A Wise Man or a Fool?

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An African fable (UGANDA)

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ONCE upon a time there was a potter and his wife who had one child, a little boy, and as he grew older they were grieved to see that he was different from all other children.

He never played with them, or laughed, or sang; he just sat alone by himself, he hardly ever spoke to his parents, and he never learnt the nice polite manners of the other children in the village. He sat and thought all day, and no one knew what he thought about, and his parents were very sad.

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The other women tried to comfort the potter’s wife. They said: “Perhaps you will have another baby, and it will be like other children.” But she said:

“I don’t want another baby; I want this one to be nice.” And the men of the village tried to cheer the potter. “Queer boys often become great men,” they said. And one old man said: “Leave the boy alone; we shall see whether he is a wise man or a fool.”

The potter went home and told his wife what the men had said, and the boy heard him, and it seemed to wake him up, and he thought it over for a few days, and at last one morning at dawn he took his stick in his hand and went into the forest to think there.

All day he wandered about, and at last he came to a little clearing on the side of a hill from which he could look down over the country. The Sun was setting over the distant blue hills, and everything was touched with a pink and golden light, and deep shadows lay on the banana gardens and forests in the distance, but the boy saw none of these things; he was footsore and weary and miserable, and he sat down on a fallen log, tired out with his long day.

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Suddenly a lion came out on to the clearing.

“What are you doing here all alone?” he said severely.

“I am very miserable,” said the boy, “and I have come into the forest to think, for I do not know whether I am a wise man or a fool.”

“Is that all you think about?” said the lion.

“Yes,” answered the boy, “I think about it night and day.”

“Then you are a fool,” said the lion decidedly. “Wise men think about things that benefit the country.” And he walked away.

Then an antelope came bounding out on the clearing and stopped to stare at the boy.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I am very miserable,” answered the boy; “I don’t know whether I am a wise man or a fool.”

“Do you ever eat anything?” said the antelope.

“Yes,” said the boy, “my mother cooks twice a day, and I eat.”

“Do you ever thank her?” said the antelope.

“No, I have never thought of that,” answered the boy.

“Then you are a fool,” said the antelope. “Wise men are always grateful.” And he bounded off into the forest again.

AM I A WISE MAN OR A FOOL? ASKED THE POTTER'S SON

Then a leopard came up and looked suspiciously at him.

“What are you doing here?” he asked crossly.

“I am very miserable,” answered the boy; “I don’t know if I am a wise man or a fool.”

“Do they love you in your village?” asked the leopard.

“No, I don’t think they do,” said the boy. “I am not like other boys. I don’t know them very well.”

“Then you are a fool,” said the leopard. “All boys are nice; I often wish I were a boy; wise men mix with their fellows and earn their respect.” And he walked on sniffing.

Just then the big grey elephant came shuffling along the forest path, swinging his tail as he walked, and picking a twig here and a leaf there as he passed under the trees.

“What are you doing here all alone in the jungle when the Sun is setting?” he asked. “You should be at home in your village.”

“I am very miserable,” said the boy. “I don’t know if I am a wise man or a fool.”

“What work do you do?” asked the elephant.

“I don’t do any work,” said the boy.

“Then you are a fool,” said the elephant. “All wise men work.” And he swung away down the path which leads to the pool in the forest where the animals go to drink, and the boy put his head down in his hands and cried bitterly, as if his heart would break, for he did not know what to do.

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After a little while he heard a gentle voice by his side: “My little brother, do not cry so; tell me your trouble.” The boy raised his tear-stained face and saw a little hare standing by his side.

“I am very miserable,” he said. “I am not like other people, and nobody loves me. I came into the forest to find out whether I am a wise man or a fool, and all the animals tell me I am a fool.” And he put his head in his hands again and cried more bitterly than ever.

The hare let him cry on for a little while, and then he said: “My little brother, do not cry any more. What the animals have told you is true; they have told you to think great thoughts, to be grateful and kind to others, and, above all, to work. All these things are great and wise. The animals are never idle, and they marvel to see how men, with all their gifts, waste their lives. Think how surprised they are to see a boy like you, well and strong, doing nothing all day, for they know that the world is yours if you will make it so.”

The Sun had set behind the distant hills and the soft darkness was falling quickly over the forest, and the hare said: “Soon it will be chilly here; you are tired and hungry, and far from your village; come and spend the night in my home and we will talk of all these things.”

So they went into the forest again, and the hare brought the boy water in a gourd and wonderful nuts to eat, and made him a soft bed of dry leaves.

And they talked of many things till the boy said: “My father is a potter, and I think I should like to be a potter too.” “If you are, you must never be content with poor work,” said the hare. “Your pottery must be the best in the country; never rest until you can make really beautiful things; no man has any right to send imperfect work out into the world.” “Nobody will believe in me when I go home; they will think I am mad,” said the boy. And the little hare answered: “Man’s life is like a river, which flows always on and on; what is past is gone for ever, but there is clear water behind; no man can say it is too late, and you are only a boy with your life before you.”

“They will laugh at me,” said the boy.

“Wise men don’t mind that,” said the hare; “only fools are discouraged by laughter; you must prove to them that you are not a fool. I will teach you a song to sing at your work; it will encourage you:

“When the shadows have melted in silver dawn,
Farewell to my dreams of play.
The forest is full of a waking throng,
And the tree-tops ring with the birds’ new song,
And the flowers awake from their slumber long,
And the world is mine to-day.”My feet are sure and my hands are strong.
Let me labour and toil while I may.
When the Sun shall set in a sea of light,
And the shadows lengthen far into the night,
I shall take the rest which is mine by right,
For I’ll win the world to-day.”

… So the boy went back to his village, and he found his mother digging in the garden, and he knelt down and greeted her as all nice Baganda children do, and he saw how pleased she was. Then he went to his father, and said: “I want to be a potter; teach me your work and I will try to learn it.” And the potter was very much pleased to think that he would have a son to take on his trade after him, and all the people in the village heard and they rejoiced with the potter and his wife.

And the boy worked hard, and in after years he became a famous potter, and people came from all parts of the country to buy his pottery, for everyone knew that he never sold anything that was not beautiful and well made.

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Source:  THE KING OF THE SNAKES AND OTHER FOLK-LORE STORIES FROM UGANDA

http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/baskerville/king/king.html#XXVII

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Eros, Philia, Agape

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Love 

* This is by far the most famous neo-classical sculpture ever commissioned. It was sculpted by Antonio Canova. It was first commissioned in 1787.

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“What type of love do you mean: Eros, Philia or Agape?”
The man looked at him without understanding a word.
“There are three words in Greek to designate love,” Petrus said. “Today you are seeing the manifestation of Eros, that sentiment between two persons.”

“The two seem to love one another. In a short time they will be fighting alone for life, establishing themselves in a house and taking part in the same adventure: that’s what makes love grand and dignified. He will pursue his career, she probably knows how to cook and will make an excellent housewife because since she was a little girl she was brought up to do that. She will accompany him, they will have children and they will manage to build something together, they will be happy for ever.”

“Al of a sudden, however, this story could happen the other way around. He is going to feel that he is not free enough to show all the Eros, all the love that he has for other women. She may begin to feel that she has sacrificed a career and a brilliant life to accompany her husband. So, instead of creating together, each of them will feel robbed in their way of loving. Eros, the spirit that joins them, will start to display only his bad side. And what God had meant to be man’s most noble sentiment will begin to be a source of hatred and destruction.”

“Notice how odd it is,” continued my guide. “Despite being good or bad, the face of Eros is never the same in all persons.”

Then he continued, pointing to an elderly couple:
“Look at those two: they haven’t let themselves be affected by hypocrisy, like so many others. They look like they are a couple of farm workers: hunger and need have obliged them to overcome many a difficulty together. They have discovered love through work, which is where Eros shows his most beautiful face, also known as Philia.”
“What’s Philia?”
“Philia is love in the form of friendship. It’s what I feel for you and others. When the flame of Eros no longer able to shine, it’s Philia who keeps couples together.”

“And what about Agape?”
“Agape is total love, the love that devours those that experience it. Whoever knows and experiences Agape sees that nothing else in this world is of any importance, only loving. This was the love that Jesus felt for humanity, and it was so great that it shook the stars and changed the course of man’s history.”
“During the millennia of the history of civilization, many people have been smitten by this Love that Devours. They had so much to give – and the world demanded so little – that they were obliged to seek out the deserts and isolated places because love was so great that it transfigured them. They became the hermit saints that we know today.”
“For me and you who have experienced another form of Agape, this life here may seem hard and terrible. Yet the Love that Devours makes everything lose its importance: these men live only to be consumed by their love.”
He took a pause.
“Agape is the Love that Devours,” he repeated once more, as if this was the phrase that best defined that strange type of love. “Luther King once said that when Christ spoke of loving our enemies he was referring to Agape. Because according to him, it was impossible to like our enemies, those who do us harm and try to make our daily suffering all the worse.”
“But Agape is a lot more than liking. It is a sentiment that invades everything, fills all the cracks and makes any attempt at aggression turn to dust.”
“There are two forms of Agape. One is isolation, life dedicated only to contemplation. The other is precisely the opposite: contact with other human beings, and enthusiasm, the sacred sense of work. Enthusiasm means trance, ecstasy, connecting with God. Enthusiasm is Agape directed at some idea, something.”
“When we love and believe in something from the bottom of our soul, we feel stronger than the world and we are imbued with a serenity that comes from the certainty that nothing can conquer our faith. This strange force makes us always make the right decisions at the right time, and we are surprised at our own capacity when we fulfill our objective.”
“Enthusiasm usually manifests itself in all its power in the early years of our life. We still have a strong tie with the divinity and we give ourselves with such zeal to our toys that dolls take on a life of their own and little tin soldiers manage to march. When Jesus said that the kingdom of Heaven belonged to the children, he was referring to Agape in the form of Enthusiasm. The children reached him without paying any attention to his miracles, his wisdom, the Pharisees and the apostles. They came happily, driven by Enthusiasm.”


taken from THE PILGRIMAGE by Paulo Coehlo

“May you never lose your enthusiasm at any moment for the rest of your life: it’s your greatest strength, intent on the final victory. You cannot let it slip through your fingers just because as time passes we have to face some small and necessary defeats.”

Source:  Paulo Coehlo Writer Official Site http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2013/04/05/love-as-eros-philos-and-agape/