When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
unknown monk (1100AD)
There was a boy, whose family was very wealthy. One day his father took him on a trip to the country, where he aimed to show his son, how poor people live.
So they arrived to a farm of a very poor family, as he considered. They spent there several days. On their return, the father asked his son, did he like the trip.
“Oh, it was great, dad,” the boy replied.
“Did you notice how poor people live?”
“Yeah, I did.“ said the boy.
The father asked his son to tell his impressions of the trip in more details.
“Well, we have only one dog and they have four of them. In our garden there is a pool, while they have a river that has no end. We‘ve got expensive lanterns, but they have stars above their heads at night. We have the patio, and they have the whole horizon. We have only a small piece of land, while they have the endless fields. We buy food, but they grow it. We have high fence for protection of our property, but they don‘t need it, as their friends protect them.”
The father was stunned. He could not say a word.
Then the boy added: “Thank you, dad, for letting me see how poor we are.”
One student asked his wise teacher: “What is more important for a person: is it the outer or inner beauty?“
In response to that the teacher asked his student: “Tell me, if you needed to buy a house, but you only had enough money for a beautiful outside, but a comfortless house, or a poor house, but warm and reliable. What would you choose?“
“I would rather choose a simple outside but convenient inside house.“
“But what if a vain person was buying a house, proud of his position, but not having enough resource to buy a beautiful and cosy house?“, asked the teacher again.
“Surely, he would prefer the outer beauty of the house,” answered the student.
“I think you are right,” said the teacher and added: “but regardless of your choice, each of you would understand that you are missing beauty or comfort and would seek for it.“
“So it means that outer and inner beauty is essentially equivalent and valuable only in harmony?” asked Zhao Zeng.
“You can say that,” answered the teacher smiling, “but I thought foremost that when possessing a half, you always need to seek for a whole, not losing what you already have. Because a half will always be only a half, despite of how great it would be.“
One day a small gap appeared in the cocoon, through which the butterfly had to appear. A boy, who accidentally passed by, stopped and watched how the butterfly was trying to get out of the cocoon. It took a lot of time, the butterfly was trying very hard, and the gap was as little as before. It seemed that the power would leave the butterfly soon.
The boy decided to help the butterfly. He took a penknife and cut the cocoon. The butterfly immediately got out, but its body was weak and feeble, and the wings were barely moving.
The boy continued to watch the butterfly, thinking that now its wings would spread and its would fly. However, that did not happen.
The rest of its life the butterfly had to drag its weak body and wings that weren’t spread. It was unable to fly, because the boy did not realize that an effort to enter through the narrow gap of the cocoon was necessary for the butterfly, so that the life-giving fluid would move from the body to the butterfly’s wings and that the butterfly could fly. Life forced the butterfly to leave its shell hardly, so that it would become stronger and would be able to grow and develop.
If we were allowed to live without meeting difficulties, we would not be viable. Life gives us challenges to make us stronger.
One day, a dull and exhausted by the illnesses and burdens of life, peasant came to the wise man. He sat in front of the wise man, who gave him a heartfelt and warm smile.
The peasant breathed out heavily letting out a wave of mourning. He began complaining about his life, that he has a hard burden that he doesn’t see a bright daylight at all, it’s like one problem falls on his head or the other – they have twisted him between the grindstones so much that he can’t even breathe in some fresh air.
Later, he began blaming all of his relatives, who, in his opinion, were guilty for his misfortunes, whether the circumstances didn’t turn out right for him, or something else.
The wise man listened to him in silence, and when the peasant once again contritely inquired the wise man, why is it so unfair, what should he do and how to find peace, the wise man got up from his seat and invited the peasant to follow him.
They came out of the hut and went to a lakeside, which was not far away and where from time to time flying fishes were jumping, trotting fast above the surface, catching food.The wise man led the peasant to the lakeside and said to him:
“Do you see the smoothness of the lake? The depths are full with life. There are fishes that always stay in water, and if suddenly the lake got polluted, they couldn’t see further their own nose, they would hardly recognise where the source of the pollution was, and they would keep swimming in circles.
“And there are also fishes that got wings and they can rise above the water of the lake, looking at it from the heights of their flight. So this is my advice: instead of complaining about your life, come to this lakeside from time to time, watch the flying fishes and try to understand what I wanted to say to you.”
An old man lived in the village. He was one of the most unfortunate people in the world. The whole village was tired of him, he was always gloomy, constantly complained and always was in a bad mood. The longer he lived, the more bile was becoming and the more poisonous were his words. People avoided him, because his misfortune became contagious. It was even unnatural and insulting to be happy next to him. He created the feeling of unhappiness in others.
But one day, when he got eighty years old, an incredible thing happened. Instantly everyone heard the rumor:
“The Old Man is happy today, he doesn’t complain about anything, smiles, and even his face is freshened up.”
The whole village gathered together. An old man was asked:
“What happened to you?“
“Nothing special.” he answered. “Eighty years I’ve been chasing happiness and it was useless. And then, I decided to live without happiness and just enjoy life. That is why I am happy now!“
There was once a man who walked his dog every Sunday morning around a lake near his house. Week after week, he saw the same elderly woman sitting at the edge of the water with a small metal cage next to her.
The man’s curiosity finally got the best of him and he approached the woman one day. He noticed that the cage was actually a small trap and she had three small turtles in it. In her lap, there was a fourth turtle that she was carefully wiping down with a sponge.
The man greeted her and said, “If you don’t mind my asking, what do you do with these turtles every week?”
She smiled and explained to him that she was cleaning their shells because any algae or scum that builds up on a turtle’s shell reduces its ability to absorb heat and slows down their swimming. It can also corrode their shell and weaken it over time.
The man was impressed as the woman continued, “I do this every Sunday morning to help the turtles.”
“But don’t most turtles live their entire lives with algae on their shells?” the man asked.
The woman agreed that was true.
He replied, “Well then, you’re kind to do this, but are you really making a difference if most turtles don’t have people around to clean their shells?”
The woman laughed as she looked down at the small turtle on her lap. “Young man, if this little turtle could talk, he would say I’m making all the difference in the world.‘”