Saturday, 29 November 2008

For the weight of an ant

One November afternoon, the Buddha was sitting under the wisdom tree meditating about peace.

It was cold and the Buddha was hungry. The devil saw the opportunity that he had been waiting for a long time.

If the devil was ever to corrupt the Buddha, that November afternoon was the perfect time. "I'll give you a house, so that you won't suffer from cold in the winter," proposed the devil. "All you have to do is give me your sandals."

The Buddha shook his head. "I can't do that," he replied. "I need my sandals to walk the path of truth." The devil decided to try again. "I will give you a hundred goats, so that you will always have enough to eat. All you have to do is give me your robe."

The Buddha was very hungry and reflected for a long moment. If he possessed a hundred goats, he could easily exchange one goat for a new robe. If the Buddha accepted the offer, he would only have to go naked for a short while.

Nevertheless, the Buddha shook his head again. "I can't do that," he answered. "I need my robe to keep my dignity." The devil realized that the Buddha was not ready to trade any of his personal possessions. If the devil wanted to corrupt the Buddha, he would have to try a different approach.

"I will give you a house and a hundred goats," retook the devil. "All you have to do is to kill an ant." The Buddha looked at an ant on the ground. It would be so easy for him to crush the ant and make it disappear. Who was going to miss it? Who was going to complain?

A chill wind reminded the Buddha of his cold and his hunger. The Buddha reflected for an hour and then he shook his head once more. "No, I can't do that," he concluded. "The world needs the weight of every single ant to keep its balance."

The devil gave up and went away. Shortly after, a good man walked by the wisdom tree, saw the Buddha, and offered him hospitality at his home.



[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Taras Kalapun under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

For the weight of an ant

One November afternoon, the Buddha was sitting under the wisdom tree meditating about peace.

It was cold and the Buddha was hungry. The devil saw the opportunity that he had been waiting for a long time.

If the devil was ever to corrupt the Buddha, that November afternoon was the perfect time. "I'll give you a house, so that you won't suffer from cold in the winter," proposed the devil. "All you have to do is give me your sandals."

The Buddha shook his head. "I can't do that," he replied. "I need my sandals to walk the path of truth." The devil decided to try again. "I will give you a hundred goats, so that you will always have enough to eat. All you have to do is give me your robe."

The Buddha was very hungry and reflected for a long moment. If he possessed a hundred goats, he could easily exchange one goat for a new robe. If the Buddha accepted the offer, he would only have to go naked for a short while.

Nevertheless, the Buddha shook his head again. "I can't do that," he answered. "I need my robe to keep my dignity." The devil realized that the Buddha was not ready to trade any of his personal possessions. If the devil wanted to corrupt the Buddha, he would have to try a different approach.

"I will give you a house and a hundred goats," retook the devil. "All you have to do is to kill an ant." The Buddha looked at an ant on the ground. It would be so easy for him to crush the ant and make it disappear. Who was going to miss it? Who was going to complain?

A chill wind reminded the Buddha of his cold and his hunger. The Buddha reflected for an hour and then he shook his head once more. "No, I can't do that," he concluded. "The world needs the weight of every single ant to keep its balance."

The devil gave up and went away. Shortly after, a good man walked by the wisdom tree, saw the Buddha, and offered him hospitality at his home.



[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Taras Kalapun under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

In praise of indifference

Caring is in fashion right now. Caring about this, caring about that, the list has no limits.

The caring is done mostly about things you can't change or to which you have not contributed.

Who doesn't care about the earth? Don't you care about spring? But don't forget the summer, you have to care about the summer, too.

Look at skyscrapers, were they built by people who cared? Possibly, but not essentially. Above all, skyscrapers were built by people who did their job.

I am sure that many of those people were unfairly criticised for wanting to build higher than what had been the rule before. How many times were they told that their construction project was impossible?

Did they care about their critics? Did they care about obstacles? I love skyscrapers. I thank those entrepreneurs for their indifference to obstacles and critics.


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by laszlo-photo under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

In praise of indifference

Caring is in fashion right now. Caring about this, caring about that, the list has no limits.

The caring is done mostly about things you can't change or to which you have not contributed.

Who doesn't care about the earth? Don't you care about spring? But don't forget the summer, you have to care about the summer, too.

Look at skyscrapers, were they built by people who cared? Possibly, but not essentially. Above all, skyscrapers were built by people who did their job.

I am sure that many of those people were unfairly criticised for wanting to build higher than what had been the rule before. How many times were they told that their construction project was impossible?

Did they care about their critics? Did they care about obstacles? I love skyscrapers. I thank those entrepreneurs for their indifference to obstacles and critics.


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by laszlo-photo under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Friday, 28 November 2008

The zebra that couldn't run

I met Enrique Marquez during a summer holiday in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. He is a success that a tourist can't possibly miss.

Marquez does no advertising. He doesn't need to. If you ask any local to recommend you a doctor, you will always get the same answer. "Enrique Marquez."

I was having pain in my back, and my idea of a solution was to pay a visit to a doctor and get some pills.
A hotel waiter first mentioned Marquez' name to me during breakfast. "If you are sick, Enrique Marquez will tell you what to do," explained the waiter.

He wrote Marquez' address for me on a paper napkin and a taxi took me there. Two dozen people were queueing in front Marquez' small house. I took place in the queue and waited an hour for my turn.

Enrique Marquez was an unimpressive Spaniard in his fifties and the treatment that he prescribed to me was totally predictable. Taking warm baths, eating plenty of vegetables and fish, no sweets or pastries, drinking tea, and doing gentle exercise.

Although he didn't ask for money, I gave him what I would have paid to a doctor. He put the banknotes nonchalantly inside a shoe box and wished me a swift recovery. How come that people are queuing in front of this man's door? I wondered as I returned to the street.


Marquez' treatment worked fine and, a few days later, my back pain was gone.
Out of curiosity, I began to ask around about Marquez, trying to understand why he was so popular. The answers I got were unanimous. "Marquez has never been sick for ten years."

I found hard to believe that he was never sick and, on the last day of my holidays, I went to visit Enrique Marquez again. I wanted to be reassured that what I had heard was untrue. This time, I had to queue for an hour and a half.

"I used to practise as a family doctor in Toledo, a small town in Spain,"
Marquez confessed to me. "My patients expected me to prescribe them pills and did not appreciate my preference for natural treatments. For almost twenty years, I tried to reason with them, showing them scientific studies, but it was all in vain."

"If anything, it only made me even more unpopular. I was like a zebra that talked incessantly about running but could not run itself. When I came on a holiday to Tenerife with my wife, I was depressed and seriously considering quitting the medical profession. Then, one evening, while we were playing domino with another couple in the hotel, my wife mentioned that I had never been sick for ten years."

"Not even a cold or a headache," she added. "The following morning, the man asked for my opinion on a medical condition he was suffering from. I recommended him my method, which corresponds to what I prescribed to you last week, and which nobody would consider a secret."

"The man was so happy with the results, that he started to tell around in the hotel. People began to stop me in the lobby and the elevator, asking me if it was true that I had not been sick for ten years."

"Before the end of our two-week holiday in Tenerife, I had given more consultations and made more money than in three months in Toledo. My choice to establish my practice in Tenerife was quickly made." Enrique Marquez concluded his story with a big smile. "I achieved more in one day of example than in twenty years of preaching."

When I came outside Marquez' house, I saw that now there was a bus parked in the street. The queue in front of his house had grown already to about a hundred people.
More would be coming later in the day. All of them moved by the force of personal example.


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by derfel_ie under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The zebra that couldn't run

I met Enrique Marquez during a summer holiday in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. He is a success that a tourist can't possibly miss.

Marquez does no advertising. He doesn't need to. If you ask any local to recommend you a doctor, you will always get the same answer. "Enrique Marquez."

I was having pain in my back, and my idea of a solution was to pay a visit to a doctor and get some pills.
A hotel waiter first mentioned Marquez' name to me during breakfast. "If you are sick, Enrique Marquez will tell you what to do," explained the waiter.

He wrote Marquez' address for me on a paper napkin and a taxi took me there. Two dozen people were queueing in front Marquez' small house. I took place in the queue and waited an hour for my turn.

Enrique Marquez was an unimpressive Spaniard in his fifties and the treatment that he prescribed to me was totally predictable. Taking warm baths, eating plenty of vegetables and fish, no sweets or pastries, drinking tea, and doing gentle exercise.

Although he didn't ask for money, I gave him what I would have paid to a doctor. He put the banknotes nonchalantly inside a shoe box and wished me a swift recovery. How come that people are queuing in front of this man's door? I wondered as I returned to the street.


Marquez' treatment worked fine and, a few days later, my back pain was gone.
Out of curiosity, I began to ask around about Marquez, trying to understand why he was so popular. The answers I got were unanimous. "Marquez has never been sick for ten years."

I found hard to believe that he was never sick and, on the last day of my holidays, I went to visit Enrique Marquez again. I wanted to be reassured that what I had heard was untrue. This time, I had to queue for an hour and a half.

"I used to practise as a family doctor in Toledo, a small town in Spain,"
Marquez confessed to me. "My patients expected me to prescribe them pills and did not appreciate my preference for natural treatments. For almost twenty years, I tried to reason with them, showing them scientific studies, but it was all in vain."

"If anything, it only made me even more unpopular. I was like a zebra that talked incessantly about running but could not run itself. When I came on a holiday to Tenerife with my wife, I was depressed and seriously considering quitting the medical profession. Then, one evening, while we were playing domino with another couple in the hotel, my wife mentioned that I had never been sick for ten years."

"Not even a cold or a headache," she added. "The following morning, the man asked for my opinion on a medical condition he was suffering from. I recommended him my method, which corresponds to what I prescribed to you last week, and which nobody would consider a secret."

"The man was so happy with the results, that he started to tell around in the hotel. People began to stop me in the lobby and the elevator, asking me if it was true that I had not been sick for ten years."

"Before the end of our two-week holiday in Tenerife, I had given more consultations and made more money than in three months in Toledo. My choice to establish my practice in Tenerife was quickly made." Enrique Marquez concluded his story with a big smile. "I achieved more in one day of example than in twenty years of preaching."

When I came outside Marquez' house, I saw that now there was a bus parked in the street. The queue in front of his house had grown already to about a hundred people.
More would be coming later in the day. All of them moved by the force of personal example.


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by derfel_ie under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A deviation from the rule

Brother Marcel is not one of us. I have known this since I met him the first time. His words are mild and his clothes are ours, but I can see the dissent in his eyes.

Believe me when I say this, since I know what I'm talking about.
As you might recall, I have not always been a monk myself. I have experience of the world. I used to take pride in my ability to find out people like Brother Marcel. To find them out and to make them confess.

I can feel your scepticism as I can see your good heart, but you are being deluded. Don't you think that I had also doubts myself? That I have hesitated many times before raising my finger in accusation? I am an old man and my peace of mind is worth to me more than all riches in the world. Nevertheless, I once pledged to defend our community and I am no man to break his word.

How do I know about Brother Marcel, you ask? What evidence do I bring to support my charges? Call Philip to bear witness and he'll tell you about Brother Marcel's discordant singing. Call Jason and he'll confirm Brother Marcel's refusal to sweep the cloister floor three times, as it has always been done.

And Andrew, call also Andrew. He will tell you about the book that we found yesterday in Brother Marcel's cell.
Early this morning, Andrew has checked the List of Permitted Books and the title of Brother Marcel's book was not on the list. Are you really surprised that Brother Marcel was reading a forbidden book? I am not. I have seen this coming from the beginning.

Brother Marcel's book is bound in leather and it is not even written
in our language. After breakfast, we have asked Gregory to inspect the book. Andrew had expected it to be a book written by our enemies to preach against our ideas. But that would have been too easy and Brother Marcel is much too clever for that. Gregory told us that, at first sight, it looks like a cookbook, but that it could be something else.

Call Timothy and he'll recount his conversation with Brother Marcel last week, when Brother Marcel expressed his discontent about our food.
Patrick has been our cook for twenty-seven years. Tell me, how could anyone dare criticize Patrick's abilities in the kitchen? What's even worse, Brother Marcel has taken advantage of Patrick's sickness today by entering the kitchen while all other monks were in the fields.

Yes, you have all seen what Brother Marcel has done! That's the sweet cream we all got served after lunch. Who has ever seen such a thing before? Brother Marcel says that the sweet cream comes from the forbidden book. Do you believe me now when I tell you that he is not one of us?



[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Samuel Negredo under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

A deviation from the rule

Brother Marcel is not one of us. I have known this since I met him the first time. His words are mild and his clothes are ours, but I can see the dissent in his eyes.

Believe me when I say this, since I know what I'm talking about.
As you might recall, I have not always been a monk myself. I have experience of the world. I used to take pride in my ability to find out people like Brother Marcel. To find them out and to make them confess.

I can feel your scepticism as I can see your good heart, but you are being deluded. Don't you think that I had also doubts myself? That I have hesitated many times before raising my finger in accusation? I am an old man and my peace of mind is worth to me more than all riches in the world. Nevertheless, I once pledged to defend our community and I am no man to break his word.

How do I know about Brother Marcel, you ask? What evidence do I bring to support my charges? Call Philip to bear witness and he'll tell you about Brother Marcel's discordant singing. Call Jason and he'll confirm Brother Marcel's refusal to sweep the cloister floor three times, as it has always been done.

And Andrew, call also Andrew. He will tell you about the book that we found yesterday in Brother Marcel's cell.
Early this morning, Andrew has checked the List of Permitted Books and the title of Brother Marcel's book was not on the list. Are you really surprised that Brother Marcel was reading a forbidden book? I am not. I have seen this coming from the beginning.

Brother Marcel's book is bound in leather and it is not even written
in our language. After breakfast, we have asked Gregory to inspect the book. Andrew had expected it to be a book written by our enemies to preach against our ideas. But that would have been too easy and Brother Marcel is much too clever for that. Gregory told us that, at first sight, it looks like a cookbook, but that it could be something else.

Call Timothy and he'll recount his conversation with Brother Marcel last week, when Brother Marcel expressed his discontent about our food.
Patrick has been our cook for twenty-seven years. Tell me, how could anyone dare criticize Patrick's abilities in the kitchen? What's even worse, Brother Marcel has taken advantage of Patrick's sickness today by entering the kitchen while all other monks were in the fields.

Yes, you have all seen what Brother Marcel has done! That's the sweet cream we all got served after lunch. Who has ever seen such a thing before? Brother Marcel says that the sweet cream comes from the forbidden book. Do you believe me now when I tell you that he is not one of us?



[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Samuel Negredo under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Monday, 24 November 2008

The paranoia of the Swiss cheese-maker

"I will never reveal my formula to anyone," announced Ludovico Egli to the venture capitalists. At that point, it was obvious that the negotiation was over.

After spending three days in Brussels, trying to obtain funding to keep his farm afloat, Ludovico Egli had decided to reject the financiers' final offer.

Ludovico's father had passed to him the secret recipe for making Emmenthal cheese with mountain herbs. One day, it might be Ludovico's turn to pass the recipe to his son. No, he would never let strangers into a secret that had belonged to his family since the times of Wilhelm Tell.

Ludovico drove back from Brussels to Bern in his old Volkswagen, wondering what he was going to do next. He had placed all his hopes in obtaining funding from the Brussels venture capitalists.

After the failure of the negotiations, Ludovico Egli had no idea where to turn next. He was already two months late with his mortgage payments and he feared that his local bank might foreclose his farm, the land of his father and his ancestors.

When Ludovico arrived at his farm in Muri, a village near Bern, he went to bed and fell into an agitated sleep. The following morning, he got up early, as he usually did, milked the cows, took his leather bag, and walked up the mountain to pick up wild herbs to make cheese.

Ludovico knew exactly where to go. On Ludovico's seventh birthday, his father had revealed the place to him and sworn him to secrecy. "I will do whatever it takes to protect the recipe, I will protect the secret with my life," Ludovico had sworn to his father. A quarter of an hour later, he arrived at a cliff, stood still, and looked around to make sure that he was alone.

The secret herbs grew next to that cliff and nowhere else, as though they could not grow without the constant challenge of the wind. Ludovico bent down and began to pick up herbs, putting them in his leather bag.

"On Monday, I saw you drive by," said a female voice behind Ludovico's back. He froze and the herbs in his hands felt as warm as a cow's
breath in January. Ludovico turned around slowly and faced Marguerite Stutsi, who lived in an isolated house near Ludovico's farm.

"I saw you drive by the petrol station," she explained with a smile. Of course, realized Ludovico, as he remembered that Marguerite worked in the restaurant next to the petrol station. He had known Marguerite all his life. With the years, her natural beauty had become less conspicuous and more profound.

"I was just going for a walk," Ludovico replied, as though to justify his presence by the cliff. I could have not given a more stupid answer, he told himself. She must think that I am retarded, or even worse, a liar. Besides, how could she help seeing my leather bag and the herbs in my hands?

Marguerite Stutsi contemplated Ludovico in silence for a long moment, wondering why he had never asked her out. All single men in Muri had asked Marguerite out. All except Ludovico. They walked together down the mountain slope, exchanging few words.

She has seen me pick up the secret herbs, lamented Ludovico in his heart. Now she knows the secret, the recipe of my father and my ancestors. What if she tells anybody? The mere thought that his formula could fall in the hands of strangers was making Ludovico sick.

They stopped walking when they reached the crossroad and stared at each other. For a second, all crazy ideas came to Ludovico's mind. Killing Marguerite and throwing her body down the cliff. Kidnapping Marguerite and keeping her prisoner in his farm.

But then he would have to take care of her all day, and who would milk the cows? Who would make the cheese? Damn woman, what was she doing all on her own in the mountain? Why didn't she have a husband and children to take care of? No, he could not let her take away the secret.

"Marguerite," he said in an irritated tone, "will you marry me?" The question did not seem to take Marguerite Stutsi by surprise. She shrugged her shoulders and replied simply. "Why?"

Ludovico's answer showed his long practice in cheese-making. "It's better to mix the herbs w
hile the milk is still fresh. Besides, I have been planning to talk to you already since five years ago." Ludovico saw Marguerite hesitate and he added a further argument. "I want you to know that I don't mind that you work in a restaurant."

She looked at him in the eyes and nodded. It was only after the wedding that Ludovico learned that Marguerite actually owned the restaurant near the petrol station. Their daughter, Lisette, was born a year letter. One day, Ludovico will walk with his daughter up the mountain. One day, Ludovico will pass the secret recipe to her.


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Maurice under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The paranoia of the Swiss cheese-maker

"I will never reveal my formula to anyone," announced Ludovico Egli to the venture capitalists. At that point, it was obvious that the negotiation was over.

After spending three days in Brussels, trying to obtain funding to keep his farm afloat, Ludovico Egli had decided to reject the financiers' final offer.

Ludovico's father had passed to him the secret recipe for making Emmenthal cheese with mountain herbs. One day, it might be Ludovico's turn to pass the recipe to his son. No, he would never let strangers into a secret that had belonged to his family since the times of Wilhelm Tell.

Ludovico drove back from Brussels to Bern in his old Volkswagen, wondering what he was going to do next. He had placed all his hopes in obtaining funding from the Brussels venture capitalists.

After the failure of the negotiations, Ludovico Egli had no idea where to turn next. He was already two months late with his mortgage payments and he feared that his local bank might foreclose his farm, the land of his father and his ancestors.

When Ludovico arrived at his farm in Muri, a village near Bern, he went to bed and fell into an agitated sleep. The following morning, he got up early, as he usually did, milked the cows, took his leather bag, and walked up the mountain to pick up wild herbs to make cheese.

Ludovico knew exactly where to go. On Ludovico's seventh birthday, his father had revealed the place to him and sworn him to secrecy. "I will do whatever it takes to protect the recipe, I will protect the secret with my life," Ludovico had sworn to his father. A quarter of an hour later, he arrived at a cliff, stood still, and looked around to make sure that he was alone.

The secret herbs grew next to that cliff and nowhere else, as though they could not grow without the constant challenge of the wind. Ludovico bent down and began to pick up herbs, putting them in his leather bag.

"On Monday, I saw you drive by," said a female voice behind Ludovico's back. He froze and the herbs in his hands felt as warm as a cow's
breath in January. Ludovico turned around slowly and faced Marguerite Stutsi, who lived in an isolated house near Ludovico's farm.

"I saw you drive by the petrol station," she explained with a smile. Of course, realized Ludovico, as he remembered that Marguerite worked in the restaurant next to the petrol station. He had known Marguerite all his life. With the years, her natural beauty had become less conspicuous and more profound.

"I was just going for a walk," Ludovico replied, as though to justify his presence by the cliff. I could have not given a more stupid answer, he told himself. She must think that I am retarded, or even worse, a liar. Besides, how could she help seeing my leather bag and the herbs in my hands?

Marguerite Stutsi contemplated Ludovico in silence for a long moment, wondering why he had never asked her out. All single men in Muri had asked Marguerite out. All except Ludovico. They walked together down the mountain slope, exchanging few words.

She has seen me pick up the secret herbs, lamented Ludovico in his heart. Now she knows the secret, the recipe of my father and my ancestors. What if she tells anybody? The mere thought that his formula could fall in the hands of strangers was making Ludovico sick.

They stopped walking when they reached the crossroad and stared at each other. For a second, all crazy ideas came to Ludovico's mind. Killing Marguerite and throwing her body down the cliff. Kidnapping Marguerite and keeping her prisoner in his farm.

But then he would have to take care of her all day, and who would milk the cows? Who would make the cheese? Damn woman, what was she doing all on her own in the mountain? Why didn't she have a husband and children to take care of? No, he could not let her take away the secret.

"Marguerite," he said in an irritated tone, "will you marry me?" The question did not seem to take Marguerite Stutsi by surprise. She shrugged her shoulders and replied simply. "Why?"

Ludovico's answer showed his long practice in cheese-making. "It's better to mix the herbs w
hile the milk is still fresh. Besides, I have been planning to talk to you already since five years ago." Ludovico saw Marguerite hesitate and he added a further argument. "I want you to know that I don't mind that you work in a restaurant."

She looked at him in the eyes and nodded. It was only after the wedding that Ludovico learned that Marguerite actually owned the restaurant near the petrol station. Their daughter, Lisette, was born a year letter. One day, Ludovico will walk with his daughter up the mountain. One day, Ludovico will pass the secret recipe to her.


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Maurice under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The five daughters of Johann Sebastian

"No," said Johann Sebastian, irritated. "After all the trouble that I have gone through in order to give you an education, I am not going to allow you to marry a baker."

Pensively, Annette listened to the words of her father. She was trying her best to understand the old man's logic. "Edmund is not a baker, father," she replied calmly. "He makes chocolate."

Johann Sebastian stood up, walked to the window, and looked outside. The first villagers were already entering the church. The Sunday service was due to start in ten minutes. The truth is that Johann Sebastian was feeling in no mood to play the organ.

His conversation with his youngest daughter Annette was upsetting him more that he let it show. Why did Annette have to be so rebellious? Johann Sebastian had arranged good marriages for his other four daughters, but Annette had rejected all suitors presented by her father.

"Chocolate is just a fashion," Johann Sebastian retorted angrily, as he turned around and faced his daughter. "You and your baker Edmund will starve, and then what, who will take care of your children?"

Annette smiled, realizing that her father had already accepted her choice of husband as inevitable. "You don't understand, father. Times are changing. People want to try new things to eat. One day, Edmund says, people will eat chocolate everyday."

She walked to her father, stood still by his side, and kissed him softly. "Will you play the organ in our wedding?" she begged. Johann Sebastian pressed his lips and contemplated his daughter in silence. The bells of the church gave the last announcement. The Sunday service was about to start.

Johann Sebastian caressed his daughter's hair. "How foolish you are, Annette. Yes, you can marry Edmund, but he has to promise me first that he will become a regular baker and forget about chocolate."


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Wolfgang Staudt under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The five daughters of Johann Sebastian

"No," said Johann Sebastian, irritated. "After all the trouble that I have gone through in order to give you an education, I am not going to allow you to marry a baker."

Pensively, Annette listened to the words of her father. She was trying her best to understand the old man's logic. "Edmund is not a baker, father," she replied calmly. "He makes chocolate."

Johann Sebastian stood up, walked to the window, and looked outside. The first villagers were already entering the church. The Sunday service was due to start in ten minutes. The truth is that Johann Sebastian was feeling in no mood to play the organ.

His conversation with his youngest daughter Annette was upsetting him more that he let it show. Why did Annette have to be so rebellious? Johann Sebastian had arranged good marriages for his other four daughters, but Annette had rejected all suitors presented by her father.

"Chocolate is just a fashion," Johann Sebastian retorted angrily, as he turned around and faced his daughter. "You and your baker Edmund will starve, and then what, who will take care of your children?"

Annette smiled, realizing that her father had already accepted her choice of husband as inevitable. "You don't understand, father. Times are changing. People want to try new things to eat. One day, Edmund says, people will eat chocolate everyday."

She walked to her father, stood still by his side, and kissed him softly. "Will you play the organ in our wedding?" she begged. Johann Sebastian pressed his lips and contemplated his daughter in silence. The bells of the church gave the last announcement. The Sunday service was about to start.

Johann Sebastian caressed his daughter's hair. "How foolish you are, Annette. Yes, you can marry Edmund, but he has to promise me first that he will become a regular baker and forget about chocolate."


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Wolfgang Staudt under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Saturday, 22 November 2008

The man who put labels on bricks

I had not seen the man on my way up to the mountain. Otherwise I would have remembered.

He had set up a wooden table next to the path that led to the Inca ruins, offering his merchandise to the tourists.

I stood still in front of the table and inspected the products with curiosity. The table was covered with red bricks. Old bricks, as far as I could tell.

I bent over and looked closer at the bricks, wondering what was so special about them. To me, they appeared to be normal red bricks, such as those that you would find on any construction site. I contemplated the man behind the table for a moment, trying to assess his age.

The brick salesman was in his late thirties or early forties and had an intelligent look about him. Nevertheless, it was obvious that the poor man had lost his mind. As I walked away, I
shook my head, feeling sorry for him.

What could possibly have happened to him? How come that he had he lost his capacity for reasoning? After walking
a few steps, I decided to inquire about the cause of the man's lunacy. I returned to his table, only to see that he was putting labels on the bricks.

He would pick up a brick, examine it carefully, remove a sticker from a plastic sheet that he had laid on the table, and then he would set the sticker on the brick. Each sticker had a hand-written name on it.

While the man continued to place labels on the bricks, I picked one of them and read the word on its label. "Kon" read the word. What on earth was Kon? I asked myself. I put the brick back on the table and picked up another one. This time, I found the word "Apu" written on it. Apu? What was that supposed to mean?

The man applied calmly the labels on the last bricks and turned to me. "Which one do you like best?" he asked. I hesitated before replying, since I did not want to hurt his feelings. Most likely, it was not his fault if he had lost his mind. "Kon is a good choice," he went on, "but if you allow me, I think that Apu would be the most suitable for you."

My reaction came instantly, as I was suspecting him of a hidden attack against my honour. "Why do you say so? What is Apu anyway?" The man smiled at my incomprehension. "Kon is the Inca God of the Wind, the God who brings good weather," he explained. "And Apu is the God of the Mountains, the God who exercises his power through kindness and understanding."

I could not help feeling flattered by the man's words. I have always liked to portray myself as a kind person and I believe that once I even heard someone actually called me so. "But what's the point of setting labels on red bricks?" I countered, puzzled. I did my best to formulate my question in a way that did not sound insulting.

The man seemed not to remark the absurdity of the situation and replied in a matter-of-fact tone. ''The brick it's just a symbol," he indicated patiently. "Like bricks, human beings are essentially all the same, but like Gods, each individual is different. A man's difference lies in his calling."

I won't tell you how much I paid for the brick, but I think that the price was worth the story. Even years later, I still keep the red brick on my living room table. Every visitor that has come to my home has picked up the brick, read the label, and asked me what Apu means. "Apu," I always begin, "let me tell you about Apu."


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Gusjer under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]