A troubled widower made his way to ask a wise old woman about his troubles. The old woman received him and they walked along a stream. She could see the pain in his face. He began to tremble as he asked, “What’s the point? Is there any meaning to life?” She invited him to sit on a large stone near the stream. She took a long branch and swirled it in the water, then replied, “It all depends on what it means to you to be alive.” In his sorrow, the man dropped his shoulders and the old woman gave him the branch. “Go on,” she said, “touch the branch to the water.”
As he poked the branch in the running stream, there was something comforting about feeling the water in his hand through the branch. She touched his hand and said, “You see, that you can feel the water without putting your hand in the water, this is what meaning feels like.” The troubled man seemed puzzled. She said, “Close your eyes and feel your wife now gone. That you can feel her in your heart without being able to touch her, this is how meaning saves us.”
The widower began to cry. The old woman put her arm around him, “No one knows how to live or how to die. We only know how to love and how to lose, and how to pick up branches of meaning along the way.”
Source: Mark Nepo, The One Life We’re Given
Finding the Wisdom That Waits in Your Heart
(Atria Books, 2017) page 87
A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a loved one or friend, describe a time when you experienced a branch of meaning.
A young boy left his home in search of truth. He met many people; he became richer in awareness of his ignorance. Since people went to forests to meditate, he too went to a thick forest. He did not know how to meditate. So he screamed at the forest to give him knowledge. For years his only mantra was screaming at the forest to give him knowledge. He believed that if you are committed, existence will help you.
One day, a monk came to him. He asked: “What do you want, my son?” “I want to know what the meaning of life is,” he replied. “Go to the town. The first three persons that you meet will give you the meaning of life,” the monk replied.
The boy went to the town. The first man he met was doing carpentry work. The next man he met was doing sheet metal work. The third man he met was making strings. Disappointed, he sat on the bank of a river. Suddenly, he heard the sweet strains of violin music. Something mysterious touched him. He suddenly got the answer he was looking for and he started dancing.
The carpenter was preparing the wood for the violin. The sheet metal worker was preparing metal for the strings and the strings were meant for the violin. Life has everything; all you need is to be able to connect the dots. You need to work out new combinations. And for that you need creative perception.
Life has all the ingredients. Be creative. Don’t let yourself feel victimized.
PONDER AND CONSIDER
- You might think that what is easy is beautiful, that what is easy is joy. You are a victim of such illusions. Difficulty has such a joy. Discovery has such a joy. Seeking out has such a joy.
- You have to change the notion that difficulty is pain. In exercise, there is difficulty but also joy. In sports, there is difficulty but there is joy. In your relationships, when there is difficulty, treat it as joy. Just re-programme your mind.
The master gave his teaching in parables and stories, which his disciples listened to with pleasure – and occasional frustration, for they longed for something deeper.
The master was unmoved. To all their objections he would say, “You have yet to understand that the shortest distance between a human being and Truth is a story.”
Source | Anthony de Mello, One Minute Wisdom,
(Doubleday, 1986) page. 23
PONDER AND CONSIDER
- The shortest distance between a human being and Truth is a story
Truth entered a village naked as the day she was born. The villagers had one look at the naked truth and were afraid of the stark harshness and drove her out in anger and malice.
Dejected, the Truth wandered in the desert. Without food and nourishment, she weakened and would have soon died of loneliness. One day she got to the home of the Parable. Parable took her in, nursed her back to life. Soon the Truth was feeling well again. This time she returned to the same village clothed in a parable and was welcome and accepted with ease.
Source | Unknown
PONDER AND CONSIDER
Whenever, and wherever stories are told – be it through teaching, preaching, counselling, spiritual companionship, management – a chord is plucked within the understanding of the listeners. Often the story is heard by the ear, but listened to by the sub-conscious mind where its deeper meaning resides.
A young man went to the public baths. He undressed. With everybody unclothed everybody looked pretty much alike. Confused, he thought, “now when it is time to go home how will I know which one is me?” So he found a piece of red string and tied it round his right toe. Now he had a distinctive identity to who he was.
The problem was that as he continued bathing and showering the string fell off, and what was interesting is that another bather stepped on it and the red string adhered to his toe. And so when it came time to go home and took a look at his foot there was nothing there!
Then he noticed the red string on another bather a few feet away. He approached him and said “pardon me sir. I know who you are but can you tell me who I am?”
- A true identity is meaningless if it is given to us by someone else.
- Who or what is defining you?