Category Archives: story

3 important answers to 3 important questions: Tolstoy

three-questionsI shared the book The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth with my Sunday school class on Sunday. Muth took an original short story written by Leo Tolstoy and reworked it with animal characters to appeal to children.

In the book, a boy named Nikolai goes on a journey to seek answers to three BIG LIFE questions:

  1. “When is the best time to do things?”

  2. “Who is the most important one?”

  3. “What is the right thing to do?”

His steps lead him to encounters with a heron, a monkey and a dog. Each of these characters answers the questions in a way that reflects personal biases. The heron suggests the best time to do things arrives only after everything has been planned in advance. The dog believes the most important one is the one who makes the rules, and the monkey knows the right thing to do is to have fun all the time.

Not satisfied, Nikolai climbs a high mountain to seek the answers to his questions from a wise old turtle. When he reaches the top of the mountain, he finds the wise, old turtle with a shovel in his hands digging a garden. Knowing that a young boy digs much faster than an old turtle, Nikolai takes the shovel and finishes turning over the hard soil. When he is leaning on his shovel after the last shovel full of dirt, he hears a cry for help coming to him out of the windblown forest. He follows the sound and finds a panda knocked out by a fallen tree. Nikolai rescues her and takes her to the turtle’s house to get warm. When the panda wakes up, she asks, “Where is my child?” Alarmed, Nikolai runs back to the forest where he finds the baby panda, shivering and alone.

Before Nikolai departs, he and the wise old turtle reflect on the answers the boy has found to his three questions.

  1. “There is only one important time, and that time is now.”

  2. “The most important one is always the one you are with.”

  3. “The most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.”

Muth concludes: “For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in the world.”

Tolstoy sure was one wise old turtle.

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The myth of psyche: Paulo Coelho

I am taking a summer blog break. While I’m refilling my creative well, enjoy the insightful writing of the incomparable Paulo Coelho. In “The Myth of Psyche” he ponders the elusive nature of love, and how he learned to follow the strange language of “signs.”

“Each moment shall be lived and enjoyed, but whenever we try to understand it, the magic disappears.”

________________

“The Myth of Psyche”

http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2012/08/20/the-myth-of-psyche/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PauloCoelhosBlog+%28Paulo+Coelho%27s+Blog%29

 

A bow tie, (ears?) and a hot pink feather

noteMany of our most successful writers recommend a daily walk as a source of inspiration. I am beginning to see why. Both of this week’s post arose out of incidents along the route of my daily walk.

Tuesday I wrote about camp counselors’ hats in “Do you love it or do you love it?”, and yesterday I found this note on the ground:

  • Bring:
  • bow tie
  • (ears?)
  • hot pink feather

I thought, “Whoa, I want to go to that party.” 

Bow ties are making comeback, so I wasn’t too surprised by that one. But what kind of bow tie did the writer have in mind? I ran through the list of possibilities. A classic black tuxedo tie, a dignified plaid one, or maybe a large, droopy hot pink number to match the feather?

I wondered why (ears?) needed parentheses and a question mark. Most of us come with ears firmly attached, so I assume the (ears?) referred to here would be detachable accessories. Perhaps the person needed to be Yoda, or a cat, or Spock. But not for certain, because of that question mark. Perhaps a friend could bring the (ears?) instead. Or perhaps the person felt that, with a bow tie and a hot pink feather already in play, (ears?) would be just too much—over the top.

Oh yes, the hot pink feather. That really made me smile. What day doesn’t get a little better with a hot pink feather? I pictured a luscious Ostrich-sized one. A puny one simply wouldn’t do.

As I walked on I realized I was close to the intermediate school in our area, and the note was likely a leftover from the school play at the end of the year. Then I pictured a child saying to a parent, “Oh yeah. I need a bow tie, (ears?) and a hot pink feather for tomorrow.” This would happen at 9:01 p.m., immediately after all the stores had closed for the day. (Similar scenarios played out in our house more than once.)

The writer of this note dropped it along the way. Did that mean that he or she arrived home and thought, “I know I was supposed to bring something. Now, what was it again?” Did a droopy, hot pink bow tie make it to the event? What about the poor, questionable (ears?)?

Stephen King is one of those writers who recommends a daily walk. Now I understand how he comes up with those out-of-this-world ideas of his.

 

 

Do you love it, or do you love it?

On my morning walk I passed the site of one of our city day camps just as two camp counselors arrived for work. I assume it was Silly Hat Day at camp, because both girls climbed out of their cars wearing large, colourful hats. One girl called to the other: “What do you think of my hat? Do you love it, or do you love it?”

I didn’t get a picture of her hat, but it was a large-brimmed, splotchy, hat-of-many-colours that would challenge anyone to love it. But the camp counselor did not allow non-love of the hat as an option.

Do you love it, or do you love it? 

With her big smile, she made it clear that everyone was going to have a lot more fun if they loved the hat in all its splotchy glory.

I walked on and pondered some hats I have been challenged to love. My husband has an impressive collection of hats, and some endear themselves to me more than others.

His pith helmet, for instance. 

pith-helmetHe hasn’t worn this in a while (and in no way should he take this as encouragement to pick it up again), but on really hot days in the past, he pulled this off the shelf and wore it happily. On the surface I would say I don’t love a pith helmet, but when I dig deeper, I do love that it means my husband is not a slave to fashion. I love the independence it represents. It’s practical. On the hot, humid July days we get here in Ottawa, it is the coolest head protection he could choose. In a backhanded way, I love that hat.

Then there’s this red and white polka-dot beauty.

?Late last spring we had a sunny day with warm temperatures and ski hills full of snow: Spring skiing Nirvana. My husband scrounged around at the back of his closet and produced this hat. “This was the height of fashion for spring skiing in 1978,” he told me. I reminded him that this was not 1978, but, unfazed, he wore it anyway.

If you asked me if I love this hat, I’d  say “No” at first, but I do love how it instantly teleports my husband back to 1978 and happy youthful memories. In a roundabout way, I love the hat.

This one is a Canada Day staple.

canada-day-ehYes, it is an inverted beer mug, and yes, it features the stereotypical “Eh?” expression that makes me cringe. I sigh when this one comes off the shelf, but I have to admit that everyone who sees it smiles and laughs. I love that it tells the world that Canadians can laugh at themselves, that we have the best beer anywhere, and that we live in a country fun enough and free enough that people to wear inverted beer mugs on their heads. In a surprising way, I love the hat.

This one I love without reservation. 

expos-batting-helmetEasy to flat out love a Montreal Expos batting helmet.

My walk was a long one this morning, so I moved on in my thoughts from hats to other situations when it is most helpful to ask: “Do you love it, or do you love it?” Some situations seem inconvenient or unpleasant at first, but love and laughter or some other positive experience lie within.

  • Sleep interrupted at 5:30 a.m., by a child who crawls in to snuggle.
  • Repainting a room, to welcome friends into a new guest room.
  • Getting fired from a job, right before your perfect job comes along.
  • Missing your exit on the freeway, and then hearing on the radio about a traffic jam on your planned route.
  • Following a misguided GPS that takes you on a long, convoluted route to your destination, along a beautiful country road with gorgeous scenery.

It’s best to not allow non-love as an option.

If we dig deeply enough or wait long enough, love surprises us where we least expect it.

 

Harold and the Purple Crayon: How we create our own world

9780062086525

Parenthood provides the opportunity for fully grown adults to re-capture childhood joys. When my children were younger, I re-captured some childhood joy when I came across the book Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.

As a child I loved the simple sketches and fun story, but as an adult I appreciate the profound spiritual truths that lie at its heart.

My friend Harold begins his story in chaos, with his purple crayon scribbling all over. Then he decides he needs a moon to light his way and solid ground on which to walk. With these two necessities in place, he begins his journey.

harold-chaos

At first, not wanting to get lost, he creates a straight path for himself.

harold-straight-path

The straight path soon loses his interest, so he decides he needs a tree, and that the tree needs some apples. Wouldn’t they be delicious?

harold-apples

As soon as he has apples though, he worries that someone might steal them. He creates a frightening dragon to defend his treasure. The dragon is so frightening, it scares even Harold, so he falls backwards into the wavy ocean that his trembling hand squiggles out for him.

harold-dragon

Soon Harold is in way over his head.

harold-over-his-head

To save himself, he creates a boat, and then a sail, and then a shore upon which to land.

harold-ashore

Harold takes himself on an adventurous journey complete with delicious pies, friends, hot air balloon rides, large cities and helpful guides. The moon accompanies him on every page.

harold-guide

Eventually he grows so tired he wants to go home to bed. He remembers that his bedroom window is always right around the moon, so he draws himself his bedroom window and his big comfy bed. He crawls in and goes to sleep.

harold-at-home

This beautiful story shows spirit (the moon) and our physical world (the solid ground) created out of chaos. With the moon shining on him always and the ground solid underneath, Harold uses the purple crayon (free will, the Source, Universal Mind, whatever you choose to call it) to shape his life. He creates fun times, hard times, dangers and solutions to his problems.

I keep a copy of this book on the shelf beside my desk. When I look at the cover, it returns me to a quiet centre. It makes me ask questions: Which fearful events and situations have I created for myself? What solution can I create, or draw, to solve those problems? What positive and fun things can I draw next?

It reminds me that spirit is always shining down on me and that the ground is solid beneath my feet. It reminds me that the path my life takes lies in my own hand.

And it humbles me, because at the root of everything lies the unanswerable question: Where does the purple crayon come from?

Build castles, don’t dig graves

McMaster UniversityFrom The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz: 

“Build castles, don’t dig graves.”

We sabotage our dreams—our castles—before we even allow ourselves to begin to build them. We want a career change, but we tell ourselves we’re too old. We want a new house, but we tell ourselves we could never afford it. We want to go back to school, but we tell ourselves that we’re not smart enough.

We have dreams, but we bury them in graves of self-doubt.

Most of the time the dreams that we deem impossible are actually very much possible—if we dare to begin to build. We can take on a new career in our middle-age and enjoy satisfying work for several decades. We can save just a little more and spend just a little less until the new house becomes a reality. We can take the first brave step to register for a course that really intrigues us and discover that it’s not so difficult after all.

Decide what castle you want to build and place a first brave stone. Then don’t heed the temptation to shovel dirt unto that dream.

Build castles, don’t dig graves.

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