Monday, February 15, 2010

The Act of Balance

Over the past few days I've had some great conversations and some not so great ones, but they all seemed to center around finding the right balance in life. How do we treat life with seriousness and yet be joyful and life-giving? How do we participate in the blessings He's given without going outside the boundaries He's given for them? How do we trust and hold to our faith when circumstances just keep beating us down and we don't understand at all?

I don't have the answers either. We take it one day at a time. One step at a time. Sometimes just one breath at a time.

Let me share a wise story with you from The Alchemist.

A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world. The lad wandered through the desert for 40 days and finally came upon a beautiful castle, high atop a mountain. It was there the wise man lived.

Rather than finding a saintly man, though, our hero, on entering the main room of the castle, saw a hive of activity: tradesmen came and went, people were conversing in the corners, a small orchestra was playing soft music, and there was a table covered with platters of the most delicious food in that part of the world. The wise man conversed with everyone, and the boy had to wait for 2 hours before it was his turn to be given the man's attention.

The wise man listened attentively to the boy's explanation of why he had come, but told him that he didn't have time just then to explain the secret of happiness. He suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in 2 hours.

Meanwhile, I want to ask you to do something, said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that help 2 drops of oil. As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.

The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After 2 hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was.

Well said the wise man, did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardner 10 years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?

The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been to not spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

Then go back and observe the marvels of my world, said the wise man. You cannot trust a man if you don't know his house.

Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers, and the taste with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen.

But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you? asked the wise man.

Looking down at the spoon he help, the boy saw the oil was gone.

Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you, said the wisest of wise men. The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never forget the drops of oil on the spoon.

Praying for all of us to protect that which has been entrusted to us, while keeping our heads up and eyes open to the beauty and wonder all around us.

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