Stories to illuminate Human nature

Powerful punch line – and how can you use it for yourself?

    A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion says, "Because if I do, I will die too."

    The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp "Why?"

    Replies the scorpion: "Its my nature..."

A subtle and quite disturbing story I find but it certainly resonates.

    Once there was a woman who went to visit her friend. Her friend was a weaver and had been making a beautiful tapestry on her loom. It was woven from beautiful silk threads of many colours. When the weaver saw her friend she exclaimed; "Friend! I cannot tell you how happy I am to see you! What a joyful day. Surely a day for celebration! Please come in and make yourself comfortable, and I will get you something to drink".

    The weaver went into the kitchen to get a cup of tamarind tea. Her friend looked around and noticed the silk threads shimmering in the early afternoon light. They were so beautiful!...and she was tempted. She couldn't resist herself. Quickly, she reached over and took one of the bundles of thread and stuck it underneath her arm.

    When the weaver returned she noticed that a bundle of thread was missing, and knew that her friend had taken it. She thought for a moment, and devised a plan to get it back. Putting down the cup of tea she said; "Friend, what a joyful day it is today! Please, get up and let's dance." In a tentative voice her friend responded, "yes, let us dance".

    The weaver raised both her arms high and began to dance. She smiled as she turned in slow circular motions dancing with joy. Her friend got up, but instead danced with both her arms pressed close to her sides, holding the bundle of thread tightly underneath one of her arms. When the weaver saw this she said; " It is a day for celebration friend, how is it that you dance with your arms that way? Look, dance like me with both your arms raised!" The friend then raised one of her arms, but kept the other pressed tightly against her side. The weaver seeing this insisted and said; "It is such a joyful day, please dance with both arms raised. Look at me. Like this!" The weaver continued to dance, spinning, turning and swaying with joy. The friend looked down and quietly said; "but...sister, I am sorry, this is all that I know of dancing."

    ...Always be ready to dance with both hands free

This makes sense to all I retell it to - a well know metaphorical story with a powerful, accessible and widely adaptable teaching.

    One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, fear, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, enevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith." The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: Which wolf wins?"

    The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

A powerful tale of a man who takes a logical path to an illogical conclusion.

    A young guy is sitting on a train opposite a wealthy looking older man, evidently a stray from the First Class section, which has been closed off for some reason. They are the only ones in the carriage and, after a while, the young man asks what time it is, but the older fellow just stares out of the window. The young man has heard the other man speak to the guard, so he knows the man is neither stone deaf nor dumb. He asks again, a little more loudly. You can almost hear, above the clickity-clack of the train, the ticking of the large, half-visible gold Rolex amidst thick but greying wrist hair, but the older man some¬how manages to avoid his travelling companion's eye and continues to ignore him. Eventually, the young man says very loudly, PLEASE! I ONLY WANT TO KNOW THE TIME!

    The older man finally looks straight at him. "Look,1 he says firmly, in heavily accented English, let me tell you something. You ask me the time and you know I have a watch and I don't speak to you. Why? Because I am naturally friendly and I know this. I am naturally friendly and inquisitive and generous and, in any other circumstance, I would follow the traditions of my own country, which command me to be friendly and generous and also politely inquisitive. But today, if I tell you the time, what happens? We begin to talk. I tell you all about myself and you tell me all about yourself. We swap jokes, opinions, ideas, the way people do on trains. And then we get to our stop and we get out and I offer you a lift, because I know myself and I know that I am naturally generous and my tradition is generous. And you, being young, will take advantage and accept my offer of a little hospitality at my house. Why not? I am rich and you are poor, so why not? You will meet my daughter, my lovely daughter. She is as beautiful as I am ugly. You are handsome and she will like you and you will talk and you will get on and one thing will lead to another and, the next thing I know, you will come to me and tell me you are moving in together.

    Now, I have to tell you that I really don't want my beautiful daughter getting mixed up with someone who can't afford a watch!'

from Transforming Tales by Rob Parkinson

Sometimes you really must make up your own mind and not listen to others

    A farmer who lives in the country says to his son: "Today is market day; let's go to town to buy a few things that we need." They decide to bring a horse with them in order to carry their purchases. They leave very early in the morning for the market: the horse without a load and they on foot. Along the road they come upon some men who are returning from town. Those men then say that neither the father nor the son seems very wise, for they are walking while the horse goes without a load. Upon hearing this, the father asks for his son's opinion. The latter admits that the men are right and that, as the horse doesn't have a load, one of them should mount it. So, the father orders his son to mount, and they continue on their way.

    A little later they meet another group of men returning from the town. These men state that the father is crazy because, old and tired, he walks, while his son, so young and robust, rides on the horse. The father asks his son's advice and the latter declares that, in effect, the men are right. And so the son gets down from the horse and the father gets on. Some minutes later other men who are returning from the market criticize the father. According to them a young boy so weak should not walk. Therefore the father has his son mount the horse and neither of the two walk then. Further on they meet other men who are also returning from the town and they also criticize the father as well as the son. They say: "How can a horse so scrawny carry two men so big and heavy?" The father asks his son what they should do in order not to be criticized any more and finally they reach the conclusion that the only alternative is to carry the horse.

    So, father and son arrive at the market with the horse on their shoulders, but in spite of this, many criticize them.

Don Juan Manuel

Does this touch you or bite you?

    The Sufis have a story of a bird that was kept in a cage. The bird was looked after well by her owner. He fed her and kept her warm and her cage was close by a large window so the bird had plenty of light during the long days while the owner went to work. But still she was trapped and every day, the bird could see other birds flying free across the sky. And the bird longed to join them.

    And then one day, the owner went to work leaving both the cage door and the window open. And very soon the bird gingerly hopped out of the cage and onto the window ledge. And from this vantage point, she could see so much more. She could see distant mountains and valleys and when the bird looked down she could see more of the hustle and bustle of what lay before her and all around her. There were so many other birds and people and all kinds of things.

    And the bird just stayed on the ledge - stupefied and amazed and dazed and stayed and stayed and stayed. And the bird was still there when her owner arrived home. So he locked the bird up back in her cage where she was again fed and looked after.

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"No, no!" said the Queen. "Sentence first - verdict afterwards.”
Lewis Carroll