Tuesday, April 28, 2009

i-TFTD #201: Why We Read Ancient Wisdom

i-TFTD #201: Why We Read Ancient Wisdom

(Depending on your preferences, you can think of The Gita or the Bible or the Koran or a Richard Bach or Paul Coelho or Ayn Rand or Robert Pirsig book when reading this.)

An old farmer lived on a farm in the mountains with his young grandson. Each morning Grandpa was up early sitting at the kitchen table reading the <any-favourite-scripture-or-profound-book>. His grandson wanted to be just like him and tried to imitate him in every way he could. One day the grandson asked, "Grandpa, I try to read <the-book> just like you but I don't understand it, and what I do understand I forget as soon as I close the book. What good does reading <the-book> do?"

The Grandfather quietly turned from putting coal in the stove and replied, "Take this coal basket down to the river and bring me back a basket of water." The boy did as he was told, but all the water leaked out before he got back to the house.

The grandfather laughed and said, "You'll have to move a little faster next time," and sent him back to the river with the basket to try again. This time the boy ran faster, but again the basket was empty before he returned home. Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was impossible to carry water in a basket, and he went to get a bucket instead. The old man said, "I don't want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You're just not trying hard enough," and he went out the door to watch the boy try again.

At this point, the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got back to the house. The boy again dipped the basket into river and ran hard, but when he reached his grandfather the basket was again empty.

Out of breath, he said,  "See Grandpa, it's useless!"

"So you think it is useless?" The old man said, "Look at the basket."

The boy looked at the basket and for the first time realized that the basket was different. It had been transformed from a dirty old coal basket and was now clean, inside and out.

"Son, that's what happens when you read <the-book>. You might not understand or remember everything, but when you read it, you will be changed, inside and out."


My personal experience is that we need periodic doses of good stuff, and they do seem to work on our insides. Maturity of thought cannot be obtained in one "Aha!" moment. What appeals to us changes over time and the same words start to mean different things after some more life experience. This works regardless of our faith or belief in what is being said. Many say belief makes it faster but belief cannot be engineered. I continue to be a proponent of healthy scepticism (different from cynicism).

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