A Holiday Parable (#797)

Once upon a time, or so the story goes, the people lived on a desert world which existed inside of a giant, pitch black room. Life in the desert was hard, and the people were continually thirsty. It was rumored that in the very heart of the desert was a fountain with more than enough water to quench everyone’s thirst. Unfortunately, because it was so dark, you couldn’t find the fountain just by looking for it.

From time to time some fortunate person would stumble upon the fountain by happy accident. Sometimes, those people were so relieved to have found what everyone was looking for that they would live out their days by the fountain, abandoning their families and dropping out of their lives in fear that if they ever left the fountain they would never be able to return.

But often they were so grateful for their good fortune that they took it on themselves to show others the way. They would tell their friends and write books and give talks encouraging people to literally follow in their footsteps in hopes that they too would stumble across the fountain. “It is very important”, these well-meaning people would say, “that you do exactly what I tell you, as deviating even slightly from my path will take you off course and you will never find the fountain and be doomed to spend the rest of your days lost and thirsty as I once was.”

While their followers found hope in their words, often the leaders themselves had doubts. Despite their best efforts, so few of their followers seemed to find the fountain as they had done.  Some of the leaders grew even more rigid and inflexible in their laying out of the path in hopes that less choices would lead to greater success.

Others recognized that if they had found the fountain by happy accident, perhaps it was not so much the path they had taken as their attitude, or “angle of approach”. These leaders encouraged their followers not to do as they had done but to be as they had been, teaching practices and sharing techniques that might make the followers more “accident-prone”.

Over millenia, the land became divided into North and South. Many in the North preached faith in an invisible guide that would lead the people to the fountain if only they believed. (This was actually true, although no-one seemed to be able to agree on who or what the invisible guide was or how it worked.)

In the South, people were taught not to look but to listen, as it was rumored that if you just got quiet enough you would hear the fountain in the distance and it would get louder and louder as you approached. (This too turned out to be true, though few people ever got quiet enough to put it to the test no matter how earnestly they tried.)

Then one day, the light switched on in the giant room and the entire world was illuminated. People could suddenly see that the desert they thought they were living in was a mirage, and the whole world was actually made of clear, refreshing water. Those who thought they had stumbled across the fountain had simply stumbled through the illusion. As you might imagine, that changed things dramatically.

The people stopped seeking what they already had and stopped following those who attempted to tell them what to do. Once everyone could drink their fill whenever they wanted, most of the world’s ills disappeared overnight. When people got lost from time to time (as people inevitably do), they simply had to open their eyes and wait. As soon as their eyes adjusted to the light, they were able to clearly see that all was well.

And they all lived happily ever after…

Happy holidays, happy new year, and may 2012 be your best year yet!

With love,
Michael

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