CAN IT GET ANY WORSE?

can-it-get-any-worse

A poor man lived with his wife and six children in a very small one-room house. They were always getting in each other’s way and there was so little space they could hardly breathe!

Finally the man could stand it no more. He talked to his wife and asked her what to do. “Go see the rabbi,” she told him, and after arguing a while, he went.

And so the poor man told the rabbi how miserable things were at home with him, his wife, and the six children all eating and living and sleeping in one room. The poor man told the rabbi, “We’re even starting to yell and fight with each other. Life couldn’t be worse.”

The rabbi thought very deeply about the poor man’s problem. Then he said, “Do exactly as I tell you and things will get better. Do you promise?”

“I promise,” the poor man said.

The rabbi then asked the poor man a strange question. “Do you own any animals?”

“Yes,” he said. “I have one cow, one goat, and some chickens.”

“Good,” the rabbi said. “When you get home, take all the animals into your house to live with you.”

The poor man was astonished to hear this advice from the rabbi, but he had promised to do exactly what the rabbi said. So he went home and took all the farm animals into the tiny one-room house.

The next day the poor man ran back to see the rabbi. “What have you done to me, Rabbi?” he cried. “It’s awful. I did what you told me and the animals are all over the house! Rabbi, help me!”

The rabbi listened and said calmly, “Now go home and take the chickens back outside.”

The poor man did as the rabbi said, but hurried back again the next day. “The chickens are gone, but Rabbi, the goat!” he moaned. “The goat is smashing up all the furniture and eating everything in sight!”

The good rabbi said, “Go home and remove the goat and may God bless you.”

So the poor man went home and took the goat outside. But he ran back again to see the rabbi, crying and wailing. “What a nightmare you have brought to my house, Rabbi! With the cow it’s like living in a stable! Can human beings live with an animal like this?”

The rabbi said sweetly, “My friend, you are right. May God bless you. Go home now and take the cow out of your house.” And the poor man went quickly home and took the cow out of the house.

The next day he came running back to the rabbi again. “O Rabbi,” he said with a big smile on his face, “we have such a good life now. The animals are all out of the house. The house is so quiet and we’ve got room to spare! What a joy!”

Source: Aaron Zerah, How the Children Became Stars:
A Family Treasury of Stories, Prayers and Blessings
from Around the World
Sorin Books
, 2000

CONSIDER THIS

  • Perspective is everything.  It is not what we see, but the way we see it. When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.
  • Most of us are just about as happy as we make up our minds to – Abraham  Lincoln
  • Think about your biggest complaint and what the rabbi would tell you if he heard it. Today, follow the rabbi’s advice.
  • Imagine you are the man in the story. At the end, what would you say to a friend who complained about how bad life was?
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PARABLE OF THE SPOONS

Rabbi Haim of Romshishok was an itinerant preacher. He traveled from town to town delivering religious sermons that stressed the importance of respect for one’s fellow man. He often began his talks with the following story:

I once ascended to the firmaments. I first went to see Hell and the sight was horrifying. Row after row of tables were laden with platters of sumptuous food, yet the people seated around the tables were pale and emaciated, moaning in hunger. As I came closer, I understood their predicament.

Every person held a full spoon, but both arms were splinted with wooden slats so he could not bend either elbow to bring the food to his mouth. It broke my heart to hear the tortured groans of these poor people as they held their food so near but could not consume it.

Next I went to visit Heaven. I was surprised to see the same setting I had witnessed in Hell – row after row of long tables laden with food. But in contrast to Hell, the people here in Heaven were sitting contentedly talking with each other, obviously sated from their sumptuous meal.

As I came closer, I was amazed to discover that here, too, each person had his arms splinted on wooden slats that prevented him from bending his elbows. How, then, did they manage to eat?

As I watched, a man picked up his spoon and dug it into the dish before him. Then he stretched across the table and fed the person across from him! The recipient of this kindness thanked him and returned the favor by leaning across the table to feed his benefactor.

I suddenly understood. Heaven and Hell offer the same circumstances and conditions. The critical difference is in the way the people treat each other.

I ran back to Hell to share this solution with the poor souls trapped there. I whispered in the ear of one starving man, ‘You do not have to go hungry. Use your spoon to feed your neighbor, and he will surely return the favor and feed you.’

‘You expect me to feed the detestable man sitting across the table?’ said the man angrily. ‘I would rather starve than give him the pleasure of eating!’

Source: Moshe Kranc, The Hasidic Masters’ Guide to Management
Devora Publishing, 2004) pages 108-109

Note: There are variations of the tale across many religions and cultures, it’s message so universal.

CONSIDER THIS

The difference between heaven and hell is not the setting. It’s in the way people treat each other.

So much of how we deal with the world simply comes down to perspective. Heaven and hell, the same place and situation, the only difference the attitudes and approach of the people present.

We can create heaven and hell for one another, right here in this world, by the way we treat each other. We have the ability to cause suffering and pain, and we have the ability to bring comfort and hope.

SURPRISED BY THE UNEXPECTED

Phil and Brian had been the closest of friends since childhood. They played on the same ball teams. They married sisters in fact. They built homes in the same neighbourhood. Then Phil died suddenly. Brian was devastated.

One evening watching a beautiful sunset Brian was sure he felt the presence of Phil nearby.

“Is that you, Phil?” he asked.

“Yes, Brian, came the reply.”

“What’s it like where you are?”

“Well it’s kind of nice. I get up in the morning and I have some breakfast and I maybe go down for a swim in the lake. And when I encounter one of those lovely ladies I enjoy a romantic interlude. Soon it’s time for lunch and a nap.”

“Wow,” said Brian, “I had no idea heaven was like that.”

“Who says I’m in heaven?” replied Phil. “I’m a bull in Catalunya Spain.

Source | Adapted from a story I heard

CONSIDER THIS

Life is full of surprises!

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

___________________________

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 …

COME NOW AND ENTER INTO YOUR REST

Once upon a time there was a man who loved living in his tropical paradise.  Having been born on the island where his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents had always lived, he held in his heart a special place for the beauty of the palm trees, the white sand, the sloping mountains, the gentle climate.

This man, approaching death, told his loved ones to place some island sand into each of his hands when he died, so that he might hold on to the memory of his beloved place forever.  They did, and so the man proceeded to the gates of heaven still clutching the sand.  At the gate, he was warmly greeted and told that as soon as he emptied his hands of the sand, he could enter into eternal joy.

The man was crushed, for he could not let go of what he loved so much, and so he waited. He waited for a long, long time: so long that at last his hands grew weary and could not longer hold the sand. It eventually slipped through his fingers, lost forever.

At that moment, Jesus came to him, holding the man as he sobbed at the loss of his memory, and said, “Come now and enter into your rest.” With that, Jesus walked with the man through the gates of heaven, where there before them both stretched out the entirety of the man’s beloved island.

Source | as told by Tim Muldoon, The Ignatian Workout
(Loyola Press, 2004) page 5

CONSIDER THIS

  • What are you holding on to that’s preventing  you from turning your life over to Life?
  • What is the “handful of sand” that you are still clinging to, blinding you to the amazing, expansive beauty of the whole beach?

PARADISE IS IN YOU

Once upon a time the prophet Elijah visited a very holy rabbi. The rabbi was surprised to see Elijah in his study and even more so when Elijah told him that God was pleased with him and he could have any gift that he’d like but he had to decide right then and there. The rabbi was flustered but he blurted out, “Do you think I could have a glimpse of Paradise‘? It would make it so much easier to live here on earth where there is so much pain and injustice if I could see it just this once.” And in a flash Elijah and the rabbi were standing inside the gates of heaven. The rabbi was floored—it was beyond description. Lovely, radiance permeating everything. He was speechless.

But as he looked around, he became dismayed and said to Elijah, “There’s hardly anyone here! Don’t tell me that after all these years there are so few that made it into Paradise? Where are all the saints, the holy ones?” Elijah looked at him and responded, “Rabbi, you of all people should know—the saints aren’t in Paradise, Paradise is in the saints! Oh, they come here, some of them, but they usually opt to return to earth so they can see the glory of God everywhere. Once you know that God’s glory resides in every human being and in some more than others, well, you go looking for it everywhere.”

And in another flash, the rabbi was back in his study, alone. He stood there for a long time pondering what he had seen, heard. and learned. And then he thought to himself: What in the world do people see when they look at me? Do they see that Paradise is within me and marvel at the glory of God shining on my face‘? And then, he thought again: How do I see all the people in my life, in the world? Do I see the glory of God radiantly shining on their faces? O God, have pity on me, on us all, and give me eyes to perceive your glory among us.

Source | Megan McKenna,  Praying the Rosary
(Doubleday, 2004) pages 134-135

CONSIDER THIS

  • What do people see when they look at me? Do they see that Paradise is within you and marvel at the glory of God shining on your face‘?
  • How do you see all the people in your life? Do you see the glory of God radiantly shining on their faces?

O God, on us all, and give us new eyes to see your glory in our midst.

THE DANGERS OF MINE

An old woman died and was taken to the Judgment Seat by the angels. While examining her records, however, the Judge could not find a single act of charity performed by her except for a carrot she had once given to a starving beggar.

Such, however, is the power of a single deed of love that it was decreed that she be taken up to heaven on the strength of that carrot.  The carrot was brought to court and given her.  The moment she caught hold of it, it began to rise as if pulled by some invisible string, lifting her up toward the sky.

A beggar appeared. He clutched the hem of her garment and was lifted with her; a third person caught hold of the beggar’s foot and was lifted too. Soon there was a long line of persons being lifted up to heaven by that carrot.  And, strange as it may seem, the woman did not feel the weight of all those people who held onto her; in fact, since she was looking heavenward, she did not see them.

Higher and higher they rose until they were almost near the heavenly gates. That is when the woman looked back to catch a last glimpse of the earth and saw this whole train of people behind her.

She was indignant! She gave an imperious wave of her hand and shouted, “Off! Off, all of you! This carrot is mine!”

In making her imperious gesture, she let go of the carrot for a moment – and down she fell with the entire train.

Source | Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight, pages 137-138.
[Prayer of the Frog, Volume 1]

PONDER AND CONSIDER 

There is only one cause for every evil on earth:  “This belongs to me!”