THE MUSIC COMING FROM THE HOUSE

On Christmas Eve, the king invited the prime minister to join him for their usual walk together. He enjoyed seeing the decorations in the streets, but since he didn’t want his subjects to spend too much money on these just to please him, the two men always disguised themselves as traders from some far distant land.

They walked through the centre of the city, admiring the lights, the Christmas trees, the candles burning on the steps of the houses, the stalls selling gifts, and the men, women and children hurrying off to celebrate a family Christmas around a table laden with food.

On the way back, they passed through a poorer area, where the atmosphere was quite different. There were no lights, no candles, no delicious smells of food about to be served. There was hardly a soul in the street, and, as he did every year, the king remarked to the prime minister that he really must pay more attention to the poor in his kingdom. The prime minister nodded, knowing that the matter would soon be forgotten again, buried beneath the day-to-day bureaucracy of budgets to be approved and discussions with foreign dignitaries.

Suddenly, they heard music coming from one of the poorest houses. The hut was so ramshackle and the rotten wooden timbers so full of cracks, that they were able to peer through and see what was happening inside. And what they saw was utterly absurd: an old man in a wheelchair apparently crying, a shaven-headed young woman dancing, and a young man with sad eyes shaking a tambourine and singing a folk song.

‘I’m going to find out what they’re up to,’ said the king.

He knocked. The music stopped, and the young man came to the door.

‘We are merchants in search of a place to sleep. We heard the music, saw that you were still awake, and wondered if we could spend the night here.’

‘You can find shelter in a hotel in the city. We, alas, cannot help you. Despite the music, this house is full of sadness and suffering.’

‘And may we know why?’

‘It’s all because of me.’ It was the old man in the wheelchair who spoke. ‘I’ve spent my life teaching my son calligraphy, so that he could one day get a job as a palace scribe. But the years have passed and no post has ever come up. And then, last night, I had a stupid dream: an angel appeared to me and asked me to buy a silver goblet because, the angel said, the king would be coming to visit me. He would drink from the goblet and give my son a job.

‘The angel was so persuasive that I decided to do as he said. Since we have no money, my daughter-in-law went to the market this morning to sell her hair so that we could buy that goblet over there. The two of them are doing their best to get me in the Christmas spirit by singing and dancing, but it’s no use.’

The king saw the silver goblet, asked to be given a little water to quench his thirst and, before leaving, said to the family:

‘Do you know, we were talking to the prime minister only today, and he told us that an opening for a palace scribe would be announced next week.’

The old man nodded, not really believing what he was hearing, and bade farewell to the strangers. The following morning, however, a royal proclamation was read out in all the city streets; a new scribe was needed at court. On the appointed day, the audience room at the palace was packed with people eager to compete for that much-sought-after post. The prime minister entered and asked everyone there to prepare their paper and pens:

‘Here is the subject of the composition: Why is an old man weeping, a shaven-headed woman dancing, and a sad young man singing?’

A murmur of disbelief went round the room. No one knew how to tell such a story, apart, that is, from the shabbily dressed young man sitting in one corner, who smiled broadly and began to write.

Source | Paolo Coelho, Christmas Stories
Sant Jordi Asociados (December 5, 2014)

CONSIDER THIS

Many things come to pass when we least expect them and in ways we have never imagined!

THE TWO DROPS OF OIL

A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world. The lad wandered through the desert for forty days, and finally came upon a beautiful castle, high atop a mountain. It was there that the wise man lived.

Rather than finding a saintly man though, our hero, on entering the main room of the castle, saw a hive of activity: tradesmen came and went, people were conversing in the corners, a small orchestra was playing soft music, and there was a table covered with platters of the most delicious food in that part of the world. The wise man conversed with everyone, and the boy had to wait for two hours before it was his turn to be given the man’s attention.

The wise man listened attentively to the boy’s explanation of why he had come, but told him that he didn’t have time just then to explain the secret of happiness. He suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in two hours.

“Meanwhile I want to ask you to do something,” said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil.  “As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.”

The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was.

“Well,” asked the wise man, “did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,” said the wise man. “You cannot trust a man if you don’t know his house.”

Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers, and the taste with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen.

“But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?” asked the wise man.

Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone.

“Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you,” said the wisest of wise men. “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”

Source | Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist
(HarperOne; 1st edition, 2006)) pages 32-34

CONSIDER THIS

How often do we meander through our lives focused solely on ourselves or so caught up in the frenzy of work and assignments, that we fail to see the holes we are digging for ourselves?

How can we appreciate the beauty that surrounds us without losing focus of the drops of oil, the things in life that really matter, such as family, friends and the ties that bind us together?

 

 

 

HOW THE PATH WAS FORGED

One day, a calf needed to cross a virgin forest in order to return to its pasture. Being an irrational animal, it forged out a tortuous path full of bends, up and down hills.

The next day, a dog came by and used the same path to cross the forest. Next it was a sheep’s turn, the head of a flock which, upon finding the opening, led its companions through it.

Later, men began using the path: they entered and left, turned to the right, to the left, bent down, deviating obstacles, complaining and cursing – and quite rightly so. But they did nothing to create a different alternative.

After so much use, in the end, the path became a trail along which poor animals toiled under heavy loads, being forced to go three hours to cover a distance which would normally take thirty minutes, had no one chosen to follow the route opened up by the calf.

Many years passed and the trail became the main road of a village, and later the main avenue of a town. Everyone complained about the traffic, because the route it took was the worst possible one.

Meanwhile, the old and wise forest laughed, at seeing how men tend to blindly follow the way already open, without ever asking whether it really is the best choice.

Source |  as found on Paolo Coelho

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • When was the last time you questioned the paths you are on?