Tuesday, 1 November, 2011
FABLES: THIS TOO SHALL PASS
1. Excerpt from Abraham Lincoln’s address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society
Some of you will be successful, and such will need but little philosophy to take them home in cheerful spirits; others will be disappointed, and will be in a less happy mood. To such, let it be said, "Lay it not too much to heart." Let them adopt the maxim, "Better luck next time;" and then, by renewed exertion, make that better luck for themselves.
And by the successful, and the unsuccessful, let it be remembered, that while occasions like the present, bring their sober and durable benefits, the exultations and mortifictions of them, are but temporary; that the victor shall soon be the vanquished, if he relax in his exertion; and that the vanquished this year, may be victor the next, in spite of all competition.
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! -- how consoling in the depths of affliction! "And this, too, shall pass away."
2. An emperor at the height of his powers decided that he needed something to bring balance to his life. So he went to a renowned spiritual master, bowed before him and asked him to impart some wisdom. The monk gave him two slips of paper and said, “Open one during a time of great sorrow and distress, when you see no way out and think all is lost.” The king asked, “And what about the second note, o master?” The master said, “Open that one when peace and happiness reigns, and you think it is the best, happiest moment of your life.”
The king kept the two notes with him at all times but never got the chance to open either. Many years later, the neighbouring kingdom’s army invaded his kingdom in a surprise attack. The king was driven out of his city with the rival army’s general following close behind, with just his closest coterie to keep him safe. He finally gets separated from even his trusted lieutenants during the chase. Finally his injured horse throws him off and the king lands against a tree, exhausted. Sure he’s about to be captured, just on time he remembers the master’s note. He opens the relevant one and it says ‘This too shall pass.’ Though his situation is hopeless a calm descends on him. even in capture he keeps his dignity. Just when the king is about to be jailed, his kingdom, now in enemy hands, is stormed by his own men, a band that had gathered to take the enemy by surprise. the enemy is vanquished and the king gets his kingdom back. After the incident, when he’s back on the throne and peace and prosperity reigns again, the king remembers the monk’s other note. He opens it and it reads ‘This too shall pass.’
3. The Jewish king Solomon one day decided to put his minister Benamiah Ben Yehoyada to the test, and humble him. So he asked him to accomplish a seemingly impossible task – he ordered Benamiah to find him a special ring with magic features. If you were happy when you wore the ring, it would make you sad. On the other hand, if you were sad and wore it, your spirits would be raised!
Solomon gave him six months to find such a ring. Deep down in their hearts, both Solomon and Benamiah knew that such a ring did not exist. Benamiah prayed hard for a miracle. He searched for such a miraculous object wide and low, but had no luck. Just when his time was running out, he decided to go to one of the poorest places in Jerusalem.
There he saw an old merchant who was spreading out his goods on a carpet. Benamiah was intrigued. He thought, “Let me take a chance with him.” He asked the merchant if he had a magic ring that could make a happy person forget his happiness and a sad person forget his sorrow. The merchant smiled. He took a gold ring from his wares and etched four words on it. Benamiah took the gold ring. When he read the inscription his face broke out in a wide smile – his task was accomplished.
On the day of the deadline he went back to Solomon. The king and all his ministers began making fun of Benamiah, certain that he would have returned empty-handed. Benamiah smiled and offered the gold ring to His Majesty. As soon as Solomon read what was written, the smile vanished from his face and he stopped the mockery. For the words etched on the ring were – ‘this too shall pass’. At that moment Solomon realized that everything in life was ephemeral, and nothing lasts forever, joy or sorrow, wealth or poverty, people or objects. At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things.