23 September, 2012

The Incredible Black Rain

Gus Grumplings was never happy with anything. He had lots of friends, and parents who loved him dearly, but all Gus could think about was what he didn't have, or things he did have which he was unhappy with. If someone gave him a car, it would be too big or too slow. If he went to the zoo, he'd come back disappointed because they hadn't let him feed the lions. If he played football with his friends, he would complain, saying there were too many of them for just one ball...

What caught Gus unaware was Chuckles the prankster cloud. One day, Chuckles was drifting past, and heard all of Gus's complaining. Chuckles wafted over to see. When the cloud was right above Gus, he started dropping heavy black rain on him. That was Chuckles' favourite trick to play on grumpy little kids.
Gus wasn't at all impressed by this new development; it just made him complain even more. He was even angrier after he realised that the cloud was following him.

Well, this carried on for almost a week. Gus couldn't get away from the cloud, and he got more and more infuriated.

Gus had a little friend, a happy and generous girl called Gladys. Gladys was the only one who had been willing to hang around with Gus during all those black, rainy days. All the other children had run off to avoid getting soaked and ending up completely black.

One day, when Gus was at the end of his tether, she said to him: "Cheer up! What you should realise is that you're the only one of us who has his very own cloud, and even better, its rain is black! We could play some fun games with a cloud like this, don't you reckon?" As Gladys was his only company these days, and he didn't want her to leave as the others had, Gus reluctantly agreed.

Gladys took him to the swimming pool, and left him there until all the pool water was black. Then she went and got other kids. They came and played in the pool. The water being black meant they could play hide and seek! Grudgingly, Gus had to admit it had been a lot of fun, but what was even more fun was playing Wet the Cat.

Gus would find cats and run alongside them. When the cats felt themselves getting wet they would jump about in the craziest way, and run off at top speed, with funny looks on their faces. Before long, all the children in town had gathered around Gus, thinking up new games they could play using the cloud.

For the first time ever, Gus started to see the positive side of things; even things which, at first, had seemed so bad. Chuckles, the prankster cloud, thought that he could now leave; his work had been done. But, before leaving, he gave Gus two days of multicoloured rain, with which the children invented the most fun games ever.

When Chuckles finally left, Gus didn't complain. Now he knew to focus on the good in life, and the good thing about Chuckles' departure was that no longer was Gus soaking wet all day. Now he could go and do dry things, and that's exactly what he did.

Everything has its good and bad side. We are happiest when we look for the good in all things.

The Tickling Scales

One day, in the jungle, a set of bathroom scales appeared. The animals played with it for quite some time until a parrot who had escaped from the zoo explained to them how it worked. All the animals took turns to weigh themselves. At first this was a big game; every day each animal would see how much weight they had gained or lost. However, before long, many animals began to obsess about their weight. The first thing they would do each day would be to run to the scales, weigh themselves, and spend the rest of the day with a grumpy expression on their faces. This because, no matter what the scales said, the animals always weighed the same, in other words: "more than they wanted to".

As the months passed, the scales began to suffer the animals’ disapproval. The scales were regularly kicked, or given poisonous looks. One day, the scales decided that from the following morning things would have to change.

That morning, the first to run to weigh itself was the zebra. However, as soon as it stepped onto the scales, the scales began tickling the zebra’s hooves. Soon the scales found just the right spot, and the zebra couldn’t stop giggling. This was so much fun for the zebra that from that day on it no longer worried about its weight, and off it went to happily eat its breakfast for the first time in ages. The same happened to whoever went to weigh themselves that day... so that, before long, no one was worried any longer about their weight. Rather, they all commented on how much fun the scales and its tickling were.

As the months and the years passed, the scales stopped reading weight and began reading good humour and optimism instead. Soon everyone happily discovered that this was a much better indicator of beauty and a person’s value. Finally, in the jungle everyone forgot about that antiquated and old-fashioned measurement known as the kilo.

Obsession with weight and physical appearance is a sure way to put yourself in a bad mood and create health problems.

The Frog who Jumped Through Windows

There was once a frog who lived in a pond next to an abandoned palace. Occasionally a traveling witch would come and stay in the palace. One day, the frog decided to go and have a look at the abandoned palace. He hopped over and jumped up to an old window frame. Instead of being filled with glass, the window frame was filled with what looked like a soap bubble. The frog was amused and wanted to pop the bubble by jumping through it. However, this was no soap bubble; it was the remains of a magic potion. As the frog jumped through it he found himself entering a very different place.

It looked like he was entering a very rich person’s house. The place smelt nice and was heated. But that didn’t last very long: a dog spotted the frog and was about to catch him. Fortunately, with three great leaps, the frog managed to jump back out of the window… only to find himself now in a wonderful pond, full of frogs and toads of great beauty. The pond had an abundance of flies, and the frogs and toads croaked happily all day long. Our frog was neither handsome nor ugly; he was just pretty normal looking. This meant he wasn’t greatly welcomed by the other frogs and toads, but he was enjoying himself so much that this didn’t matter much to him. He lived there for many days, but one night a group of toads who were sick of the frog’s common appearance, grabbed him while sleeping and threw him back through the window.

The frog woke up in a dark, dilapidated, cold and uncomfortable bedroom. There was a young boy there, and the boy welcomed the frog with great happiness. Soon the boy and the frog were inseparable companions. The boy looked after him as best he could; he even caught flies for the frog. However, the frog couldn’t help thinking about all the comforts of the wonderful pond he had experienced. One night, when the cold was worsening, and the firewood had run out, the frog hopped to the window and leapt out. He came out at the North Pole!

The frog felt like he was dying of cold, so he quickly jumped back through the window. This time he found himself in a desert, and when he again jumped through the window he was back among the Arctic snows. It didn’t matter how many times he jumped back and forth, he would always come out at either the North Pole or the desert. While he was changing from one place to the other he remembered his good master, the poor boy, and how he, the frog, had been so ungrateful to the boy, and so loving of his own comfort, and how this had meant him ending up in this situation, half dead from hunger, and jumping from the worst of cold to the most searing heat.

We should focus more on what we have than what we don’t, as senseless ambition can lead to us losing everything.

16 September, 2012

The Bad Neighbours

There was once a man who went out to look for a job. As he was passing his neighbour's house, an important piece of paper fell out of the man's pocket.

His neighbour happened to be looking out the window. He saw the piece of paper fall, and he thought: "What a disgrace! That guy deliberately let that fall out of his pocket. He's trying to mess up the front of my house, and he's being sneaky about it, too!"

But instead of going out and saying something, the neighbour planned his revenge.
That night, he took his waste-paper basket and went to the man's house. The first man also happened to be looking out the window, and saw what happened. Later, when he was picking up the papers which had been dumped on his porch, he found the important piece of paper that he had lost. It was torn into dozens of pieces. He thought that his neighbour had not only picked his pocket, but had had the cheek to mess up his doorway with rubbish.

He didn't want to say anything. Instead, he started plotting his revenge. That night he phoned a farmer to make an order of ten pigs and a hundred ducks. He asked that they be delivered to his neighbour's house.
Of course, the next day, his neighbour had quite a bit of trouble trying to rid himself of so many animals and their accompanying pong.

Sure that this had been a dastardly trick pulled by his neighbour, as soon as the second man had gotten rid of the pigs and ducks, he again started planning his revenge.
And so it went on.

They continued trying to get their own back on each other, and each time their acts of revenge got bigger and more ridiculous. The dropping of that single piece of paper ended up invoking a rock band, a fire siren, the driving of a lorry into a garden fence, the throwing of a hail of stones at windows, the firing of a canon, and finally the dropping of a bomb which destroyed both men's houses.

Both ended up in a hospital, and had to spend quite some time sharing a room there. At first they refused to speak to each other, but, one day, tired of the silence, they got to talking. As time passed, they became friends, until one day they finally dared discuss the piece of paper incident. They realised that it had all been a misunderstanding, and that if they had talked to each other on the first occasion - instead of jumping to conclusions about bad intentions - then none of this would have happened. Even better, they would still have their houses.

However, in the end, the fact that they were talking, and had become friends, helped them greatly to recover from their wounds, and to work together to rebuild their houses.

We should not guess or imagine the intentions of others. Talking is how we come to understand others, and clear up a great many problems

08 September, 2012

The Math Dunce

That year, in the local school, there was a new Math teacher, as well as some new pupils. One of the new kids was the stupidest child anyone had ever seen. It made no difference how quickly or how slowly they tried explaining numbers to him; he would always end up saying something enormously dumb. Like two plus two was five, seven times three was twenty-seven, or a triangle had thirty corners...

Before this boy arrived, Maths lessons had been the most boring of all. Now they were great fun. Encouraged by the new teacher, the children would listen to the pieces of nonsense spouted by the new kid, and they would have to correct his mistakes.

They all wanted to be the first to find his mistakes, and then think up the most original ways to explain them. To do this they used all kinds of stuff: sweets, playing cards, oranges, paper planes...
It didn't seem like any of this bothered the new kid.

However, little Lewis was sure that it was bound to make him feel sad inside.
So, one day, he decided to follow the new kid home after school; Lewis was sure he would see him crying.
On leaving school, the new kid walked a few minutes to a local park, and there he waited for a while, until someone came along to meet him...

It was the new teacher!
The teacher gave the new kid a hug, and off they went, hand in hand. Following from a distance, Lewis could hear they were talking about Math.
And that stupid new kid knew everything about it, much more than anyone in the class!

If you adopt a creative and fun strategy, you can make learning even the most boring subject enjoyable

Chess of a Thousand Colours

Brian Bristles was an artistic kind of a boy. He looked at everything as though it were a beautiful painting, and, in the blink of an eye, he could paint anything at all, filling it with magic and colour.
One day, Brian and his grandfather went to spend a weekend at the palace of the Marquis of Castling. The Marquis was an old friend of Brian's grandfather; and was a very famous chess player. When they arrived, Brian went into a large room and found a lovely chess set, totally hand carved, and with its own marble table which acted as the board. This chess set caught Brian's artistic eye. However, he felt that these pieces were too uniform. Along with the blacks and whites of the board, it amounted to rather a bland set.

So, that night, - paint box in hand - he tiptoed from his room to the chess room. There he spent the night painting each piece in the most colourful way. When the pieces were done, he painted a beautiful scene on the marble chessboard. Brian hoped to use his art to really surprise his grandfather and the Marquis.
However, the next morning, when the Marquis discovered that his pieces had been covered in a thousand colours, instead of being pleased, he was very angry. That afternoon he had a very important match to play. However lovely all those colours were, it would be impossible to play chess without being able to know which pieces were which; and even more difficult now that the squares of the board were covered with a painting.

Brian's grandfather explained to him that even the loveliest, most colourful things need some sense of order to them. The boy felt very hurt, remembering how many times his paintings had annoyed people...
But Brian Bristles was a true artist, and he wasn't about to give up easily.

A little while later he went to his grandfather and the Marquis, and asked their permission to rectify what he had done to the chess set. Knowing how ingeniously artistic the boy was, they decided to give him a chance, so Brian went off and spent hours alone with his paints.
When he was finished, shortly before the match was about to begin, he called for the two men and showed them his work.
What a beautiful chess set it now was!

Now there were two perfectly recognisable teams; that of night and that of day. On one side, the board and the pieces had been decorated with dozens of stars and moons of all sizes and colours. On the other side the decorations were suns, clouds, and rainbows. It was done so well that the whole set had an unmatchable sense of order and harmony.

Brian understood that a little order had been missing, but he had now managed to impose some without giving up any colour. The two grown-ups looked at the paintings and smiled. It was obvious that Brian Bristles would become a great artist.

 All things require a minimum of order, although that doesn’t prevent the order from being applied with imagination.

The Evil Millisphore

Once upon a time there was a villain who was so thoroughly evil that he devised a plan to destroy every important thing in the world. His name was Millisphore, and, helped by his great machines and inventions, he managed to ruin everything. After that, he created a potion that robbed people of their desire to work. He also managed to infect everyone with such a smelly gas that they preferred to stay at home rather than go out and risk meeting anyone.

When things had reached the point where the entire world had been spoilt, Millisphore saw that only one more thing stood in his way in his desire for complete domination, and this one thing was the family. Despite all his evil inventions, his potions and his gases, it seemed that families were still sticking together. What bothered him most was that all the families were resisting him, no matter how many people were in each one, where they lived, or how they spent their time.

He tried making the houses smaller, but the families just lived closer together in less space. He also destroyed food, but the families just shared what little they had. And so he continued with his wicked deeds against the last thing on the whole planet that still resisted him, but nothing was working.

Finally he discovered the secret to the strength of every family: they loved each other, and there was no way to change that. Though he tried to invent something to destroy this love, Millisphore never managed it. Sad and annoyed at not having managed to dominate the world, he gave up and let everything return to normality.
The evil Millisphore ended up so depressed that all he could think of to do was go crying to his parents’ house and tell them what had happened. And, despite all the wicked deeds he had done, his parents ran out to embrace him. They forgave him, and encouraged him to be good.

And so it is that even the family of the most wicked will love him and forgive him anything! And aren’t we fortunate to have a family?

The family has such strength because it is united by love, and this is why the family accepts and forgives a thousand times.

Two Kinds of Justice

A Greek philosopher was walking along one day, thinking about things, when he saw two very tall women towering away in the distance; they were the size of several men placed one on top of another. The philosopher, as wise as he was fearful, ran to hide behind some bushes, intending to listen to their conversation. The huge women came and sat nearby, but before they could start speaking the King's youngest son appeared. He was bleeding from one ear and shouted pleadingly towards the women:
-"Justice! I want justice! That villain cut my ear!"

He pointed to another boy, his younger brother, who arrived wielding a bloody sword.
-"We will be delighted to give you justice, young Prince,"
replied the two women,
-"That's why we are the goddesses of justice. Just choose which of the two of us you would prefer to help you."
-"What's the difference?"
the victim asked,
-"What would each of you do?"
said one of the goddesses, who looked the more weak and delicate,
-"will ask your brother what was the cause of his action, and I will listen to his explanation. Then I will oblige him to protect your other ear with his life, and to make you the most beautiful helmet to cover your scar and to be your ears when you need it."
-" I, for my part,"
said the other goddess.

-"will not let him go unpunished for his action. I will punish him with a hundred lashes and one year of imprisonment, and he must compensate you for your pain with a thousand gold coins. And I will give you the sword and you can choose if you're able to keep the ear or, on the contrary, you want both ears to end up on the ground. Well, what is your decision? Who do you want to apply justice for the offense?"
The Prince looked at the two goddesses. Then he put his hand to the wound, and on touching it his face gave a gesture of undeniable pain, which ended with a look of anger and affection for his brother. And in a firm voice, addressing the second of the goddesses he gave his answer.

-"I'd rather it was you who helps me. I love him, but it would be unfair if my brother doesn't receive his punishment."
And so, from his hiding place in the bushes, the philosopher saw the culprit get his comeuppance, and watched how the older brother was content to make a small wound on his brother's ear, without seriously damaging it.

A while passed and the Princes had left, one without an ear and the other served justice, and the philosopher was still in hiding when the least expected thing happened. In front of his eyes, the second of the goddesses changed her clothes and took her true form. She wasn't a goddess at all, but the powerful Aries, the god of war. Aries bid goodbye to his companion, with a mischievous smile:
-"I've done it again, dear Themis. Your friends, mankind, can barely distinguish between your righteousness and my revenge. Bwahahaha! I will prepare my weapons, a new war between brothers is approaching ... ha, ha, ha, ha."
When Aries had left and the philosopher was trying to quietly make off, the goddess spoke aloud:
-"Tell me, good philosopher, would you have known how to choose correctly? Did you know how to distinguish between the past and the future?"
And with that strange greeting began many long and friendly talks. And that's how, from the very hand of the goddess of justice, the philosopher learned that true justice lies in improving the future, moving it away from past wrongs, while false justice and vengeance is incapable of forgiving and forgetting past wrongs, and doing so fixes the future, it always ending up being just as bad.

True justice requires looking to the future and using compassion so as not to turn into just another form of vengeance.

A Resentful Thumb

There was once a hand whose fingers were great friends. The owner of this hand started a dangerous job and, despite the care he gave the rest of the fingers, the thumb always came off worse, with lots of cuts and bruises.

At first, the other fingers asked the thumb's forgiveness for their clumsiness, and the thumb did indeed forgive them. However, this happened so many times that, one day, the thumb decided to forgive the fingers no more. He stretched himself away from the fingers, and wanted nothing to do with them.
Initially, the thumb looked dignified, straight, rigid and aloof. However, that kind of position was forced and ridiculous. The owner even had to keep that hand in his pocket, and there the fingers suffered in darkness and obscurity.

Finally, the thumb understood that it had all been his fault, and he asked the fingers' forgiveness, fearful that they would reject him. On the contrary, the fingers easily forgave him, because they - better than anyone - knew that we all make mistakes. Friends once again, all five of them worked together to prove to the owner that they were perfectly well again. Before long, they returned to the light again, this time well aware that they should always forgive each other, and thus avoid ending up inside a gloomy and depressing pocket.

There is no limit beyond which we should stop practicing forgiveness.

Speedy Snails

“Good day, Lady and Gentle-Snails! This is Trevor Slug, your favourite commentator, speaking from the greatest snail-racing stadium of them all, the lettuce patch of Auntie Donna! Ahead of us we have what should be an unforgettable day, in which the great Trailblazer will try to beat, for the fifth time, his own world speed record...
Here he is now, entering the arena, doing his famous warm-up exercises... The participants take their places at the starting line, and the race begins!... As always, Trailblazer takes a few centimetres lead and continues putting daylight between himself and the competition... his progress is spectacular; he has taken less than ten minutes to cover the first metre, and he’s approaching the finishing line way out in front...
Just a moment! What is that?!"........"Attention all spectators! These are the emergency services speaking to you on the PA system... We have an emergency, a bird has entered Auntie Donna’s vegetable patch! Everyone run and hide under the nearest lettuce leaf.. we repeat, everyone run and hide under the nearest lettuce leaf!
ssshhh.... hello, if you are wondering, this is Trevor Slug, reporting the emergency in whispers, live from under a lettuce leaf. Practically all the snails are safe, but Trailblazer is still out on the racetrack! He seems to have great confidence that his lightning speed will allow him to escape... there we see him, saluting the cameras with cheerful gestures, still determined to beat his record... Oh no!!
Ladies and gents, a great tragedy has just occurred. The incredible reflexes and speed of Trailblazer were just not enough to help him escape a high velocity bird swoop. This is, without doubt, a great calamity for the sport of snail-racing. We can still see, with our own antennae, the bird flying away with our champion in its claws...
But wait!, the bird has let Trailblazer escape! He's falling... Incredible! He has fallen right by me! Run, champion, run! Come over here and hide!
This is just spectacular! We have kept silent for several minutes, and have been able to witness, live and close-up, Trailblazer's incredible adventure. Only by a matter of millimetres did he escape certain death. Congratulations, champ! Do you have anything to say to everyone watching?"
"Yes, Trevor. I have a fear of death, and didn't realise that - despite being the fastest snail ever - I could never hope to match the speed of a bird. To tell you the truth, I was a bit lucky. My shell is slightly damaged, but… I've learnt a good lesson in humility!"
"That's right, Trailblazer. We hope that everyone watching will have learned that to be good at something doesn't make us invincible...
Well, folks, here we're going to have to bring the program to an end. We hope you have enjoyed witnessing this historic moment, and don't forget....
Eat the lettuce when you wan to, there's too much for Aunt Donna!

Being good at something doesn’t make us invulnerable, or better people. What improves us is knowing how best to use our gifts.