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?

YOU CANNOT PAINT THE WHOLE WORLD GREEN

There was a millionaire once who was bothered by two aches, one in his stomach and the other in his head! He was diagnosed and treated by a galaxy of medical experts. He consumed heavy loads of drugs, and underwent centuries of injections. But the aches persisted with greater vigour than ever before!

At last, a monk arrived at the scene of his agony. He spoke very kindly to him, and pronounced the fault to be in his eye! Set right the eye, and the head on top and the stomach below would both behave very sweetly! To improve the eye, concentrate on only one colour. Concentrate on green, he suggested. Do not let your eyes fall on red or yellow, or any other colour.

The rich man got together a group of painters and purchased barrels of green colour and directed that every object on which his eye was likely to fall be painted thick green.

When the monk came to visit him after few days, the wealthy man’s servants ran with buckets of green paint and poured it on him since he was in red dress, lest their master see any other colour and the pain in his eye would come back.

Hearing this, the monk laughed and said “If only you had purchased a pair of green glasses, worth just a few dollars, you could have saved these walls and trees and pots and pans, and chairs and sofas and also a pretty large share of your fortune! You cannot paint the world green.”

Source: Loosely based on a story found in
Sathya Sai Baba (Author), N. Kasturi (Editor)
Chinna Katha (Sai Bhavan; Revised edition,1978)

CONSIDER THIS

How often do we try to change other people, and get frustrated when they refuse to change? But how often do we take a look at ourselves? If we would just change our own outlook, change our own way of thinking, change our own actions, our change might motivate others to change as well. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Let us change our vision and the world will appear accordingly. It is foolish to shape the world, let us shape ourselves first.

PEACE, QUIET AND FLOWERS

A mother with five small children decided that their summer vacation should begin with planting a garden. So she took her little brood to the nursery where, for the next two hours, they squabbled over who gets to push the cart, insisted on seeing every plant in the five-acre greenhouse, cried very hard when there were no pick petunias, and broke a large clay pot. Home at last, she complained to her very patient husband “All I want is peace and quiet and some beautiful flowers.”  “My dear” said her husband, “I believe they call that a funeral.”

Source | Unknown

CONSIDER THIS “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore” | Vincent Van Gogh

RESTING IN THE PEACE THAT YOU ARE

Long ago lived a young man in Istanbul, Turkey. Because he was poor, he had only a single room, sparsely furnished with a few books and a small cot for a bed. One night the young man had a dream — a vision, really.

In it, he saw himself walking on a street in what he came to realize was the city of Cairo in Egypt, a place he had never been. He could clearly see the name of the street and the houses that lined the road.

In the vision, he walked up to one particular house, noting the address. He entered into a tiled courtyard and then into the main house. An open door drew him to a particular room within the house. In this room sat an old man surrounded by treasures beyond anything the young man had ever imagined.

Diamonds, emeralds, and rubies were piled high in pyramid shapes. Gold and silver bars lined the walls. Exquisite carpets and artifacts from around the world lay at his feet. The young man stared at the treasures and then at the old man in amazement, for in that moment he somehow knew that these treasures belonged to himself. He didn’t know how he knew (it was a vision, after all), but he was certain that all of it was rightfully his.

The young man bolted awake from the dream. So confident was he in its veracity that he set off that very day on the long journey from Istanbul to Cairo in order to claim his treasure. In those days, travel was slow and the young man, being poor, had to work along the way to pay for food and lodging. After several months, he eventually arrived in Cairo. Upon making the inquiries he found the very street he had seen in his dream.

As he set foot upon it, everything seemed completely familiar. The houses were exactly as he had seen them in his vision. And sure enough, the house that in the dream had contained the old man and his treasure was precisely where the young man expected it to be. Knowing his way, he entered into the tiled courtyard and then into the room of treasures where he planned to make his claim.

There sat the old man, but there were no jewels, no gold or silver, no carpets or artifacts. The young man, undeterred by the absence of the treasures recounted his vision to the old man and concluded by saying, “Since everything else in my vision has been accurate, I assume that the riches are hidden here somewhere. Please hand them over to me.”

The old man was silent for some time, looking intently at the young man, his eyes glistening. After a while, he spoke. “It’s strange,” he said. “I, too, had a dream. I dreamed of a young man in Istanbul who looked exactly like you.”

“Yes, go on,” implored the young man, certain that this information would lead to his treasure.

The old man proceeded to describe the street on which the young man lived in Istanbul. He described the young man’s mother and father, his siblings, his friends at work, and the books on the wall of his simple room. “In my vision,” said the old man, “the greatest treasure, more precious than all the shiny rocks and metals of the world, was there on a small cot in that room.”

The young man suddenly realized what the old man meant. In that moment, he saw that his existence, his very being, was all the treasure he would ever want or need.  A profound peace overcame him. He bowed to the wise man, and taking his leave, returned home to Istanbul where he lived out his quiet days.

Source | Catherine Ingram, Passionate Presence,
(Diamond Books, 2008) pages 20-22

CONSIDER THIS

Is it possible that our hunger for finding treasures or any other circumstances that we think will bring us peace inhibits our resting in the peace that we are?

THE GIFT OF NONVIOLENCE

A story is told about Muriel Lester, and English Quaker and a striver after kingdom life. One night she returned home from a meeting and found a man with a gun going through her drawers. Their conversation went something like this:

Muriel: “Good evening! Now please put that thing down. I don’t like guns and can’t talk with one in my face.” He looked at her, so stunned that he laid the gun on the dresser, one hand still on it. “Now, how can I help you? What have you come for?”

Burglar: “I’m taking your money, jewellery, and other valuables, lady. Don’t be tough with me.”

Muriel: “You must be in great need. But let’s not tear up my whole house. Here, I have almost no jewellery, but my money is in there. You may get it. I’ll collect the heirlooms and a few other things.” With that she went around her home, removing all her material treasures from their places and bringing them to the burglar.  All her money she also gave him. As he walked out of the door, brandishing his gun, threatening her not to call the police, she said, “Don’t worry. Your needs are greater than mine. I will not report. I hope you have enough now. God bless you.”  She then went to bed and slept in peace.

A few days later, her goods were all returned to her with an anonymous note: “No one has ever been kind to me before. I can’t steal from you.”

Source | Marilyn Gustin, Finding Joy & Peace: Living the Beatitudes Every Day
(Liguori Publications, 1998) page 44

CONSIDER THIS

Imagine you are Muriel, in a similar situation, what would you do? Would you react violently or respond with kindness?

WITHOUT BATTING AN EYE

Once there was a general who was infamous for his viciousness.  He was brutal, without mercy.  He went to attack a very small village that lay in the path of his army.  Everyone in the village, knowing of the general’s reputation, ran away – everyone except one man  When the general entered the village, he found this one man sitting calmly under a tree.  So the general went to the man and said, “Do you know who I am, and do you know what I am capable of?  I can run my sword right through you without batting an eye!”  And the man said, “I know.”  Looking at the general, he continued, “But do you know who I am and what I am capable of?  I’ll let you do it … without batting an eye.”

Source | Paul Coutinho SJ, How Big is Your God
Loyola Press (November 1, 2010) page 31

PONDER AND CONSIDER

This is the difference between practicing religion and developing a living relationship with the Divine. How do we respond when we are attacked?  If our response is still an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth we’re not much better than the general.

But if our response is one of peace and reconciliation, then we offer a better alternative, and that response  can be disarming and a catalyst for change.

How?  If you want to change start by changing a thought, just one thought:  everything begins with a thought.  Change your thinking and you will be a changed person.  The thought will be expressed in your words, will affect your feelings, and will guide your behaviour.  And the words, feelings, and behaviours you send out into the world will affect and slowly transform the world around you.

  • Can you change just one thought?
  • Can you know who you are in your mind, in your consciousness, enough to think peace, act in peace, be peace … without batting an eye?

GOD’S FRUIT STAND

A woman went into a marketplace, looked around, and saw a sign that read “God’s Fruit Stand.”  “Thank goodness. It’s about time,” the woman said to herself.

She went inside and she said, “I would like a perfect banana, a perfect cantaloupe, a perfect strawberry, and a perfect peach.”  God, who was behind the counter, shrugged and said, “I’m sorry.  I sell only seeds.”

Source | John Shea, The legend of the bells and other tales: Stories of the human spirit

PONDER AND CONSIDER

God doesn’t deal out perfection, but the seeds which lead to fullness of life. Expecting something finished or a completed project, expecting quick and easy perfection from anyone or anything is never realistic. We are an unfinished symphony living in an unfinished, ever unfolding story of the universe. All wee can do is to daily employ love, care, kindness, hospitality and a readiness for constant and ongoing change and growth.