Tuesday, January 25, 2005
There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, "What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?"
Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, "Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life." The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed.
She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, "I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me."
They told her, "You've certainly come to the wrong place," and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them.
The woman said to herself, "Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people that I, who have had misfortune of my my own?" She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. She became so involved in ministering to other people's grief that ultimately she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, driven the sorrow out of her life.
I think it was my mother that once told me that one of the best cures when you're feeling bad about yourself is to simply help someone else in need. I'm not quite sure of the chemical or physiological interaction that occurs in circumstances like these, but for many who have been there, it seems to be a very powerful elixir for depression, boredom, loneliness, selfishness, isolation, egotism, suicide, etc. It would be neat to be able to isolate the pheromones that set into motion the alleviation of all these physical/mental ailments - just bottle it and sell it. But no matter many times someone tries to explain the chemical make-up or reaction of the Aurora Borealis, human birth, or puppy love, the mystique of the mystery and magic always overpowers human logic.
Perhaps this is why the Christmas season - for Christians and non-Christians - is such a special and heartfelt time. It tends to be the season specifically susceptible for doing selfless deeds for our fellow human beings and aiding those most in need... but unfortunately, it quickly ends... and the depression, boredom, loneliness, selfishness, isolation, egotism, and suicide seeps backs into our daily routine.
What if the American Medical Association told you tomorrow that a certain (inexpensive) pill would miraculously cure any physical ailment you are feeling right now, would you be willing to take that pill? And what if the Master told you that a certain (inexpensive) act would miraculously alleviate the mental/emotional burden you are feeling right now, would you be willing to undertake that act?
That act, that magical mustard seed, is just what my mother told me years ago: simply help someone else in need. The beauty of this inexpensive act is that no matter how much we give, we receive in return twofold. It is the great paradox of this medicinal treatment: while helping others, they are ultimately helping you. Good luck, American Medical Association, in trying to isolate those chemical actions and reactions.
Regardless of whether you are witnessing the Aurora Borealis, human birth, puppy love or an extended hand of mercy to another, the result is always the same: a greater instilled awe of Life itself and a humbled respect for the mystique that makes it all work...
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