Saturday, October 15, 2005

Being Contented...

Listening to: Low Millions - Eleanor
Feeling: Slightly more contented than before

Everyone has their own problems, but of late, troubles had been coming in one by one, one after another. I guess it is a turbulent time for everyone.

It's a trying time, but what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger. Remember that!

So I was sitting here, wondering which problem's the biggest, how it interlinks with us and things like that when I suddenly thought of a story I've read in my collection of fairy tales. It's about how everyone thinks their problem is the biggest and how they enjoyed dwelling in their own problems. I have spent about an hour typing this out! =_=; Enjoy it ok? I thought that it's pretty meaningful.

The Discontented Village
By Rose Dobbs

There was once a village that had every reason to be the happiest in the world but was in fact the saddest. It was situated in a pleasant valley with protecting mountains all around. It had fertile fields, industrious workers, and a prosperous market-place. But it was not happy because there lived in it not one contented inhabitant. Each person believed himself weighed down with troubles like an old nag with bones. And what is more, each believed his, problems were heavier than any of his neighbor's. If you saw a little group of people standing together and sidled over to hear what they were talking about, you would find yourself listening not to good talk about the weather, or crops, of the price of cheese, or the arrival of a new baby. No - you would hear nothing but talk about trouble.

"Ah, me" like as not one would be saying, "was there ever a more unfortunate man than I? Things are so bad with me that trouble has moved right into my house and is now a steady boarder."

"What do you know about trouble?" his neighbor answers. "Trouble is so familiar with me, he calls me by name."

"Have you heard?" a third chimes in. "Trouble is calling me brother."

It is said where there is smoke, there must be fire. Perhaps there is a good reason for such talk? Let us see.

Here is the miller - a fine man, sole owner of a busy mill, completely free and master of himself. He earns more than a pretty penny and no one to tell him what to do wit it. But is he happy? No. Why not? Because he has no wife.

"The baker, now," sighs the miller. "The baker is a happy man. When he comes home at the end of the day his place is neat and his supper upon the table. What does he know of having to shift for himself? What does he know of trouble?"

And the baker - is he happy? No. And why not? Because he has no child.

"What is the use of putting up with the restrictions of married life," mumbles the baker, "if there is no child to look after a man in his old age? It is unfair an unfair world. Here I have none and the carpenter has six."

And the carpenter - is he happy? No. And why not? Because he has too many children. All day long the carpenter complains: "By my hammer and nails, is there a curse on me? Other men's children grow like weeds and are soon farm hands and wage earners. But mine, now, they stay on all fours forever and the cradle never empty. Ah me, does any man have such troubles as I?"

And what about the people whose children are grown - are they happy? No. And why not? Listen, and you shall hear.

Here is the tailor with a good steady son, a dreamer and a scholar. "Of what use are dreamers and scholars?" moans the tailor. "The world is too busy for dreaming and too much learning leads but to destruction. Now why, if only one child was given me, could it not have been a strong, ambitious lad like the tinker's or a pretty girl like the widow's - a girl who will marry well and keep her mother in comfort?"

But the tinker is unhappy because his strong, ambitious lad is ever off adventuring, and the widow us unhappy because her pretty daughter will have none of the rich farmer's son but is casting soft glances in the direction of the scholar. And so the tinker and the widow complain too.

"Children seldom grow up good and steady and obedient," they both wail. "Children are best when they're in the cradle. Yes, the carpenter with his little ones and the baker and the miller with no children at all - there are happy men."

And the carpenter and the baker and the miller? We have already heard them.

And so it went. The people who worked envied those who loafed and those who loafed envied those who worked and made money. And the young longed for the irresponsibilities of old age and the old wept for their lost youth. And if they didn't have any immediate reason for being unhappy, they looked hard enough until they found one.

So day by day this discontent grew, and the moans and groans and mumbles and grumbles rose like a great thick fog. And one day the fog hide the sun. So busy were the people at first with their troubles that they paid no attention but when many sunless hours went by, it occurred to them that here was trouble indeed, touching all of them.

"Truly we are an unhappy folk," they now cried, all together. "Even the sun won't shine on us."

Out of the gloom one day came a traveller. It had been murky for long that no one expected any visitors, and the first the villagers knew of his approach was the sound of a merry voice singing gaily:

Heigh ho,
Life is jolly,
Content is wisdom,
Complaint is folly

The people gathered in the main street to see who it was that subscribed to such an outlandish theory. And presently there emerged out of the gloom a tall figure. It was a man, not old, not young; not well dressed, not shabby; not loaded with provisions, yet not entirely bereft, for the small bundle slung over his shoulder seem comfortably full. He stopped in front of the people and put down his bundle.

"Greetings," he said. "Forgive me, my friends, for not giving you the good of the morning or the evening, for by my life, how is a man to tell in this gloom if it be day or night here?"

"The sun has deserted the world," said one of the villagers. "And," he added severely, "small cause for singing, I should say."

The stranger smiled. "The sun is shining warm and bright somewhere, I warrant. When this fog lifts, you will see."

The villagers regarded him suspiciously. This cheerful comment was not to his liking. " Who are you?" he asked bluntly.

"I?" The stranger shrugged his shoulders. "I am no one and every one. I am a homeless wanderer and I own the earth."

"Poor man," said another villager. "Trouble has addled your brain."

"Trouble?" said the stranger. "Now that is one word I do not know."

The people crowded round him and examined him closely.

"Are you ill?" they asked in amazement. "How can you say you know not trouble with no hearth or fire or chick or child to call your own? Wandering over the face of the earth, and walking without rest. That does not make for any foolish philosophy of contentment. Trouble in the form of weary legs."

"Ah well," said the stranger, "there is no ill but somewhere a cure exists for it. And as for weary legs, the best cure is to take the weight off them."

And down he sat, under a tree.

The villagers gathered around him open-mouthed. And the stranger calmly sat there. Finally the miller said, "Well, now, since you are so much-travelled, perhaps in your wanderings you have heard of a cure for fog?"

"Perhaps," said the stranger. He rose, turned his long nose up, then down, then this way, then that. He sniffed like a dog. Then he stuck out his tongue, tasted the fog and made a wry face. "This is no ordinary fog," he said, "for, unpleasant as it is, fog is still nothing but vapor, and vapor is nothing but water which neither smell nor tastes bad. Still this looks like fog, and it feels like fog. It must be some special kind, caused by something most disagreeable. If I know the cause, I might know the cure."

"We do not know the cause," said the baker. "The sun suddenly left us. I remember it was some time ago. I was thinking of how unhappy I was then-"

"Yes," interrupted the carpenter. "I was thinking of how little reason others have for unhappiness, compared to me, when -"

The tailor interrupted the carpenter and the tinker interrupted the tailor and soon everyone was shouting.

And as they shouted, they fog grew thicker and thicker.

"Stop!" said the stranger, "It needs no Solomon to see what is wrong here. Well. Well. There is no ill but somewhere a cure exists for this. Yes, even for this ill."

"And what might the cure be?" asked the widow, eagerly.

"Simple," said the stranger, 'if you will listen carefully and follow instructions."

All the people solemnly and silently nodded their heads.

The stranger sat down again.

"Now then," he said, "let's see: you must string up one stout line from one end of the market-place to the other. Then you must each go home and put your troubles into a sack - "

"No sack in the world is large enough to contain mine," cried the carpenter.

"Nor mine," sighed the widow.

"Nor mine," wailed the tailor.

"Nor mine," cried they all.

The stranger frowned. "Well, then, if you will not listen and will not obey - " He began to rise once more.

And the fog grew thicker and thicker

"Stay!" cried the people. "We will manage somehow. Let us hear the cure."

The stranger sat down once more.

"Then you must each go home and put your problems into a sack," he said once again, "and bring the sacks down to the market-place and hang them up on the line. Then you must step back, a good way back - and wait until I give you the signal. At the signal each of you may rush forward to take any sack he wishes off the line. For the fog will not lift until you stop complaining."

The people were entranced. Their eyes gleamed and thoughts rush through their heads like scurrying mice. No doubt you might have already guessed what those thoughts were.Each person saw himself quickly getting rid of his troubles by grabbing his neighbor's sack. And each hugged the wicked thought close, for fear his neighbor might catch it.

The stranger leaned back against tree and peering through the gloom watched the villagers string up the line. The they made for their homes and presently he saw them again - a long line of people - each lugging a sack. They reached the market-place and with much panting hung the sacks up on the line.

Then they drew back - a good way back - and stood or sat in little groups.

The stranger did not move. Every eye was fastened on him, but he gave no sign.

And so they waited. Still no sign,

And still they waited. And still no sign.

Finally, the people took their eyes off the stranger and fixed them upon the line of sacks. Each person heaved a mighty sigh as he looked at his own sack and compared it to his neighbor's, for of course to each one his own sack loomed largest and heaviest. They looked again at the stranger. Still no sign. So they turned back to the sacks. And they gazed and gazed, and as they gazed they began to think, and as they thought their musing took an unusual turn.

The carpenter's eyes had been darting from the sack of the tailor to the sack of the tinker; from the sack of the tinker to the sack of the widow. Presently he fixed his gaze to the widow's sack. The carpenter sits up with a start. Is it possible? Can that be the widow's sack dragging on the ground, while his, the carpenter's , swings gaily and lightly above? The carpenter recalls it is many weeks since the village has seen ribbon or flounce of the widow's pretty daughter. The girl went off to her aunt vowing she would not return until the scholar was made welcome in the widow's home. Poor widow. Poor lonely woman. Into the carpenter's ears comes the joyous sounds of his little children's jolly voices, and into the carpenter's heart comes the proud knowledge that disobedience is unknown in his home. But for how long?

"Ah me," thinks the carpenter, "how short a while are children little; how short a time do they obey us; how quickly are they grown up and become willful and independent; how apt to go off and leave the home empty and sorrowful." For the first time, the carpenter remembers gratefully the extreme youth of his own children. He turns in pity to the widow, but the widow's eyes are glued on the carpenter's sack... A terror grips the carpenter.

The tailor's gaze is fixed on the tinker's sack. Suddenly he sits up with a start. Is it possible? Can the tinker's sack be bigger than his? Into the tailor's mind flashes the rumors he has been hearing of war. He sees the tinker's strong, ambitious son march off. His own son, the frail scholar and dreamer, stays behind, Will the tinker ever see his son again? The tailor's heart almost stopped beating. Into his mind comes a thought: When the world is weary of hate and destruction and sick over the loss of the young and strong, it will turn to the comfort which the dreamers will bring and the healing the scholars will send. For dreams are ever made of hope, and from learning comes understanding, and in understanding lies man's salvation. The tailor's eyes grew moist. He looks in compassion at the tinker. But the tinker's gaze is fixed upon the tailor's sack... A sudden terror grips the tailor.

The miller had been keeping one eye on the stranger and one on the baker's sack. But when he turned both eyes in the baker's sack, he sat up with a start. Was it possible? Could it be that the baker's sack be bigger than his? The miller stares and thinks. It occurs to him that he never sees the baker in the tavern of an evening. "That wife of his," the men say, "she won't let him enjoy a glass of ale with us. Poor man, he cannot call his soul his own." The miller thinks and stares. "Everyone knows," he recalls his cronies saying, "that the tongue of the baker's wife is tied in the middle and wags from both ends. Poor man, he knows not one peaceful moment." The miller looks with sympathy at the baker. But the baker had decided that little children mean small troubles, and big children mean large troubles, and a wife mean trouble all the time. So he does not meet miller's sympathetic look. His eyes are riveted on the miller's sack... A sudden terror grips the miller.

And so it happened that as each one of the villagers turned greedy eyes on some one else's sack, it was only to see that the sack he coveted was always bigger and heavier than his own. And gradually each pair of eyes came to rest on its own sack and each heart beat impatiently for the signal. And as the people's heart filled with thoughts of pity and compassion and sympathy and gratitude - and content - the fog began to lift. The air became sweet and cool and clear. A full moon sailed the sky, lighting up the whole market-place. Like a silver ship, the moon followed her starry course and eventually disappeared in the west. In the east a faint glow appeared behind the mountains, the stranger rose and stretched himself.

The people were overjoyed to see the sun. And now they noticed too that the fog had gone. They breathed deeply of the sweet, cool air. Oh never again would they pollute it with complaints.

But the sign. Would it never be given? They turned anxiously to the stranger. He picked up his bundle, slung it slowly over his shoulder, and called out: "Go!"

Off like a shot went each of the villagers. And straight as an arrow did each one head for his very own sack.

How light each felt to its owner as he took it off the line. And how happy was each man to have his own sack once more.

They turned to thank the stranger - but there were no one under the tree. The soft morning breeze brought them back the echo of a song:

Heigh ho,
Life is jolly,
Content is wisdom,
Complaint is folly


Gem, G, HamHam, KatKat and Nini, everything will be alright in the end... Ganbatte ne!

Edit: Hurrah!! This is post no.200 :p

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