This poem called “Questionnaire” by Wendell Berry should be required reading and then answered out loud in public by all politicians, candidates and voters. #5 is especially wrenching: QUESTIONNAIREby Wendell Berry How much poison are you willingto eat for the success of the freemarket and global trade? Pleasename your preferred poisons. For the sake of … Continue reading Questionnaire →
The Farmer and the Horse
How the Farmer’s wife died
Once upon a time there was a farmer. He had a large property and many fine fields. He decided to plant his fields with corn, so he got a strong smart horse to take him into town to buy seeds and pull his plow and haul the harvest into town to sell.
That Spring he and the horse spent many long hard hours planting his fields. Some days they worked from sun up to sun down. Every evening the farmer would put the mare back into the barn and give her a big bucket of grain. This continued for many weeks until the planting was finished. The next day the farmer didn’t come to the barn and the horse watched for him all day.
But the next day the farmer came to the barn and saddled the mare up to go to town to get some medicine for his wife who had a cough. When he returned he put the horse back into the barn and gave her a nice bucket of grain.
It was several days later when the farmer came out again to feed her. “Sorry old gal. My wife has been sick and I didn’t have the time to come out. Here’s some grain.” The horse gobbled up the feed and the farmer return to the house.
A week later the farmer appeared again. The horse was very hungry by this time, but didn’t complain as the farmer saddled her up and rode her into town to get some more medicine for his wife. When they returned, the farmer gave her some grain and disappeared into the house.
The summer was turning to fall, and the crops had grown high. But the farmer didn’t go out to the fields to harvest the corn he’d worked so hard to plant. He was too busy caring for his wife. She kept telling him to hire someone to harvest the corn before it was too late, but he kept saying he would do it, insisting he didn’t have enough money.Â But before he could get out into the field, the corn turned brown and the deer ravaged the field eating every last kernel.
Meanwhile the horse was getting desperate. She whinnied from the barn to get the farmer’s attention. She was becoming weaker every day without food. She kicked at the door to try to escape.
One day the farmer’s wife took a turn for the worse and he feared she was dying. The farmer rushed down to the barn to get the horse to go to town to get the doctor. When he opened the stall door, the horse lay dead on the floor, starved.
One day a farmer’s donkey fell into a well. The farmer frantically thought what to do as the stricken animal cried out to be rescued. With no obvious solution, the farmer regretfully concluded that as the donkey was old, and as the well needed to be filled in anyway, he should give up the idea of rescuing the beast, and simply fill in the well. Hopefully the poor animal would not suffer too much, he tried to persuade himself.
The farmer asked his neighbours help, and before long they all began to shovel earth quickly into the well. When the donkey realised what was happening he wailed and struggled, but then, to everyone’s relief, the noise stopped.
After a while the farmer looked down into the well and was astonished by what he saw. The donkey was still alive, and progressing towards the top of the well. The donkey had discovered that by shaking off the dirt instead of letting it cover him, he could keep stepping on top of the earth as the level rose. Soon the donkey was able to step up over the edge of the well, and he happily trotted off.
Life tends to shovel dirt on top of each of us from time to time. The trick is to shake it off and take a step up.
The buddha and the abuse
A tale is told about the Buddha, Gautama (563-483BC), the Indian prince and spiritual leader whose teachings founded Buddhism. This short story illustrates that every one of us has the choice whether or not to take personal offence from another person’s behaviour.
It is said that on an occasion when the Buddha was teaching a group of people, he found himself on the receiving end of a fierce outburst of abuse from a bystander, who was for some reason very angry.
The Buddha listened patiently while the stranger vented his rage, and then the Buddha said to the group and to the stranger, “If someone gives a gift to another person, who then chooses to decline it, tell me, who would then own the gift? The giver or the person who refuses to accept the gift?”
“The giver,” said the group after a little thought. “Any fool can see that,” added the angry stranger.
“Then it follows, does it not,” said the Buddha, “Whenever a person tries to abuse us, or to unload their anger on us, we can each choose to decline or to accept the abuse; whether to make it ours or not. By our personal response to the abuse from another, we can choose who owns and keeps the bad feelings.”
The very old lady
A very old lady looked in the mirror one morning. She had three remaining hairs on her head, and being a positive soul, she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” So she braided her three hairs, and she had a great day.
Some days later, looking in the mirror one morning, preparing for her day, she saw that she had only two hairs remaining. “Hmm, two hairs… I fancy a centre parting today.” She duly parted her two hairs, and as ever, she had a great day.
A week or so later, she saw that she had just one hair left on her head. “One hair huh…,” she mused, “I know, a pony-tail will be perfect.” And again she had a great day.
The next morning she looked in the mirror. She was completely bald.
“Finally bald huh,” she said to herself, “How wonderful! I won’t have to waste time doing my hair any more..”
Rocks in Bucket
Start with a bucket, some big rocks enough to fill it, some small stones, some sand and water.
Put the big rocks in the bucket – is it full?
Put the small stones in around the big rocks – is it full?
Put the sand in and give it a shake – is it full?
Put the water in. Now it’s full.
The point is: unless you put the big rocks in first, you won’t get them in at all.
If one speaks or acts with a cruel mind,
misery follows, as the cart follows the horse …
If one speaks or acts with a pure mind,
happiness follows, as a shadow follows its source.
– the Dhammapa