Wisdom Story – 241

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The Minister traveled for days by train and car and boat to one of the furthest islands in the nation.

As he surveyed the bleak but inspiring landscape, he turned to a local villager and said: “You’re very remote here, aren’t you?”

She responded: “Remote from what?”

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Wisdom Story – 240

Nelson_Mandela-2008_(edit)

From Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom

During Nelson Mandela’s 19 years imprisoned on Robben Island, one particular commanding officer was the most brutal of them all:

“A few days before Badenhorst’s departure, I was called to the main office. General Steyn was visiting the island and wanted to know if we had any complaints. Badenhorst was there as I went through a list of demands. When I had finished, Badenhorst spoke to me directly.

He told me he would be leaving the island and added: ‘I just want to wish you people good luck’. I do not know if I looked dumbfounded, but I was amazed. He spoke these words like a human being and showed a side of himself we had never seen before. I thanked him for his good wishes and wished him luck in his endeavors.

I thought about this moment for a long time afterwards. Badenhorst had perhaps been the most callous and barbaric commanding officer we had had on Robben Island. But that day in the office, he had revealed that that there was another side to his nature, a side that had been obscured but still existed.

It was a useful reminder that all men, even the most seemingly cold-blooded, have a core of decency and that, if their hearts are touched, they are capable of changing. Ultimately, Badenhorst was not evil; his inhumanity had been foisted upon him by an inhuman system. He behaved like a brute because he was rewarded for brutish behavior.”

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Wisdom Story – 239

sitar

 

After years of searching, the seeker was told to go to a cave, in which he would find a well. ‘Ask the well what is truth’, he was advised, ‘and the well will reveal it to you.’ Having found the well, the seeker asked that most fundamental question. And from the depths came the answer, ‘Go to the village crossroad: there you shall find what you are seeking.’

Full of hope and anticipation the man ran to the crossroad to find only three rather uninteresting shops. One shop was selling pieces of metal, another sold wood, and thin wires were for sale in the third. Nothing and no one there seemed to have much to do with the revelation of truth.

Disappointed, the seeker returned to the well to demand an explanation, but he was told only, ‘You will understand in the future.’ When the man protested, all he got in return were the echoes of his own shouts. Indignant for having been made a fool of – or so he thought at the time – the seeker continued his wanderings in search of truth. As years went by, the memory of his experience at the well gradually faded until one night, while he was walking in the moonlight, the sound of sitar music caught his attention. It was wonderful music and it was played with great mastery and inspiration.

Profoundly moved, the truth seeker felt drawn towards the player. He looked at the fingers dancing over the strings. He became aware of the sitar itself. And then suddenly he exploded in a cry of joyous recognition: the sitar was made out of wires and pieces of metal and wood just like those he had once seen in the three stores and had thought it to be without any particular significance.

At last he understood the message of the well: we have already been given everything we need: our task is to assemble and use it in the appropriate way. Nothing is meaningful so long as we perceive only separate fragments. But as soon as the fragments come together into a synthesis, a new entity emerges, whose nature we could not have foreseen by considering the fragments alone.

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Wisdom Story – 238

Chinese_American_Woman_in_Traditional_Dress

 

There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and asked, “What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?”

Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, “Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.”

The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, “I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me.” They told her, “You’ve certainly come to the wrong place,” and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them.

The woman said to herself, “Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my my own?” She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hotels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. The woman became so involved in helping others cope with their sorrows that she eventually let go of her own.

She would later come to understand that it was the quest to find the magical mustard seed that drove away her suffering.

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