THE FOUL-MOUTHED PARROT

In celebration of Thanksgiving, a genteel widow went to a pet shop to buy a parrot. She found a rather splendid one, but the manager warned her it had been raised by a sailor and had a foul mouth. The woman was confident she could reform him, so she took him home, where she soon discovered just how foul a mouth he had.

Not a person to be trifled with, the woman took that bird and locked him in a dark closet for half an hour. Then she put him back in his cage and addressed him solemnly. “Now have you learned your lesson?” The parrot was unbowed, and responded with the same curses as before.

Back to the closet he went, this time for an hour. Again he was asked, “Have you learned your lesson?” And again, undaunted, he squawked his curses. With that, the woman opened the refrigerator door and thrust the parrot inside. When at last she pulled him out, he’d turned blue, his feathers were frozen stiff, and an icicle was hanging from his beak. “Well, now,” she asked triumphantly, “Are we going to say those words anymore?”

“N-n-oo, m-m-ma’am!” said the parrot humbly and with the greatest courtesy, “B-b-but could you please tell me, ma’am, what the turkey in there did?”

Source | Dennis R. Clark, SUNDAY MORNING: Reflections on the Word
(Sheed and Ward, 1996) Cycle B
First Sunday of Advent

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Here is another version of the same story

A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird’s mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity.

John tried and tried to change the bird’s attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to “clean up” the bird’s vocabulary.

Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder.

John, in desperation, threw up his hands, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute.

Fearing that he’d hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto John’s outstretched arms and said, “I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I’m sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behaviour.”

John was stunned at the change in the bird’s attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behaviour, the bird continued, “May I ask what the turkey did?”

Source | Frank Verano, All Kinds of Humor
(Xlibris, 2012) page 45

CONSIDER THIS

Some parrots are very slow learners. And so are some people – probably most of us. We are creatures of habit and it takes a lot of work, time and will power to change a habit. What does it take to shift your attitude?

 

THE SONGBIRD

There was once a successful businessman who had everything – a beautiful wife, adorable children and a big house in which they all lived happily. The pride of his life though was his exotic songbird which he kept in a cage and fed delicious titbits when it entertained his guests.

One day the man had to go on a journey far to the south and he asked his wife and children what presents they would like from abroad – they asked for fine silks, honeycomb and clockwork toys. Finally he asked his songbird if he would like him to bring anything back.

“I wish only for one small favour.” The songbird replied.

“Anything!” his master declared.

“Just this – when you see my cousins in the trees in the place you’re going to, please tell them about my conditions here.”

“Are you sure? I could bring you back a fine jewel-encrusted mirror or dried tropical fruit?”

“No, just this, thank you.” The songbird replied and the man went away feeling a little disconcerted but resolved to carry out his pet’s wishes.

The man made his trip safely and carried out his business to satisfaction and spent his remaining time there buying the presents his family had requested. Finally, he went to a park and saw some birds in the trees that bore a remarkable resemblance to his own songbird. He called up to one of them and told them about how his own bird lived in cage and sang for him.

But no sooner had he finished speaking than one of these exotic birds trembled on its perch and tumbled to the ground and ceased to move. The man held his head in grief and the incident quite spoiled his trip.

He returned home and greeted his wife and family who were delighted at their presents but he couldn’t share their pleasure as long as the forthcoming encounter with his songbird remained on his conscience. Finally he found the courage to go down to the garden.

“Well?” his songbird asked and, hesitantly, the man told him exactly what had happened. The song bird listened intently, then trembled on his perch and fell to the bottom of his cage, dead.

The man was now beside himself with grief and confusion. Weeping openly, he opened the door of the cage and carried out his beloved songbird in his hands. No sooner had he done so, however, the songbird returned to life and flew up to the branches of the nearest tree and let out a shrill of joy at finding its freedom.

The man scratched his head in wonder and eventually asked:

“Okay, you win. But tell me please, what was in the message that contained this trick?”

The songbird looked down at him with pity and said:

“My cousin in Africa showed me that it was my beauty that kept me in the cage. Were it not for the delight of my singing voice you would have lost interest long ago. I had to give up that life in order to become free.”

Source : The Essential Rumi. Renditions of Rumi by Coleman Barks

PONDER AND CONSIDER

The image of dying unto oneself is a common theme in many spiritual traditions. Of particular interest is the dying to world and the things and possessions that we hold precious in order to experience the authentic and radical freedom of living in grace.

In one sense this story is about the self-limitaion of vanity but at a deeper level there’s the notion that as long as we’re in love with ourselves we will always be in a cage of our own making.

THE ANSWER IS IN YOUR HANDS

Once there was a wise old man and a smart little boy.  The boy  was driven by a single desire – to expose the wise old man as a fool.  The smart boy had a plan.  He had captured a small and very fragile bird in the forest.  With the bird cupped in his hands, the boy’s scheme was to approach the old man and ask him, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?”  to which the wise old man would reply, “You have a bird, my son.”

Then the boy would ask, “Old man, is the bird alive or is it dead?”  If the old man replied that the bird was dead, the smart boy would open his hands and allow the bird to fly off back into the forest.  But if the old man replied that the bird was alive, the smart boy would crush the bird inside his cupped hands, and crush it, and crush it, until at last the bird dies.  Then the boy would open his hands and say, “See, old man, the bird is dead!”

And so as the story goes, the smart boy went to the old man and he said, as planned, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?”

The old man replied, “You have  a bird, my son.”

“Old man”, the boy than said, his voice dripping with disdain, “is the bird alive or is it dead?”

Whereupon the old man looked at the boy with his kindly old eyes and replied, “the answer is in your hands, my son.”

Source |  Gerry Spence, How to Argue and Win Every Time
St. Martin’s Griffin, 1996) page 142

CONSIDER THIS

TWO HANDS

I am a fist,
A sign of fear
A sign of anger
A sign of greed
A sign of tension

I can pound a desk
I can hoard money
I can try to scare you
I can punch you
In the mouth.

I am a fist.
What do you think of me?

I am an open hand,
A sign of calm,
A sign of ease,
A sign of peace,
A sign of relaxation.

I can dial a phone,
I can shake a hand,
I can change the diapers,
I can play cards,
I can break the bread,
I can pass the wine,
I can heal the hurt,
I can write the poem.

I am an open hand.
What do you think of me?

Andrew Costello CSSR, “The Two Hands” in Listenings (Chicago: Thomas More, 1980) page 107.

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