journey, and offered the donkey’s owner a good sum to act as a guide. They set out early in the morning, the traveler riding on the donkey and his guide walking alongside. Soon they had left all greenery behind, and as the sun rose higher in the sky, the heat scorched their skins and parched their throats.
At last the traveler called a halt. Since there was no other shade, he threw himself down to rest in the donkey’s shadow.
“What right do you have to that shade?” protested the guide. “Move over – that’s my place to rest.”
“Cheat!” answered the traveler angrily. “Didn’t I pay you for the use of the donkey all day long?”
“You paid me for the donkey, it’s true,” retorted the guide, “but you never paid for his shadow!”
As they argued, neither remembered to keep hold of the donkey’s reins. Frightened by the shouting, the donkey took to his heels and ran off across the desert, leaving the two men with no shade to rest in and no beast to ride.
Source | Jerry Pinkney, Aesop’s Fables
(Chronicle Books, 2000) page 30
We lose what really matters when we quarrel over trivial, tangential matters.