The Watering Hole, Wednesday, September 24, 2014: The Traveler and the True Believer

The Traveler and the True Believer

a modern parable

by

Briseadh na Faire

A little girl picked wildflowers in the meadow one bright fine spring-summer’s day. It was not too hot, and not too cold, just the perfect weather for picking flowers. Off in the distance, a stranger watched. He wore a green cloak, pulled down to reveal his white hair, and carried a white staff with odd symbols carved in it. He stood silently as the girl chased butterflies and laughed and plucked another colored prize amongst the wild grasses.

She quite unexpectedly came across the stranger.

“Oh! Who are you?” she asked, taking a step back.

“Just a man, traveling through this beautiful meadow of yours.”

“Oh.” she said, and then her brow furrowed, “Are you a True Believer?”

“I don’t know. What is a True Believer?”

“Well, if you don’t know if you’re a True Believer, you can’t possibly be a True Believer.”

“Why?”

“Because a True Believer would know if he was a True Believer.”

“Ok. You’ve got me there.” the stranger sat on a tuft of grass. “I do have certain beliefs, but I am a stranger to these parts. I do not know what you mean when you say ‘True Believer’.”

The little girl thought about this unexpected response for a short while. The stranger seemed kind, and his sitting cross-legged in the grass set her at ease.

“A True Believer” the girl began, then she hesitated, the words of her teachers all flowing into her head at once, and at once became an undecipherable jumble. Slowly they sorted themselves out. “A True Believer believes in the One True Interpretation of Everything.”

“Oh” the stranger replied, “in that case, I am a True Believer.”

The girl breathed what appeared to be a sigh of relief. “Then you believe that God is good and people are bad and the only way to get to heaven is to believe in God?”

“Who told you that?”

“My teachers.” the girl fidgeted, obviously uncomfortable with the question.

“And you trust your teachers, don’t you?” the stranger’s blue eyes seemed to hide the knowledge of the truth.

“Of course!” she stood up, indignant at the suggestion that her teachers might have deceived her.

“Of course.” the stranger stood, as if to turn away. “But….how do you know your teachers know the One True Interpretation of Everything?”

The little girl sat down as hard as if she had just been struck in the forehead.

The stranger smiled one of those reassuring smiles that seemed to tell the little girl that she didn’t have to answer his question. “Of course, you believe your teachers. All children trust and believe their teachers.” He paused, and watched the child as she relaxed, reassured.

“In my travels,” the stranger continued, “I have learned of many different beliefs. Beliefs about God, beliefs about people.” The stranger paused.

He is not a True Believer.” the little girl thought. The warnings of her teachers clamored in her head like the bell at the fire department ringing the alarm.

“Your teachers have taught you certain things.” the stranger continued, “Undoubtedly they have taught you that anyone who challenges their teachings is to be distrusted.”

The little girl was stunned. How did this stranger know what her teachers have taught her?

“Look here.” The stranger directed her gaze to a spider’s web. A butterfly was ensnared, and faced certain doom. “Is the spider evil?”

“Yes,” the girl replied without hesitation, “it’s going to kill that beautiful butterfly.”

“Ah, but the spider must kill to survive. Today it is this butterfly. Tomorrow it may well be a moth whose offspring would destroy crops, or a mosquito that spreads disease. So, is the spider evil?”

“Well, I guess it depends.” the girl was thoughtful. “If you were the butterfly, you would certainly think it was evil.”

“and the moth, the mosquito, or anything else that happens to get caught in its web.” the stranger added. “But the spider has a part to play, a job to do. It lives by destroying lives.”

The two sat silent for awhile. This was something her teachers had never taught her – that in Nature, things that destroy – can also be good. A shadow of an eagle flying overhead broke her thoughts.

“Some people,” the stranger finally spoke, “are like this spider. They are good, or bad, depending upon whether you are caught in the web, or grateful the spider got rid of a bug that would later harm you.”“In everything there is either growth or death.” the stranger continued. “We say that things that help growth are good, things that cause death are bad.”

The little girl looked down at her bouquet of wildflowers. Suddenly she realized that in picking the flowers, she killed them. She was bad. But she didn’t mean to be bad. She felt horrible.

“What if,” the stranger continued, “what if we got rid of the notion that people are good or bad?”

The little girl looked up.

“What if we accept that people are people, that they do the best they can at any moment of time?” The stranger plucked a nearby blue flower and handed it to the little girl. She looked at him, a puzzled look in her eyes.

“Yes,” the stranger said, as if reading her question, “some people do horrible things. They hurt and even kill other people. But are they not like the spider?”

The girl looked again at the spider’s web. The butterfly was struggling. The spider was approaching. She took up a twig from the ground and with a whip of her wrist she tore through the web. “BE FREE!” she exclaimed, as the butterfly flew away.

The stranger stood. She looked up at him. He smiled. She slowly got to her feet. He was peering intently into her eyes.

“What?” she asked.

“And now you know.”

“Know what?”

“That it is not a matter of good or bad. That it is a matter of living…of helping….of loving.”

Overhead, the eagle cried.

“Of loving?” the girl asked.

“Yes. For you so loved the beauty of the butterfly that you chose to set it free.”

And a flood of thoughts overwhelmed the little girl. Her teachers were wrong…her teachers were right… but…. here was a stranger who understood….understood good and bad…in a way her teachers didn’t. And a calmness settled over her.

“It’s not really about being a True Believer, is it?” her eyes had tears in them. “it is a matter of living…of helping….of loving?”

She blinked up at the stranger as her eyes watered up. She rubbed her eyes. When she removed her hands, the stranger had disappeared, but the butterfly circled around her head.

© 2014 Briseadh na Faire

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, July 31, 2013: A Parable

rainbow

The Traveler and the Rainbow

A modern parable by

Briseadh na Faire

A Traveler sat on an old stone, by a well-worn path one summer day. A storm had passed to the east, and the sun was low in the western sky. A brilliant rainbow shown against the dark clouds.

The traveler marveled at the bands of coloured light, each blending in infinite shades to the next. He reached into his pack and took out some drawing papers and chalk and began to sketch the rainbow.

A girl chanced by. She looked at the rainbow, and at the Traveler’s sketch. Then she pointed to his sketch.

“There’s too much blue in your rainbow.” she said.

“You think so?” the Traveler looked up at her.

“Definitely.” she replied. “Way too much blue.” Blue was her least favorite color. The world would be a lot better off with less blue in it, she thought.

The Traveler looked at the rainbow, and at his drawing. To Him, they seemed to be identical. He saw the disapproving look in the girl’s face and sighed.

“Ok.” he replied, and rubbed out much of the blue from his drawing.

“That’s better.” The girl chirped, and skipped on her way down the path, hardly noticing that the rainbow in the sky had a bit less blue in it now.

After a short while a man walked up. He too looked at the rainbow and the drawing. After looking back and forth several times, the man said, “Orange.”

“What?” The Traveler asked.

“Orange. Too much. Get rid of it. Just go from yellow to red. Skip the orange.” for the man hated orange.

“How’s this?” The Traveler held up his drawing. There was no orange in the rainbow. And his drawing matched the rainbow in the sky perfectly.

The man looked at the drawing, and at the rainbow, back and forth, slowly, several times. At last he said, “That’s better. That’s much better.” and went on his way.

And so it went, with different passers by, each complaining about this color or that color, until at last all that remained of the rainbow was gray rain in a gray world with a gray sunset.

The Traveler was about to pack his drawing away when a young mother and toddler approached. She was tired and cold and wet. The traveler offered her his cloak and some food. The toddler wandered about the small clearing exploring under each small rock and plucking a bouquet of gray wildflowers. The child walked up to her mother, offering the flowers to her with a smile. She smiled wearily back to the child.

The toddler climbed onto the Traveler’s lap and looked at his drawing, then at the sky. She looked with a puzzled face into the Traveler’s deep blue eyes.

“Rainbow?” the toddler asked, pointing to the sky.

The Traveler could only shake his head.

“Rainbow.” the child said, pointing to the drawing. “Rainbow. Rainbow. Rainbow.” the child tapped at the drawing.

The Traveler reached back into his bag and drew out the chalk once more. With masterful strokes he coloured the rainbow back into his drawing. And there, in the sky, the rainbow shown once more. The bouquet of flowers in the mother’s hand became a rainbow of color as well.

The Traveler continued on his drawing, coloring in the sky and the trees and the grass and the flowers. The child smiled and clapped. “Rainbow.” the child said affirmatively, nodding with approval at the drawing, and, at the sky.

“Yes” the Traveler replied, “rainbow.” There was a tear in his eye.

The mother rose, smiling. She looked at her child, and at the Traveler.

“Thank you.” she said, softly, as she kissed the Traveler on his forehead.

“No need to thank me.” replied the Traveler. “This is the world as you see it. The others who were before you are in the world as they see it. This path is different to each who walk upon it.” The mother gathered up her child and continued on her way.

“Thank you.” the Traveler thought. “You are teaching your child to see the path with all its colors, and your child will teach her children, and so on.” He knew, too, that each generation would explore and learn. He looked into his bag, then at the figures of the mother and child in his drawing. “For you and your offspring,” he wiped a tear, “I’m going to have to get some more chalk.”

© 2013 Briseadh na Faire

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The Watering Hole: Wednesday, November 21, 2012: A Thanksgiving Tale

Once Upon A Time, in a Land Far, Far Away (for that is how all fairy tales are supposed to begin) a King sent out a proclamation declaring that for one day out of three hundred and sixty five, all of his subjects are to stop work and give thanks to God for having blessed them with the abundance that the King has given them.

And so it came to be that throughout the Kingdom, for one day a year, people stopped work and gathered together in their villages to give their thanks to God for everything the King blessed them to have. But time, it seems, changes everything, and so, too, did this sacred day of giving thanks. As villages grew larger, families stopped coming to the communal meal and celebrated on their own, with their own. Soon, it became almost an unwritten contest, to see which families could pile the most food on one table. Even the King was swept up, and always had to provide the greatest banquet of all.

But for the poor, who once dined at the communal meal, the day became a day to remind them even more poignantly of the things they did not enjoy – having enough to eat being chief among them. As the richest fed their table scraps to their dogs, children of the poor still cried themselves to sleep with an empty stomach.

Then, one day, the unthinkable was thought of. The Prince who was not heir to the throne (for he was second born) asked a question at the banquet of Giving Thanks held by the King himself. There, in front of his brothers and sisters and cousins and wives and all the nobles and all their families (for it was a very large banquet indeed) stood up and asked,

“Father, why are we Giving Thanks this day?” The room grew suddenly quiet, for no one ever dared to speak to the King without having first been spoken to.

The King stopped, mouth open, a fork-full of roast goose suspended midway between the plate and his palate. He set the fork down and slowly raised a glass of his finest wine and took a long draught. Setting the goblet down, the King looked up at the ceiling and spoke,

“Why, to give thanks to God for the abundance I have given to each of you.” Everyone applauded and murmured in approval.

“But Father,” and this was unthinkable, for no one ever challenged the King once He made a pronouncement. “But Father,” the Prince continued, “you have given us nothing.”
Continue reading

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, December 21, 2011: Happy Solstice!

The Business Man and His Three Employees

a modern parable

by

Briseadh na Faire

The Teacher sat in the tall grass near a quiet river, facing his small group of young students. “Tell us about Heaven” one of them said. “Yes. Yes. Tell us about Heaven” the group chimed in eager unison.

The Teacher looked at his young charges and began.

“Heaven is like, well, it’s a lot like here” he began. “Take a business man. He’s successful. He runs the show. Everyone must do exactly what he wants, or they’ll be fired, tossed out on the street.”

“So, one day, there’s this business man, and he’s going away on a long trip.”

“To China?” a boy interrupted. “My daddy goes to Chinaa lot. He says it’s for business. Mommy says he has a Chinese mistress.”

“What’s a mistress” another boy asked.

“It’s like a second mommy” a girl asserted, “one your real mommy doesn’t like very much.”

“Ok” the Teacher brought his charges back to paying attention again “to China. And he calls in three of his top employees. To the first one, he gives a stack of ten thousand-dollar bills. ‘I want you to take care of this. It’s ten thousand dollars, and I’ll want a strict accounting when I get back.’ To the second he gave five thousand dollars, and to the third, a thousand dollars, each with the same warning.”

“Then the business man went off on his trip. A year later, he returned.” Continue reading

The Watering Hole: Wednesday December 14, 2011

The Three Kingdoms
a modern parable
by
Briseadh na Faire

The land was divided into three Kingdoms, and their Kings continually vied among each other for whose Kingdom was the best in all the land. Each had nobles. Each had workers. Each had poor and destitute. They all shared the same joys, the same problems. And they all ruled as their fathers, and their fathers before them, had ruled: appease the nobles, let the workers receive fair recompense for their labors, and care for the sick, the poor and destitute.

The Kings, everyone thought, ought to be happy. But they weren’t. They wanted something more, but they didn’t know what. And so they met and enjoyed a fine meal, and talked about their mutual discontent.

At last, the first came to a decision. “I want to be feared.” He proclaimed. “If I am feared, my people will carry out my wishes, and I will rule with an iron hand. I will use whatever means are at my disposal to make my Kingdom the best in the land!” He smashed his fist onto the table and sat back down.

“I want to be loved.” rose the second King. “I shall use whatever resources I have to aid and help my subjects, so that I will be the most beloved King in all the land. Then my Kingdom will be the best in the land.” He drank from his wine goblet and sat.

Eyes turned on the third King. He sat for awhile, idly pushing the remnants of his dinner around on his plate for a bit. He then looked at the other two and spoke softly, without rising. “I do not wish to be feared” he said, “nor do I care if my subjects love me. I just want them to grow and thrive and be happy.” And with that, he set his plate on the floor, and let his dog eat the scraps.

Each King retired to his own Kingdom, to return in a year. Continue reading

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Traveler and the Seed

a modern parable

by

Briseadh na Faire

“If you want to stay in power as long as possible, you must never give the people hope of anything better.”

Those were the father’s last words to his son. The son inherited more wealth than the rest of the people in his kingdom combined. But that still was not enough. He knew he had to keep his people oppressed, taxing what earnings they had to keep them barely above starvation. His soldiers he paid well enough, but they, too, labored under the yoke of knowing at any moment, the son could cast them out of his service, and into the streets to beg and be beaten for begging, just as they had beaten beggars.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. Season after season the son ruled supreme. No one dared cry out against him, for fear of his wrath. His fortunes grew even as his people perished from want of food and ill health. But that did not matter to the son. All that mattered was ruling, and gaining more and more wealth. He was the giver of jobs, the taker of jobs; the giver of life, the taker of life. In his kingdom there was no hope.
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The Watering Hole, Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There Once was a Man who was Afraid of Heights

A Modern Parable
by
Briseadh na Faire

There once was a man who was greatly afraid of heights. When he climbed to the top of the temple, he shook and could not approach the railings. An elder tried to take his hand, to lead him, but he refused. And so they descended to the ground together.

Looking up, the elder said, “a thousand times I have climbed these steps. The first nine hundred and ninety nine, I felt fear. But today, with you, I felt no fear.”

The man looked at the elder incredulously.

“I knew,” the elder continued, “that each of the nine hundred and ninety nine, I had not fallen. I saw the fear in your eyes, and knew that I would not fall.”

“But,” said the man, “it is possible that we could fall?”

“Yes. It is possible.” replied the elder. “But why live in fear of the possible, when you can enjoy the magnificent view of the present?”

The elder and the man ascended the stairs once again. Together they climbed to the height of the temple and looked out over the railing. Their hearts beat in exhilaration. They looked upon the view from that magnificent height. Did the possibility exist that they could fall? Yes. But they refused to live in fear. Instead, they breathed the excitement of the moment: the joy that accompanies living life fully in each and every moment.

This is our Open Thread. Enjoy life!