OK – so I was going to leave telling you this story until Christmas, but the truth is that after last week’s post and moment of visitation from my own personal despair cloud I am still mentally exhausted and need to write something positive.
It’s a story I heard as a kid, possibly based on Buddhist philosophy – but I’m not going to say where I heard it…who knows, maybe one or two of you out there will recognise it anyway.
So: the story goes that a long time ago there was a man who lived in a faraway land. The name of this land is unimportant, but it sounded vaguely like somewhere in Ireland and, when he later began his travels, this is where a lot of people thought he came from.
But the story begins before that, when the man was still a youth, living near the mountains in a society that he felt didn’t understand him and had nothing to offer. Every day he looked out of the window at the far horizon and wished to travel, to become a hero and perhaps to find some dignity – but with every passing day he felt the weight of his responsibilities weighing him further and further down.
Eventually he came to feel that the world he lived in was entirely grey and without hope – that nothing he ever did could ever come to anything – and inside he began to die.
Many times he thought of taking his life, just surrendering to the pain and being free, but something always held him back.
Then one day, when his depression was at its highest point ever he strode out of the world that he had always known and into the wilderness, looking to find a local hermit who was said to live in the mountains and who held the secret to eternal happiness. The man, who we will now refer to as The Traveller, put the last vestige of his hopes into finding the hermit, and set out across the bleak and barren landscape.
As he weaved higher into the mountains the ground became ever more barren and grey and The Traveller was exposed to the elements, becoming weak and hungry. For many days he strode through the desolation, feet tramping through muddy tracks until he could barely move his feet.
Finally, just when he was on the verge of total collapse he came upon the hermit, who was sat outside of a simple wooden hut, eyes closed and legs crossed in the lotus position. The Traveller sat at his feet and poured out his story of isolation and abandonment, letting the poison flow freely for many hours until he felt he could speak no more.
The entire time The Traveller was speaking the Hermit just sat and waited, never speaking, never opening his eyes: barely even moving. It was only when the last of The Travellers words had trickled to a halt that he opened his eyes and acknowledged the presence of his visitor.
Without a word the Hermit opened his hands and gestured to a small daisy that lay on the grass between them, almost crushed by their feet.
Just for a moment The Traveller saw the flower through the eyes of the old man, saw it as a thing of unique beauty. Its petals were bright yellow against the green of the stalk, its head standing tall and proud. It was as if someone had distilled everything that made a flower and poured it into this single daisy.
And then he looked around what he had taken to be a barren landscape and saw that the hills were full of daisies.
He saw that the grass was green, the sky was blue and the sun was bright and warm on his skin. What he had taken to be a barren and desolate land had all the time been beautiful, hidden from him only by the barriers he had put in place.
Take what you want from this story – but always try to remember that even in your darkest hour there is always beauty to be found somewhere.
You just have to want to see it.