Archive for favor

Two Parables

Posted in All, Economics, Humor, Politics, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2010 by marushiadark

“Did universal charity prevail, earth would be a heaven, and hell a fable.” ~ Charles Colton, cleric

When I was in grammar school, because I went to a Catholic school, we had to take religion as a class.  My eighth grade teacher was incredibly strict, but I learned a great deal thanks to her.  Among other things, she taught us this parable about the nature of heaven and hell that I retain and use to this day.

Imagine that you are in a great hall filled with all the people that you’ve ever encountered in your life.  In this hall, you are all seated at an enormous table.  Before you is a banquet of any and all the types of food that you and all the other guests could ever want to eat, and this food continues to replenish whenever more is needed.  Truly, it is a feast unlike any other.  However, there is a catch.  Instead of hands, every guest at the banquet has six-foot long chopsticks attached to their arms.  No one is capable of eating any of this food because no one can reach their mouths due to the chopsticks.  So the food just sits there, tormenting the guests, until both it and the guests waste away to nothing.  In this hall, everyone is greedy and self-serving and gets nothing but misery and pain as a result.

Now imagine that you have an identical hall with the exact same set-up, only in this hall, everyone works to feed each other instead of their own selves.  Everyone gets what they want and there is more than enough to go around.  Everyone is both a giver and a receiver, satisfying their own needs and the needs of those around them.  All the guests receive nourishment from the food and the enjoyment from the company.  There is no pain or suffering, but instead genuine love and happiness.

I don’t think I need to explain that the first hall represents hell, while the second one represents heaven.

Such a metaphor is so simple that even a naive child can understand.  I should know, since I was a naive child when I first learned it, myself.

Now imagine if the whole world acted that way.  If everyone was selfless enough to contribute to the benefit of others, while still occasionally taking time out to let others return the favor.  Each person doing what they can for a person within their range of ability to help until everyone is eventually satisfied.  From each according to his means, to each according to his needs, until everyone has everything that they want and need.

Because of the complex nature of life, it’s impossible for anyone to ever be completely self-sufficient.  We all need other people, whether for emotional support, or to make or do something that we can’t in order to improve our quality of life.  When we consider the potential gains to ourselves and others from what amounts to a modicum of service, the world becomes a much better place.

“Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child cannot be a true system.” ~ Thomas Paine

Another parable, this time of my own making, along the same lines is as follows.

A Zen Master had two young sons that would not stop fighting with one another.  So one day, he called the boys together and the three of them sat down at their father’s table.  The Zen Master set a box of building blocks on the table.  To the first son, he gave seven blocks and to the second, he gave five.  He then commanded his sons to construct the tallest tower they possibly could with what they had been given.

The two brothers took their blocks and each built a tower out of the blocks he had in front of him, stacking them one atop the other.  The second son noticed that the first son’s tower was much larger.

“No fair,” he said, “He got more blocks than me.”  And in a fit of jealousy, he knocked the first son’s tower down.  “Now my tower’s bigger,” he said.  Out of anger, the first son retaliated and knocked over the second son’s tower.  Now neither of them had a tower and the two sons began to argue and fight over what had happened.

The Zen Master then separated the two boys and stopped their fighting.  “Look at the mess you two have made,” he said, “I commanded you to build the biggest tower you could, but instead you have created nothing but ruin and hatred between yourselves.”

“But he knocked down my tower,” said the first.

“But you gave him more blocks,” said the second.

The Zen Master shook his head in disappointment.  “I said build the biggest tower you could with the blocks you had.  You chose to hoard your lots and build separate towers, when you could have come together to build a tower twice as tall as what either of you could have built alone.”

The two brothers then felt ashamed for misunderstanding their father’s commandment after realizing what they had done.  The Zen Master then poured the rest of the building blocks out of the box.  “Now, let the three of us together build an enormous tower that stretches towards the ceiling.”  And so the Zen Master and his two sons worked together and used up all the blocks in building an enormous block tower.  Between the three of them, there were enough blocks to build out laterally as well so that the tower was better supported and able to rise that much higher.

The two sons were so proud of their accomplishment that they went and told their mother and their sisters and their friends and brought them all to see the magnificent tower that had been built and everyone was in awe at what they had done.

Yet another story that even a child can understand.  The moral of which is that we all are given different gifts, different skills, different resources, different connections in our lives, and different experiences.  We all have our own paths unique to us.  But rather than keeping these all to ourselves, we can accomplish much greater things if we shared all that with others in cooperative union.  To build each other up instead of tearing each other down.  To see ourselves as partners, rather than rivals or enemies.  In a world where we see nothing but lines of division and differences and separation, there is no rule that says we cannot come together to make the world a better place for all.  The world is fundamentally an interconnected system, and what affects one affects the whole.  So why not work with each other, rather than at cross purposes in pursuit of what is common to us all?

Advertisements