LAST WORDS

Alice Kahana, an artist living in Houston, has a painful and vivid memory of her journey to Auschwitz as a fifteen-year-old girl. On the way, she became separated from her parents and found herself in charge of her little eight-year-old brother. When the boxcar arrived, she looked down and saw that the boy was missing a shoe . “Why are you so stupid !” she shouted at him, the way older sisters are inclined to do so. “Can’t you keep track of your things?”

This is nothing out of the ordinary except that those were the last words that passed between them, for they were herded into different cars and she never saw him again.

Nearly half a century later, Alice Kahana is still living by a distinction that was conceived in that maelstrom. She vowed not to say anything that could not stand as the last thing she ever said.

Source: Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander,
The Art of Possibility
(New York: Penguin Books, 2000) page 174

CONSIDER THIS

  • Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.
  • Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.

THE MESSIAH IS AMONGST YOU

A monastery had fallen on hard times. It was once part of a great order which, as a result of religious persecution lost all its branches. It was decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left in the mother house: the Abbot and four others, all of whom were over seventy. Clearly it was a dying order.

Deep in the woods surrounding the monastery was a little hut that the Rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. One day, it occurred to the Abbot to visit the hermitage to see if the Rabbi could offer any advice that might save the monastery. The Rabbi welcomed the Abbot and commiserated. “I know how it is” he said, “the spirit has gone out of people. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore.” So the old Rabbi and the old Abbot wept together, and spoke quietly of deep things.

The time came when the Abbot had to leave. They embraced. “It has been wonderful being with you,” said the Abbot, “but I have failed in my purpose for coming. Have you no piece of advice that might save the monastery?” “No, I am sorry,” the Rabbi responded, “I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.”

When the other monks heard the Rabbi’s words, they wondered what possible significance they might have. “The Messiah is one of us? One of us, here, at the monastery? Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? Of course – it must be the Abbot, who has been our leader for so long. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas, who is undoubtably a holy man. Certainly he couldn’t have meant Brother Elrod – he’s so crotchety. But then Elrod is very wise. Surely, he could not have meant Brother Phillip – he’s too passive. But then, magically, he’s always there when you need him. Of course he didn’t mean me – yet supposing he did? Oh Lord, not me! I couldn’t mean that much to you, could I?”

As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect, on the off chance that one of them might be the Messiah. And on the off off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.

Because the forest in which the monastery was situated was beautiful, people occasionally came to visit the monastery, to picnic or to wander along the old paths, most of which led to the dilapidated chapel. They sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that surrounded the five old monks, permeating the atmosphere. They began to come more frequently, bringing their friends, and their friends brought friends. Some of the younger men who came to visit began to engage in conversation with the monks. After a while, one asked if he might join. Then another, and another. Within a few years, the monastery became once again a thriving order, and – thanks to the Rabbi’s gift – a vibrant community of light and love.

Source | Rosamund Zander and Benjamin Zander,  The Art of Possibility
Also found in M. Scott PeckThe Different Drum

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A variation of the same story called The Bishop’s Gift

Once a church had fallen upon hard times. Only five members were left: the pastor and four others, all over 60 years old.

In the mountains near the church there lived a retired Bishop. It occurred to the pastor to ask the Bishop if he could offer any advice that might save the church. The pastor and the Bishop spoke at length, but when asked for advice, the Bishop simply responded by saying, “I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.”

The pastor, returning to the church, told the church members what the Bishop had said. In the months that followed, the old church members pondered the words of the Bishop. “The Messiah is one of us?” they each asked themselves. As they thought about this possibility, they all began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off, off chance that each member himself might be the Messiah, they also began to treat themselves with extraordinary care.

As time went by, people visiting the church noticed the aura of respect and gentle kindness that surrounded the five old members of the small church. Hardly knowing why, more people began to come back to the church. They began to bring their friends, and their friends brought more friends. Within a few years, the small church had once again become a thriving church, thanks to the Bishop’s gift.

Source | Unknown

 PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • Remember the Rabbi’s humble gift – the no advice that was the best advice ever – “I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.”
  • Within each one of us we carry the capacity to heal the wounds that sometimes block recovery, healing, and transformation.
  • What would happen if we start treating each other as if all of were the Messiah?  What if we start holding others and ourselves in higher esteem—a process that facilitates becoming whole again?