Perhaps the most pernicious assumption about life is that we can attain some ideal by the practice of its opposite. We can see this plainly in world leaders who are certain that one more war will finally bring us peace. We remember the famous line from the U.S. Army officer who said of the Vietnamese village of Ben Tre, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
But we struggle to see this craziness in ourselves. We imagine that by working too hard all our lives we will finally come to a period of glorious rest. We suppose that the best way to make our children more loving and compassionate is to lecture and badger them about their faults. We think that by living one more year in overwhelming anxiety and stress, we will finally be able to enjoy some peace.
This parable always rings in my mind.
A man and his son were walking in the forest. Suddenly the boy trips and, feeling a sharp pain he screams, “Ahhhh!” Surprised, he hears a voice coming from the mountain, “Ahhhh!”
Filled with curiosity, he screams, “Who are you?” But the only answer he receives is “Who are you?” This makes him angry so he screams, “You are a coward!”, and the voice answers, “You are a coward!”
He looks at his father, asking, “Dad, what is going on?”
“Son,” the man replies, “pay attention.” Then he yells, “I admire you!” The voice answers, “I admire you.” The father shouts, “You are wonderful!” and the voice answers, “You are wonderful!”
Then the father explains, “People call this ECHO but truly this is LIFE. Life always gives you back what you give out. It is a mirror of your actions. If you want more love, give more love. If you want more understanding, give understanding. If you want people to be patient and respectful to you, give patience and respect. The rule of nature applies to every aspect of our lives.”