November 15, 2011

A Man and His Wife

On a cold day, in a small village in ancient China, a man sought out the local Daoist sage for advice. He found the sage meditating upon a flat rock, beneath the umbrella of a large tree.

"Oh, sage! I humbly seek your advice", said the man.
The sage opened his eyes, smiled, and asked the man what he needed. The man told the sage that his wife and he were having troubles. He explained that they owned three animals, and his wife worked tirelessly each day to care for the animals. She kept the house clean, and cleaning up after the animals was no small task. She also cooked for the man, and washed his clothes. But she was exhausted, and she felt she had no more energy or motivation. Depression was beginning to take hold. The man, though willing, was unable to help because he worked as a fisherman all day, which left him little time to help with the animals.

"So, dear sage, I beg you! Please tell us what to do, before I lose my wife, my animals, and my whole way of life."

The sage smiled once more and said, "Do not worry, the solution to your problem is easy. Simply acquire five more animals, and do your best, along with your wife, to take good care of them."

The man was, simply put, shocked. What kind of advice was this? Was the sage not listening? Perhaps he wasn't quite right in the head! But after calming down, the man remembered his faith in the sage and decided to trust him.

He returned a week later, at which point the sage asked him how it was going. The man replied, "It's worse than before! There is so much more work and there is so little time."

The sage asked, "But are all eight animals well cared for?"

"Yes, of course.", replied the man.

"Good!", said the sage, "Then go acquire another five animals and come back in a week."

The man was incredulous at this point. Truly, the sage had to be daft! But again, he humbled himself and took the sage's advice.

One week later, he once again returned to the sage with the same story. There was even more work than the week before, and even less time. The sage asked, as before, "But are all thirteen animals well cared for?"

"Yes, yes", replied the man, worried about what the sage might suggest next. "Excellent", replied the sage, "now get rid of the ten new animals, and come back in a week."

One week later, the man returned for a final visit with the sage. The sage asked, "How are things?"

"Excellent!", replied the man, "It's a simple matter to care for only three animals. The work is so much less, and there's enough free time."

The sage smiled, and returned to his meditation.

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