In Line –
This afternoon, on my way into town, I was in a line of traffic. About three cars in front of me a young man, hand out the window, smoking a cigarette, and in a hurry. He was “riding the bumper” of the car in front of him in spite of their being numerous cars in front of the object of his fury. I watched him and wondered; “Why? Why are you being an aggressive, desperate driver, when there are more cars in your way? Are you going to tailgate every car until you get in front of them all?” I knew the answer was probably; “yes if he could.”
I reflected on this man and the way our focus of life can be out of whack. When we go through a challenge, a difficult situation, we focus our intensity on the object in front of us. We blame it for our lack of peace and purpose. We think; “If I could just get this off my to-do list, remove that problem, rid myself of this habit, break off or begin this relationship, everything would get better.” The truth, however, is more poignant. If we do not have peace before we run into a challenge, overcoming it will not bring us peace. If there is no stillness inside prior to a relationship there will be none afterward. New job, friends, home, whatever, cannot bring us the sense of calm and wisdom we desire if we don’t acquire them deep inside by searching for them now.
“The only peace and wisdom you find at the top of the mountain you are climbing are what you bring with you” -Wisdom Proverb
One day, a mighty warrior set out to find an aged monk who was known to be very wise.
When he arrived at the monastery, he flung open the door and demanded of the old man, “Tell me, you who are learned in spiritual matters, what is heaven and what is hell?”
The monk, surprised at the warrior’s entrance and interest, sat still for a moment. After a while he looked up at the warrior and recognizing his attire the monk said; “I suppose you believe yourself to be a great specimen of manhood? You’re nothing but a mere sliver of a man! I doubt you could cut off the head of a fly with your sword.”
For a moment, the warrior could not believe what he was hearing! No one talked to a him like that! His face, turning blood red, contorted in rage, he bellowed, “How dare you! I won’t let you get away with such an insult.”
Pulling his huge sword from its sheath, he raised it high above his head, ready to kill the elderly monk. Unperturbed, the wise Father looked directly into the eyes of the furious warrior and said, “You asked what hell is? *This* is hell.”
The giant of a man froze, his sword still raised, as the hatred and anger which consumed him drained away. He looked at the old monk in amazement, realizing that this small, frail man had risked his life to answer his question.
Lowering his weapon, the once proud warrior bowed to the monk, as tears of gratitude appeared in his eyes. “Thank you for your teaching,” he said humbly, his heart filled with love and appreciation for the monk’s gift.
The monk smiled and said, “And this, my brother and friend, is heaven.”
A simple wisdom parable with a great truth. The difference between heaven and hell, love and hate, grace and judgement, contentment and suffering is humility and thankfulness.
It is the realization that life, each breath is a gift. To receive everything we encounter on life’s path, what we might perceive and label as “good” or “bad”, with open heart and open hand.
Humility and acceptance; learn them and live well.
I made someone cry today. It wasn’t intentional. I can’t remember ever trying to purposefully get another person to shed a tear. It was a couple of words which rolled off my tongue, without any thought and then tears rolled down a person’s cheek.
“A young, talkative and arrogant fellow went about town belittling the local wise man. One day, feeling sorry for his slander, he went to the wise man’s home and asked for forgiveness.
The wise man told him that he would forgive him on one condition: that he go home, take a feather pillow from his house, cut it up, and scatter the feathers to the wind. After he had this, the young man should return. Though puzzled he went home, cut up a pillow, scattered the feathers as he was told, and returned.
“Am I now forgiven?” he asked. “Just one more thing,” the wise man replied. “Go now and collect all the feathers.” “But that’s impossible! The wind has blown them everywhere.”
“Precisely,” answered the sage. “And though you may truly wish to correct the damage your words have done, it is impossible.Your words are now out there with a life and power of their own.”
This morning, and the parable above, are stark reminders that words are powerful. Whether they are said in comfort, jest, condolence, anger or ambivalence once words are spoken they cannot be unspoken. For good or ill, positive or negative our words can build and destroy. Let us be sure to choose and use them carefully.