Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for January 12th, 2008

The Swiss Army Knife of life 11

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.

  • January 2008
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