Friday, April 3, 2009

"Thou fool!"

The following story has an unknown author so I give it to you in its entirety:
Hot sun. Salty air. Rhythmic waves.

A little boy is on his knees scooping and packing the sand with plastic shovels into a bright blue bucket. Then he upends the bucket on the surface and lifts it. And, to the delight of the little architect, a castle tower is created.

All afternoon he will work. Spooning out the moat. Packing the walls. Bottle tops will be sentries. Popsicle sticks will be bridges. A sandcastle will be built.

Big city. Busy streets. Rumbling traffic.

A man is in his office. At his desk he shuffles papers into stacks and delegates assignments. He cradles the phone on his shoulder and punches the keyboard with his fingers. Numbers are juggled and contracts are signed and much to the delight of the man, a profit is made.

All his life he will work. Formulating the plans. Forecasting the future. Annuities will be sentries. Capital gains will be bridges. An empire will be built.

Two builders of two castles. They have much in common. They shape granules into grandeurs. They see nothing and make something. They are diligent and determined. And for both the tide will rise and the end will come.

Yet that is where the similarities cease. For the boy sees the end while the man ignores it. Watch the boy as the dusk approaches.

As the waves near, the wise child jumps to his feet and begins to clap. There is no sorrow. No fear. No regret. He knew this would happen. He is not surprised. And when the great breaker crashes into his castle and his masterpiece is sucked into the sea, he smiles. He smiles, picks up his tools, takes his father's hand, and goes home.

The grownup, however, is not so wise. As the wave of years collapses on his castle he is terrified. He hovers over the sandy monument to protect it. He blocks the waves from the walls he has made. Salt-water soaked and shivering he snarls at the incoming tide.

"It's my castle," he defies.

The ocean need not respond. Both know to whom the sand belongs...

I don't know much about sandcastles. But children do. Watch them and learn. Go ahead and build, but build with a child's heart. When the sun sets and the tides take - applaud. Salute the process of life and go home.

I so remember as an undergraduate in philosphy class hearing the professor expound on the New Testament parable of "bigger and better barns". The builder takes satisfiaction in his work and the harvest he has gathered. Then he says, "Soul, take thine ease."

And I also so remember the professor's truly thundering voice when he quoted God's reply: "Thou fool! This night thy soul shall be required of thee."

I guess it was a lecture on existentialism or something. Hmmm. Maybe epicurianism. Not sure. But, I'm telling you, you could have heard a pin drop in that lecture hall.

And, as you can tell, it made a permanent impact on me!

I would suggest that it behooves us to respect and appreciate the princple of impermanence.


  1. Thanks for sharing this story! It is very thought provoking and a fantastic parable.

  2. I'm so glad you like it, Jay. And so glad you stopped by.

    Hope to see you again!

  3. I would suggest that it behooves us to respect and appreciate the princple of impermanence.

    I quite agree.

  4. Good to hear from you, Song. Yes, in our often so spoiled American culture, we forget about impermanence until it bites us in the ass.

    By the way, I love your screen name!


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