September 06, 2007

There's A Moral Here Somewhere

There is a story about a cobra who goes to a saint and says, "Please give me a rule of life, so that I can be more spiritual and saintly like you. People love you, but are totally terrified of me. When they see me, if they have a chance, they kill me at once."

The saint says, "Well, first of all, don't bite people anymore. So the cobra goes back down the mountain, happy that the saint has accepted him as a student. He sits by the village path all day long, thinking over what the saint had given him. After a couple of days, however, people begin to notice him, and since he is sitting so still and looks so happy, the people get curious.

After a few more days, unafraid of the cobra by now, some of the children have started poking him with sticks, and teasing him, throwing pebbles at him, kicking dirt on his head. A few cruel adults, too, toss garbage on him and kick him when they walk by.

A few weeks later, the saint walks down the village path, sees the poor cobra sitting there, all bruised, and bloody, and covered with mud. Seeing this, he exclaims, "Oh my! What's happened to you?" The cobra replies, "I was just following your instructiions, Master. I don't bite people anymore." The saint looks down lovingly at the cobra and says, "But I didn't tell you not to hiss!"

Gracious magninimity is not mere passivity amidst many difficulties--it is not toughness gone soft. As a Yiddish proverb says, "If you can't bite, don't show your teeth."


Olivia Kroth said...

My rule of thumb is:

If you get kicked, kick back twice as hard!


Jan said...'s hoping you never get kicked, Olivia!

Olivia Kroth said...

Oh, dear Jan,

I got kicked more than once, let me assure you. Having lived a full life, I couldn't avoid being kicked.

Jan said...

Olivia.. maybe having been kicked more than once is what made you realize that you had to kick back twice...some people never learn to stand up for themselves, even once.

Olivia Kroth said...

You bet, Jan, I learned it the hard way.
And maybe you, too?

Jan said...

Olivia, it seems like just about everything I learned, it was the hard way.

Sometimes, life is just like that.