Book 6. The Family Book (2002)
The wealthiest groom
I shall make a few changes in this parable to put it in a modern- day context.
In one village lived two neighbours. The families were friends with each other, and enjoyed working their land. Every spring gardens bloomed on the two plots, and their little groves of trees grew taller.
Into each family a son was born. After their sons had matured, one day, while gathered around a festive table, the fathers took a firm decision and handed everything over to their sons’ control.
“Let those sons of ours now decide what to sow and when,” one of them said to the other. “And you and I, my friend, shall not oppose them, or even give them hints or questioning looks.”
‘Agreed,” replied the other. “Let our sons even make changes around the house if they wish. Let them choose the clothing they like, and let them decide what livestock and other things to buy.”
“Line,” replied the first. “Let our sons become self-sufficient. And let them choose worthy brides for themselves. We shall go together, my friend, to seek brides for our sons.
And this is the decision that emerged from the two friends and neighbours’ conversation. Their idea was supported by their wives, and the families began living under their grownup sons’ administration. But thereafter the two families’ lives significantly diverged.
In one family the son became an active member of the community and paid his respects to everyone, which led to his being defined as the ‘first citizen’ of the village. The other son seemed to be slow and serious of mind to all around; he came to be called the village’s ‘second citizen’.
The first neighbour’s son felled and sawed up the trees of the grove his father had planted and hauled them to market. He bought himself a family car in place of his horse, along with a small tractor. The first son here was considered very enterprising. The new entrepreneur calculated that the coming year would see a sharp increase in the price of garlic, and he was not mistaken. He pulled up all his plantings and sowed his fields with garlic. His father and mother did their best to help him in everything — they had made a promise and it was not forsaken.
The family sold the garlic at a profit. They set about building a huge mansion using the most modern materials invented and hired construction workers. And the enterprising son did not relent — he spent from morning ’til night trying to figure out what the most profitable crop would be to plant in the spring. And by winter’s end he had calculated that this spring’s most profitable crop would be onions. And again he sold his harvest at a profit, and bought himself a fancy new car.
One day the two neighbours’ sons met along the road. One was driving a car, the other a wagon harnessed to a frisky mare. The successful entrepreneur stopped his car and the two neighbours had a conversation.
“See, neighbour, I’m driving a fancy car, while you’re getting around in a horse-drawn cart just like before. I’m building a
big house, while you’re still living in that old house of your father’s. Our fathers and mothers have always been friends, and I too am ready to help you in a neighbourly way — if you like, I can tell you what is the most profitable crop to plant your whole field with today”
“Thank you for your willingness to help,” responded the second neighbour from his wagon, “only I happen to cherish a great deal my freedom of thought, indeed I do.”
“I certainly don’t want to encroach on your freedom of thought. It’s just that I sincerely want to help you through.” “I thank you for your sincerity, good neighbour. But freedom of thought is eroded by non-living things — that car, for example, you are sitting in.”
“How can a car erode...? It can easily overtake that old farm-cart of yours, and by the time you get to the city I’ll be able to have my business all taken care of. And all thanks to my motor car.”
“Yes, your car, of course, can certainly overtake my wagon, but it requires you to sit behind the wheel and hold on to it constantly as you drive, while you as the driver have to keep jerking some kind of stick with your hand and looking continually at the dashboard and the road. Maybe my horse is slower than a car, but it doesn’t require any attention, and doesn’t distract my thought either. If I should take a snooze, the horse will find its own way home. You say you have problems with fuel, whereas my horse fills itself up in the pasture over there. Anyway, tell me, where are you in such a hurry to get to in your car?”
“I want to buy some spare parts to keep on hand. I know exactly what could go wrong with my car at any moment.” “So, you know enough about technology that you can accurately predict all your breakdowns?”
“Yes, I’m pretty good at that! I took special mechanics courses — for three years in all I swotted through. If you recall, I asked you to join me in those courses too.”
“So for three years of your life you had only this technol- ogy to give your thought to. Something that can get old and break down.”
“Your horse, too, will get old and die.”
“Yes, of course, she will get old. But before that happens she will be able to give birth to a foal. The foal will grow, and I shall be able to ride him. What is living will eternally serve Man, never fear, while what is dead only shortens his years.” “The whole village makes fun of your ideas,” remarked the entrepreneur. “They all think of me as successful and wealthy, while they see you just sit and live off your father’s fortune. Besides, you haven’t introduced any new species of trees or bushes on your father’s land, not even a bit.”
“But I’ve come to love these. I’ve been trying to understand each one’s purpose and how they interact with each other. And I’ve been able to invigorate the ones starting to wither, just by looking at and touching them. Now, come each spring, everything is blossoming in harmony, all by itself, requiring no outside attention. It’s just waiting eagerly for summer, and then for the fall when it will offer up its fruit for the year.” “Really, friend, I must say you are queer,” sighed the entrepreneur. “You walk around entranced with your domain, your garden and your flowers. At the same time, you say, you are giving freedom to your thoughts.”
“Yes, I am.”
“What do you need a free thought for, anyway? What’s the point in freedom of thought?”
“So that I can make sense of all the grand creations. So that I can be happier myself, and help you.”
“Me? What’s got hold of you? I can marry the best girl in the village, any one of them will go for me. They all want to be rich, live in a spacious house and ride in my car.”
“Being rich doesn’t mean being happy.”
‘And being poor?”
“Being poor isn’t so good either.”
“So if you’re not poor and not rich, then what?”
“You ought to have just enough of everything. Being self- sufficient — that’s not bad either. And be consciously aware of what’s going on around. After all, it’s not by chance that happiness can be found.”
The entrepreneur grinned and quickly went on his way
A year later the two neighbouring fathers got together to talk. They decided it was time to be courting brides for their sons. When they asked them which of the village girls they would like to wed, the entrepreneuring son replied to his father:
“The daughter of the village elder really appeals to me, Father. I would rejoice to have her as my wife.”
“I can see, my son, that you have made an excellent choice. The village elder’s daughter is renowned as the most beautiful girl in the county All the visitors to our village from both near and far are entranced at the sight of her. Mind you, she can be quite capricious. The girl has a mind of her own that even her parents can’t figure out. Some people might think her strange — more and more women keep coming to her from various settlements for advice and to be healed of their ills, and they even bring their children to see this young girl.”
“What of it, Father? I’m made of sterner stuff. In all our village there is no more spacious house or better car than mine. Besides, twice now I have seen her give me long and thoughtful looks.”
On being asked which of the village girls he most fancied, the second son told his father:
“I love the village elder’s daughter, Father.”
‘And how does she act toward you, my son? Have you noticed a look of love in her eyes?”
“No, Father. Whenever I happen to meet her, she lowers her eyes.”
Both neighbours simultaneously decided to woo the maiden for their sons. Arriving at their house, they seated themselves sedately. The village elder summoned his daughter and told her:
“Look, my daughter, two matchmakers have come to see us. On behalf of two young lads, each wishing to have you to wife. The three of us have decided that you should choose from the two. Can you tell us your decision now or would you like to think about it until tomorrow morning?”
“I have spent many mornings thinking about it in my dreams, Father,” the young girl quietly said. “I can give you my answer right now.”
“So tell us. We are all eagerly awaiting your decision.”
The beautiful girl answered the matchmakers like this: “Thank you, fathers — thank you all for enquiring. I thank your sons for desiring to join their life with mine. You have indeed raised splendid sons, and it might have been very difficult to choose to which of two destinies I should myself resign. But I do want to have children, and I want my children to be happy, to stand tall in prosperity, freedom and love, and so I have fallen in love with the one who is wealthiest of all.”
The father of the entrepreneur rose to his feet in pride, while the other father sat glumly in his chair. But the girl went over to the second father, knelt down before him, and said, without raising her eyelids:
“I wish to live with your son.”
At this point the village elder rose to his feet. He wanted to see his daughter living in what was deemed by all the richest house in the village, and so he said to her rather harshly: “You spoke correctly, my daughter — your smart reasoning brought gladness to your father’s heart. But you for your part
did not go and kneel before the richest man in the village. Someone else here is the wealthiest. This is he.”
And the elder, gesturing to the entrepreneur’s father, added:
“Their son has built a spacious home, honey They have a car, a tractor... and money”
The girl went over to her father and responded to his harsh and bewildering words:
“Of course you are right, Papa dear. But I was talking about children. What use will our children have for those things you mentioned? The tractor can break down while they are still growing up. The car may rust and the house fall into decay.” “That may be — maybe what you say is true, granted. But your children will have a great deal of money, and they can buy for themselves a new tractor and a new car and new clothes.” ‘And just how much is ‘a great deal’, might I ask?”
The entrepreneur’s father proudly stroked his beard and moustache, and answered solemnly and seriously:
“My son has heaps of money — enough so that if he needed to buy three of everything our household already has, he could do so all at once. And those horses our neighbour keeps, we would be able to buy not just two, but a whole stable full.” The girl meekly lowered her eyelids and responded:
“I wish you and your son great happiness. But there is no amount of money on the Earth that would buy a father’s garden where every branch reaches out in sheer love to the one cultivating it. And no money in the world can buy the loyalty of a steed that has played with a child as a colt, "four domain may indeed make money, but my beloved’s domain will make a space for sufficiency and love.”