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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The Colour of Love

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                                           Chagall’s wisdom

In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love. All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.

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When I am finishing a picture I hold some God-made object up to it / a rock, a flower, the branch of a tree or my hand / as a kind of final test. If the painting stands up beside a thing man cannot make, the painting is authentic. If there’s a clash between the two, it is bad art.

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If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing. Will God or someone else give me the strength to breathe the breath of prayer and mourning into my paintings, the breath of prayer for redemption and resurrection?

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The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world. In this long vigil he often has to vary his methods of stimulation; but in this long vigil he is also himself striving against a continual tendency to sleep.

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Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love. 

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Marc Chagall (July 1887 – March 1985) was a Russian artist of a devout Jewish family, born in Vitebsk.

Source: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2014/05/07/character-of-the-week-marc-chagall/

O Isaiah, Dance for Joy

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O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.
Composer: John Tavener

Meant to convey a series of verbal and musical impressions of a village wedding in Greece, Tavener’s music is set to a mix of texts from Angelos Sikelianos’ poem” Village Wedding” interspersed with many repetitions of the line “O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child” taken from the Orthodox wedding service.

Text, by Angelos Sikelianos, translated from Greek by Philip Sherrard and Edmund Keeley

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To my beloved, who breaks my heart.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

Do you listen within your veil, silent, God-quickened heart?
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

O depth and stillness of virginity! Follow your man.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

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Let them throw white rice like a spring shower.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

Like a spring cloud, let her now tenderly spread her bridal veil.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

O the peace of the bridal dawn.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

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And he listens, and he listens.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.And, as in front of a fount of crystal water,
Let the girls pass in front of the bride,
Observing her look from the corner of their eyes,
As though balancing pitchers on their heads.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.O, like Leto giving birth to Apollo,
Do you listen within your veil?
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

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When standing, her hands slight and pale,
(Let them throw white rice…)
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.She clasped the ethereal palm tree on Delos,
Like a spring cloud.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.May you her mystical image…
O the peace of the bridal dawn.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

Held by your husband’s strong heart,
And he listens.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

Bring into the world with a single cry your child,
As the poet brings forth his creation.
O Isaiah, dance for joy, for the Virgin is with child.

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*The Dance of Isaiah is one of the integral parts of the Wedding/Crowning Service (Sacrament of Holy Matrimony) in the Orthodox Church (Byzantine Rite) and involves a the triple procession around a center table. The priest, holding the Gospel or Blessing Cross and the clasped hands of the groom and bride, and followed by the best man (or woman) who holds the newlyweds’ crowns above their heads, and the bridesmaids holding the lit white candles, walk three counterclockwise turns around the table in a celebratory “dance”. Each of the three turns is accompanied by each of the three hymns, which return once more to the theme of martyrdom and union with Christ. These are the hymns that, since ancient times, the Church has used to emphasize God’s blessings, and the same ones sung at ordinations to ecclesiastical orders. They signify that this couple has been set apart from the mundane world to live a life in Christ:

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Rejoice, O Isaiah! The Virgin is with child,

And shall bear a son Emmanuel,

Who is both God and Man,

And Orient is His Name,

Whom magnifying we call, the Virgin blessed.

O Holy Martyrs,

who fought the good fight and have received your crowns,

Entreat ye the Lord,

That He will have mercy on our souls.

Glory to Thee, O Christ God.

The Apostles boast,

The Martyrs Joy,

whose preaching was the Consubstantial Trinity.

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To watch how the celebrant actually leads the marriage couple and the witnesses around the wedding table three times at the Orthodox Wedding/Crowning Service (Byzantine Rite), while chanting this religious hymn,  go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyTQnV5W24A

Wedding Photographs: Wedding with Carved Crowns
Source: Orthodox Arts Journal

Genocide of the Souls

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The Genocide of the Souls  — The Pitesti Phenomenon (1949-1951)

“However, what has not yet become universal knowledge is the fact that in the Romanian Gulag Archipelago there was an island of absolute horror, such as existed nowhere else in the entire geography of the communist penitentiary system: Pitesti Prison.” – Virgil Ierunca, Pitesti Phenomenon.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the 1970 Nobel Prize laureate for literature, refers to the Pitesti experiment as the “most terrible act of barbarism in the contemporary world”.

Historian François Furet, member of the French Academy, regards the Pitesti phenomenon as “one of the most terrible experiments in dehumanisation that our epoch has known”.

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Between 1949 and 1951, the destruction of society”s elite was almost complete: intellectuals, diplomats, priests, officers, magistrates, policemen, and politicians of the “bourgeois-landowner regime” were in prison; the most industrious peasants had been deported to forced labour camps. Collectively and individually, they were all labelled “enemies of the people”. It now remained to annihilate the unpredictable social force of youth. For the latter, the Pitesti experiment was invented (termed “re-education” by the Securitate). The most barbarous methods of psychological torture were applied to “recalcitrant” young prisoners, with the object of making them reciprocally humiliate each other, physically abuse each other and mentally torture each other. Victims were transformed into executioners; prisoners were tortured by their own friends, by their fellows in suffering. The purpose: “re-education” through physical and psychical destruction, the transformation of young people into atheists, into informers on their friends.

For more information, watch an excellent documentary: BEYOND TORTURE — The gulag of Pitesti ROMANIA at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QGUTBXgz3g

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“When you said, ‘I still believe in God,’ in five minutes you were full of blood”. – Roman Braga

“Many of us died, many of us became mad, but in some of us the good triumphed”. – George Calciu

These chilling words from two survivors of a brainwashing prison in Pitesti, Romania are sad reminders of the legacy of Stalinist communism. Beyond Torture: The Gulag of Pitesti, Romania documents the persecution of Romanians under the communist regime. Electrical shock, hallucinogenic drugs, near starvation and fatal beatings were daily rituals in the prison of Pitesti, Romania. But this sadistic story goes beyond torture: this was an attempt to totally destroy a people’s culture and faith.

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In 1949, Stalinist Soviets began a systematic sweep of Romanian college campuses. Their purpose was to imprison and transform young Romanians into a communistic way of thinking. One prisoner describes this re-education as the most vile tortures imaginable. Orthodox priest Father George Calcui says, “They tried to destroy our souls.”  But he and others survived this gulag, lived to tell their stories and even forgave their captors.

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In this documentary, you’ll meet three survivors from the prison of Pitesti and see shocking paintings that capture the essence of the extreme torture. This documentary also includes an in-depth one-hour interview with Father Roman Braga: prison survivor and spiritual leader. Don’t expect a typical tale of woe. What comes through from the priests being interviewed — most especially Fr. Roman Braga, now in America — is a surprising theme: forgiveness…and even joy.

Outside of Romania, this DVD is the first major historical documentation of the Pitesti experience.

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Also, go to http://www.thegenocideofthesouls.org/public/english/the-pitesti-experiment/

To http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~cama20z/classweb/worldpolitics/thepitestiphenomenon/experience.html

And to http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2012/06/documentary-on-romanian-gulag-of.html