THE DONKEY AND THE LOAD OF SALT

A merchant who owned a donkey heard that salt was cheaper by the seashore, so he decided to go into the salt business. He went and loaded his donkey with salt and then headed back home. At a certain moment, the donkey accidentally lost his footing and fell straight into a stream. This caused the salt to dissolve, making his load lighter. The donkey was thus able to rise easily to his feet and enjoy a less taxing journey home. The merchant sold what was left of the salt and led the donkey back again to load him with an even greater cargo than before. As the donkey made his way with difficulty back to the stream where he had fallen before, he sank to his knees on purpose this time. Then, after his cargo had dissolved in the water, he leaped nimbly to his feet, delighted to have turned the situation to his advantage, or so he thought. The merchant realized what was happening and decided that the next time he would bring back home a big load of porous sponges. On their way back across the stream, the wicked donkey fell down on purpose as before. This time the sponges grew heavy with water and the cargo expanded. As a result, the donkey had to carry a burden that was twice as heavy as it had been to begin with.

Source |  Aesop’s Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs.
(Oxford University Press, 2002) page 78

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Here’s a slightly different version

A Salt Merchant drove his Donkey to the seashore to buy salt. His road home lay across a stream into which his Donkey tripped and fell by accident. When the Donkey got out of the water, his load considerably lighter, as the water melted the salt in the sack.

The Merchant went back to the market by the seashore and refilled his bags with a larger quantity of salt than before. When he came again to the stream, the Donkey fell down on purpose in the same spot, and, regaining his feet with the weight of his load much diminished, brayed triumphantly as if he had obtained what he desired.

The Merchant saw through this trick and drove the Donkey for the third time to the coast, where he bought a cargo of sponges instead of salt. The Donkey, again playing the fool, fell down on purpose when he reached the stream, but the sponges became swollen with water, greatly increasing his load. Thus his trick recoiled on him, for he now carried on his back a double burden.

CONSIDER THIS

It often happens that the same things which brought us luck can also get us into trouble.

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ONLY A DONKEY

The donkey awakened, his mind still savoring the afterglow of the most exciting day of his life. Never before had he felt such a rush of pleasure and pride.

He walked into town and found a group of people by the well. “I’ll show myself to them,” he thought.

But they didn’t notice him. They went on drawing their water and paid him no mind.

“Throw your garments down,” he said crossly. “Don’t you know who I am?”

They just looked at him in amazement. Someone slapped him across the tail and ordered him to move.

“Miserable heathens!” he muttered to himself. “I’ll just go to the market where the good people are. They will remember me.”

But the same thing happened. No one paid any attention to the donkey as he strutted down the main street in front of the market place.

“The palm branches! Where are the palm branches!” he shouted. “Yesterday, you threw palm branches!”

Hurt and confused, the donkey returned home to his mother.

“Foolish child,” she said gently. “Don’t you realize that without Him, you are just an ordinary donkey?”

Source | Wayne Rice Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks
(Youth Specialties, Inc. 1994) page 138

CONSIDER THIS

Just like the donkey who carried Jesus into the city of Jerusalem, we are most fulfilled when we are in the service of others. When we help another person in minor or major ways, we are no longer just ordinary people, but key players in the building of the kin-dom of God.

THE DONKEY’S SHADOW

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

 CONSIDER THIS

We lose what really matters when we quarrel over trivial, tangential matters.

DARKNESS AND LIGHT

A rabbi asked his students, “When is it at dawn that one can tell the light from the darkness?”

One student replied, “When I can tell a goat from a donkey.”

“No,” answered the rabbi.

Another said, “When I can tell a palm tree from a fig.”

“No,” answered the rabbi again.

“Well, then what is the answer?” his students pressed him.

“Only when you look into the face of every man and every woman and see your brother and your sister,” said the rabbi. “Only then have you seen the light. All else is still darkness.”

Source | Johann Christoph Arnold, Seeking Peace
(Plume, 2000) page 103

CONSIDER THIS

“We can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do by what we deny ourselves, what we resist and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create and who we include.”  | from the ‘Chocolat’

Who is it that you are still excluding from the circle of your compassion?

THE HEART DONKEY

There was a man in Turkey who was travelling with his favourite donkey, a faithful companion for years and an animal very close to his heart. At the end of a hard day on the road he came to an inn and decided to rest there for the night. No sooner than he had taken off the saddle bags than a youth working for the inn came out to greet him.

“Salaam Aleikum, sir, welcome to our humble shelter! Please, come inside and get some warm soup and sit beside the fire.”

“Of course, I’d love to but first I must make sure my donkey is well cared for.” The man said, patting his donkey on the back. The youth smiled generously.

“Please, sir, allow me to attend to such details, you are an honoured guest here.”

“But it’s just that he’s an old donkey and needs a nice bed of hay to lie in.”

“Sir, we guarantee you the best care possible.”

“But you will sweep the floor first to make sure there are no stones? He gets in a terrible mood if he doesn’t sleep well.”

“Please, sir, just trust me, we are professionals here.”

“But you will add some water to his straw – his teeth are getting shakey and he likes just a little fresh grass to begin with.”

“Sir, you are embarrassing me!”

“And you will give him a little rubdown along the spine – he goes crazy for that!”

“Sir, please just leave everything to me.”

So finally the man gave in and entered the establishment to enjoy a fine dinner by the fire and a comfortable bed. Meanwhile the youth rolled his eyes and… then went out to play cards in a nearby den.

The man could not sleep somehow, despite the silk sheets, as he kept having nightmares of his donkey chained up without water or food, lying on the cold stone. The vision wouldn’t leave him and so he got up in his dressing gown, walked down the steps to the stable and there! His donkey was in exactly the condition he’d imagined – cold, hungry and dying of thirst.

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The same story can be found in poetry form in The Essential Rumi:

AFTER THE MEDITATION

Now i see something in my listeners
that won’t let me continue this way.

The ocean flows back in
and puts up a foam barrier,
and then withdraws.

After a while,
it will come in again.

This audience wants to hear more
about the visiting Sufi and his friends
in meditation. But be discerning.

Don’t think of this as a normal character
in an ordinary story.

The ecstatic meditation ended.
Dishes of food were brought out.
The Sufi remembered his donkey
that had carried him all day.

He called to the servant there, “Please,
go to the stable and mix the barley generously
with the straw for the animal. Please.”

“Don’t worry yourself with such matters,
All things have been attended to.”

“But I want to make sure that you wet the barley first.
He is an old donkey, and his teeth are shaky.”
“Why are you telling me this?
I have given the appropriate orders.”

“But did you remove the saddle gently,
and put salve on the sore he has?”

“I have served thousands of guests
with these difficulties, and all have gone away
satisfied. here, you are treated as family,
Do not worry. Enjoy yourself.”

“But did you warm his water
just a little, and then add only a bit of straw
to the barley?’

“Sir, I’m ashamed for you.”

“And please,
sweep the stall clean of stones and dung,
and scatter a little dry earth in it.”

“For God’s sake, sir,
leave my business to me!”

“And did you currycomb his back?
He loves that.”

“Sir, I am personally
responsible for all these chores!”

The servant turned and left at a brisk pace …
to join his friends in the street.

The Sufi then lay down to sleep
and had terrible dreams about his donkey,
how it was being torn to pieces by a wolf,
or falling helplessly into a ditch.

And his dreaming was right!
His donkey was being totally neglected. weak and gasping,
without food or water all the night long.
The servant had done nothing he said he would.

There are such vicious and empty flatterers
in your life. Do the careful,
donkey-tending work.

Don’t trust that to anyone else.
There are hypocrites who will praise you,
but who do not care about the health
of your heart-donkey.

Be concentrated and leonine
in the hunt for what is your true nourishment.
Don’t be distracted by blandishment-noises,
of any sort.

Source : Coleman BarksThe Essential Rumi:

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Rumi then sums up by saying: the world is full of those who say whatever is necessary to get their way. When it comes to looking after your heart donkey, it’s entirely up to us. We are the only real keepers of our feelings and no one knows better than us what we really need, hence the value of trusting our intuition and taking care of our hearts as though it really were an old, faithful companion.

The moral of the tale: if you own something as precious as a donkey or a heart, you’d better take care of it yourself.

THE SHREWD DONKEY

One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out a way to get him out. Finally he decided it was probably impossible and the animal was old and the well was dry anyway, so it just wasn’t worth it to try and retrieve the donkey.  So the farmer asked his neighbours to come over and help him cover up the well. They all grabbed shovels and began to shovel dirt into the well.

At first, when the donkey realized what was happening he cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down and let out some happy brays. A few shovel loads later, the farmer looked down the well to see what was happening and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was shaking it off and taking a step up.

As the farmer’s neighbours continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he continued to shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, to everyone’s amazement, the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off.

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • From time to time life is going to shovel dirt on you. The trick to getting out of the well is to gently shake it off and take one small step up.  Through the application of creative wisdom every adversity can be turned into a stepping stone.
  • If we face our problems and respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity the adversities and crises that come along to bury us always have within them the potential to benefit and bless us.

Remember: what happens to you isn’t nearly as important as how you respond to it.

In another version of the same story there is a twist at the end:

The donkey later came back, and bit the farmer who had tried to bury him. The gash from the bite got infected, and the farmer eventually died in agony from septic shock.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY
When you do something  wrong, and try to cover your ass, it always comes to bite you back!