Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

The Swiss Army Knife of life

Posted on January 12, 2008 by jimparedes

I am an incorrigible gadget guy. Smart and easy approaches to problems — those small digital, electronic and other technical wonders — have never failed to beguile me.

It should be no surprise therefore that I am a big fan of the Victorinox Company. Ever since I was a Boy Scout, I’ve always liked their Swiss Army Knives which have something useful for every need. The joke goes that on one episode of MacGyver, the TV hero was preparing to stop a couple of tanks with only a grenade and a Swiss Army Knife in his hands. An employee of Victorinox asked, “What does he need a grenade for?”

There’s nothing like a one-stop-shop solution to our every need.

Which has made me wonder if there exists an all-in-one attitude that can carry us through life. Hundreds of philosophical and spiritual quests have been launched in search of a theory that encompasses everything we believe in. Is there such a thing? I don’t know. Could there be one solution to every situation one faces?

I came across this story on the Net.

“Once a king called upon all of his wise men and asked them, ‘Is there a mantra or suggestion which works in every situation, in every circumstance, in every place and every time? Something which can help me when none of you is available to advise me? Tell me, is there any such mantra?’

“The wise men were puzzled by the King’s question. One answer for all questions? Something that works everywhere, in every situation? In every joy, every sorrow, every defeat and every victory?

“They thought and thought. After a lengthy discussion, an old man suggested a solution that applies to all situations. They went to the king and gave him something written on paper, but on the condition that the king was not to see it out of curiosity. Only in extreme danger — when the king finds himself alone and there seems to be no other way —will he be allowed to see it. The king put the paper under the diamond on his ring.

“After a few days, the neighbors attacked the kingdom. It was a collective surprise attack carried out by the king’s enemies. The king and his army fought bravely but, alas, they lost the battle. The king had to flee on his horse with the enemies in hot pursuit. His horse took him far and deep into the jungle. He could hear the many troops on horses following him and the noise was coming closer and closer.

“Suddenly the king found himself standing at the end of the road — that road was not going anywhere. Underneath there was a rocky valley a thousand feet deep. If he jumped into it, he would be finished. Turning back was impossible since the enemy had occupied the road and was getting closer. The king became restless. There seemed to be no way out.

“Then suddenly he saw the diamond in his ring shining in the sun, and he remembered the message hidden in the ring. He opened the diamond and read the message. The message was very small but very great.

“The message was: ‘This, too, will pass.’

“The king read it. Again he read it. Suddenly something struck his mind: ‘Yes! This too will pass. Only a few days ago, I was enjoying my kingdom. I was the mightiest of all the kings. Yet today, my kingdom and all its pleasures have gone. I am here trying to escape from my enemies. But just like those days of luxuries have gone, this day of danger too will pass.’ A calm came to his face. He stood there and gazed at everything around him. The place where he was standing was full of natural beauty. He had never known that such a beautiful place was also a part of his kingdom. The revelation in the message had a great effect on him.

“He relaxed and forgot about those following him. After a few minutes, he noticed that the noise of the horses and the enemy was receding. They moved to some other part of the mountains and failed to pick up his trail. He was spared.

“The king, as it turns out, was a very brave leader. He immediately reorganized his army and fought back. He defeated the enemy and regained his lost empire. When he returned to his empire after victory, he was received with much fanfare. The whole capital was rejoicing in the victory. Everyone was in a festive mood. Flowers were being thrown at the king from every house, from every corner. People were dancing and singing. For a moment the king said to himself, ‘I am one of the bravest and greatest of kings. It is not easy to defeat me.’ With all the reception and celebration, he noticed that ego was emerging within him.

“Suddenly the diamond of his ring flashed in the sunlight and reminded him of the message. He opened it and read it again: ‘This, too, will pass.’

“He became silent. His demeanor went through a total change — from the egoist that he had become, back to a state of utter humbleness.

“‘If this, too, is going to pass, it is not yours. The defeat was not yours. The victory is not yours. You are just a watcher. Everything passes,’ he told himself.”

The story was a real eye-opener for me. Who has not witnessed something like this to some degree in his or her life? Yes, we are living our lives, but we are also only watching it in the end. We perceive life, happiness, sorrow and everything in between as they come and go. And yes, everything really just comes and goes. We are all only spectators.

As you read this, sit silently and watch yourself reading it and thinking about it, as you evaluate your own life. This very moment — this, too, will pass.

Can you think of anything that is permanent? Aside from change itself, is there anything else? Friends, relatives, youth, ambition, wealth, gains and losses will all come and go. Everything and its opposite are the two faces of the same coin. They, too, will go.

What about you? Are you permanent? What of you will remain when your face and body age and crumble and eventually die?

The only thing that does not change is the real you. So who are you? To answer that is to touch on the very core of all meaning and spirituality. If this question makes you feel excited, confused, depressed, angry, delighted or mystified — remember that this, too, shall pass.

0 to “The Swiss Army Knife of life”

  1. Jef says:

    Hello Jim,

    I grabbed this story and placed it on my blog. I like the way you present your thoughts. I will definitely come back to this site. I included Writing on Air in my Netvibes account.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts to us all.


  2. angel says:

    tito jim, that is exaactly my mantra! =) i heard it in high school while watching julia roberts’ “my bestfriend’s wedding” (a scene where a bell boy told julia’s character when she became so desperate and helpless, “this, too, shall pass”). I find it useful in many events in my life: when i placed 6th in the board exam, when my father died and when we had a problem with our former agency. I learned to be humble, patient, hopeful, and so much more because of this mantra.

    thank you for sharing the king’s story…=)

  3. Yen says:

    Hi Jim,

    There’s One who will not change and will never change: GOD. 🙂

    Yesterday someone told me, know God and you’ll get to know the real you.

    Have a good day!


    P.S. I met you a long long time ago when I was 11 years old. 🙂 The Apo Hiking Society had a concert in Cuison Hotel in Davao City. My siblings and I had your (and Danny’s and Boboy’s) autograph on our concert tickets.

  4. Yen says:

    oops, I forgot… I found this piece on changes, suffering and hope very helpful, I thought of sharing it with you and your blog readers… 🙂



  5. JIM: I just posted an article ,”Let Us Not Forget”,in my blog,inspired by your comment that ,we as a people,have short memories.Thanks!

  6. stirrer says:

    Jim…That will be a bummer if you’re having the best time of your life! But on the flipside this will make you feel better when you’re feeling down! I think I’ll only remember it when I feel bad! LOL!

  7. c.a says:

    tito jim….your articles never failed to move me… i must see through the illusion.. kill the buddha and make the best out of the moment for this too, shall pass…
    may mga articles din po aq… criticize nio po pag may oras kayo… salamat po… malaking bagay kung may maririnig ako galing sa isang magaling na manunulat tulad nio… asa friendster po ung blog… angelsmaydieafterthestorm@yahoo.com
    carl anthony nga po pala…. salamat uli..

  8. Jennifer G. Liza says:

    We would like to sincerely thank you for the nice article you wrote about Victorinox Swiss Army Knives. Our company is the exclusive distributor of the said product in the country, and it’s a good feeling to know that someone with your stature believes in our product. May we just know when are you coming back to Manila. We are inviting you to visit our “Cutting Edge” store either at 2/F Trinoma or 2/F, Entertainment Mall SM Mall of Asia, so we can personally thank you. Pls. don’t publish this anymore. Looking forward to your reply. God bless!

  9. babeth says:

    salamat po sa article niyo =)

  10. Chai F. says:

    “What about you? Are you permanent?”

    hrmmm. i encountered one dialogue in a movie, they were talking about how our cells regenerate every seven years but it’s a wonder how we remain quintessentially ourselves.

    Check out the movie Waking Life. An animated film by Richard Linklater, just in case you haven’t seen it. Cool thing, mostly existentialist, plus it taps a lot of other philosophies too. Just sharing. 🙂

  11. Mayette Castillo-Hawaii! says:

    GOD’s love will not change….
    In so doing, the goodness and the kindness you give
    to the least of your brother…. will live on…
    long after you pass this life.
    It makes me realize too…. that what is important
    is invisible to the eye.

    Remember…. you are an instrument of GOD.
    You inspires and touches someone’s life with your
    amazing talent and brilliance. It is a GIFT to
    you and thanks for sharing it.

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