The Kingdom of Rocks
Once upon a time three children lived with their parents in the Kingdom of Rocks. This region had so many rocks that the king had decreed many years earlier that upon each child’s birthday, they would receive a rock that they must put in a sack and carry around with them. The children’s father followed this decree; each child was given one rock and a sack upon their first birthday and every year thereafter they received a rock. They must carry this sack of rocks every time they left the house. But to make it easier on them, their father also gave them one piece of gold on each birthday.
The day arrived when each child was ready to leave the family house. First the eldest son left, taking his large sack of rocks and his smaller sack of gold. He set off upon the road, looking for a house of his own. Soon thereafter his sister set off in the direction of the forest. And finally, the youngest son left. He saw his brother’s footsteps along the sandy path. “I will follow my brother for surely he will have found a fine place to live,” he thought. Soon he met his brother on the path.
“Hello, brother, have you found a place to live?”
“I have and am on my way home. Where are you headed?”
“I will go with you.”
The older brother preferred to be alone but he reluctantly agreed. They walked together for awhile.
“Brother, carry my sack for awhile,” the younger brother said. “Mine is too heavy.”
“I have my own sack,” his brother answered. “Carry your own.”
“But I have more rocks than you have.”
“No, you don’t. Our sacks are the same.”
The younger brother grumbled a bit but kept walking with his brother. Awhile later, they found an inn where they could stay the night.
“Brother,” the younger one said. “Buy me a meal. You are the oldest and have more gold.”
“Buy your own meal,” his brother answered. “We were given the same number of gold pieces.”
That evening they talked. The younger brother said he would follow his brother to his home and live on his property with him. The older brother did not want this at all. So early the next morning, he set off on his own, telling no one of his path. Later, the younger brother set off on his own.
After a month of wandering, the younger brother returned to his parents’ house. His father was glad to see him and welcomed him into his home.
“Where is our mother?” the lad asked.
His father answered. “She left her bag of rocks here and set off on her own. She was tired of the burden.”
The young man stayed a few days then he said to his father,
“Father, I need to set off on my path again. But my sack is too heavy. I will leave it here with you.”
“I would take it if I could,” his father answered. “For I can see that you struggle with it. But alas, I cannot. The king has decreed that each person must carry his own bag.”
“But mother left hers.”
“Yes, she did. But that is against the law of the land.”
That night, the young man secretly took a few rocks out of his sack and put them into his father’s sack. The next morning, he bade his father good-by and hurriedly left before his father could see what he had done.
Now the older son met his mother sitting along the path one day. She was plucking petals from a flower and seemed quite happy.
“Hello, mother,” the older son said. “You seem happy. But where is father? And where is your sack of rocks?”
“I have only my sack of gold,” she said. “I left the rocks at home. And now I am free to wander as I wish.”
The older son wondered at this and decided to visit his father. He met him on the path near the house, carrying his sack.
“Father, let me help you with that. It seems to be heavy for you.”
“Yes, it does seem heavier than usual,” his father answered. “But come in and sit awhile.”
The son entered and they had a long conversation and a good meal. That night, the eldest son thought,
“I think my brother added his rocks to my father’s sack. And my mother left her sack here. My sack has become so heavy too. I will leave just a few rocks with my father, for he does not have to wander as I do and can carry a few extra, I think.”
So he too, pulled a few rocks from his sack to put into his father’s sack. And he left early the next morning.
One day, the sister wandered out of the forest onto the path. There she saw her two brothers. They were arguing. But as she approached, they stopped arguing and greeted her warmly. The two brothers shared their picnic lunch with her and the three siblings talked long into the afternoon. When her brothers had left, the sister decided to visit her father. She found him along the path, struggling to carry his sack of rocks.
“Father, that is too heavy for you. Come into the house and set it down,” she said.
He entered the house and sat heavily upon his chair.
“I fear my sack is becoming too heavy,” he said. “I don’t know what is wrong. Perhaps I am getting old.”
“You must exercise more,” she said, “ so that you will be able to carry it. And father, can you not talk with my brothers? They keep arguing. Each says that he has the heavier burden.”
“Alas, neither will listen to me,” her father answered. “We all have the same burden, but they will believe they have a larger one. Indeed, it appears to me that mine is ever the much heavier, but I suppose that is because I am growing old. Perhaps I will follow your mother.”
“Oh no, father, you cannot do that. We need you here at home. Just eat well and exercise and you will be able to carry your burden. Here, I have brought you a healthy apple to eat.”
“I have plenty of apples, daughter,” he said. But he ate the apple anyway and she smiled to see that he seemed healthier already. When she left the next morning, she slipped just one of her rocks onto the floor under the table.
“My mother left all of her rocks,” she said to herself. “Surely, it will not hurt if I leave just one. My father does not need to carry it, just leave it here in the house.”
She bade her father farewell and set off again for the forest.
The sister did not see her brothers for a long time. But she heard that they were still arguing. The younger brother had built a hut near that of his older brother, who was not happy, for the younger brother used his roads and cut down his trees.
“I am only making your farm a better place,” the younger brother told the older one. But the older brother did not see it this way.
“Just leave me in peace,” he said. “I have my life and you have yours.”
“Yes, but you have the easier life. Your sack is much lighter. And you never helped me with my sack when I was little.”
“No, each person must carry their own sack,” his brother answered. “Just as I do.”
“Yes, except you dropped some of your rocks off with father,” his brother answered.
The older brother wondered how the younger one knew this.
Well, so did you. And you did it first.”
“Maybe we should visit father,” the other answered.
“Oh, I am sure he is fine. He works in his garden and is happy alone.”
One day, the daughter visited her father again. She found him in bed.
“Father, what is wrong?” she asked, alarmed.
“I do not know, daughter. I was working in the garden, carrying my sack on my back, and I just became so tired. My sack seems so heavy these days.”
“Well, father, just rest. I will make my own meal. I’m sure you will feel better in the morning.”
Indeed, in the morning, her father was up, cooking the morning porridge.
“See, father, you are already better,” she said, sitting down to eat with him.
“Yes, I feel a bit stronger today. But I am unsure how long I can carry this sack.”
“Just leave it behind,” she said. “Do as mother did.”
“That I cannot do,” he answered. “It is not the right way.”
“But you would be happier.”
“I would be happier if your brothers quit squabbling. That weighs me more than the rocks.”
“Oh, so would I,” she exclaimed. “Couldn’t you talk with them?”
“I have tried,” he said wearily. “And neither will listen. Each thinks he is right and the other is wrong. By the way, daughter, you forgot a rock here last time.”
“Oh, I am sorry, father. It must have slipped out of my sack. Where is it? I will take it back.”
“I put it in my sack,” he answered. “For the king’s man visited and I had to account for all rocks. Now he says it is mine to keep.”
“Father,” the daughter said slowly. “My sack has been too heavy for me as well. And I must travel far every day. Winter is coming and you will sit inside all day. Could you take just one more rock for me?”
He held out his sack wearily and she put a rock into it.
The next day, the daughter set off to find her brothers. She found them squabbling as usual.
“Brothers,” she said. “We must stop giving father rocks. He is becoming too tired.”
“Rocks?” they both answered. “What about rocks?”
“You have both told me that the other gave him rocks,” she said.
“Well, if he had given us the same number of rocks, I would not have had to give any back,” the younger brother said.
“And I would not have done it if he hadn’t,” the older brother said. “For we started with the same number and should now still have the same. Fair is fair.”
“I admit I gave him one also ,” the daughter said. “But I gave it to him, I didn’t hide it in his sack. And he willingly took it.”
They talked awhile then the sister said,
“Brothers, don’t you care about our father? You must stop your squabbling and go visit him together. Apologize to him and apologize to each other and start anew."
“I would take back a rock or two,” the younger brother said. “But I will not apologize to anyone. For I have done nothing wrong.”
“Nor I,” said his brother. “But I will take my rocks back.”
“We cannot take our rocks back,” their sister said. “The king’s man visited and those rocks now belong to our father. But we can agree to not give him any more.”
The two brothers agreed to that and to visit their father together. But before they could arrange that, they began to argue again.
“You should not have done that to our father,” the older son said. “You are making him sick.”
“Well, you did the same.”
As they argued, they came upon two young men playing a game and laughing.
“Hello,” the two men called out. “Come join us.”
“You seem to be having so much fun,” the older brother said. “Do you not have rocks to carry?”
“Oh, yes, we each have a sack of rocks. But they are not so heavy now that we have learned to play the rock game. Come, sit down and we will show you.”
The two brothers sat down.
“Now,” said one of the men. “Each of you pull one rock out of your sack.”
“They did as they were told.
“Do they match?”
“No,” the brothers said, wondering
“Then put them back into your sack and pull out another.”
They did so. After several tries, they pulled out two rocks that were perfectly matched in size, color and shape.
“Put the two rocks together,” the men said. “And keep playing. We must go now, but good luck in your game.”
So the men left and the two brother continued to play their game. They found another matching set then another. Soon they had a row of matching rocks.
“Let us rest awhile,” the younger brother said. “But what do we do with the matching rocks?”
He looked down at the row and exclaimed, “Brother, look!”
For where there had been two rows of matching rocks, there was now only one. Each pair of rocks had become one rock of the same size and shape.
“Now we have fewer rocks,” the older brother exclaimed happily. “Here, brother, I will take half and you take half.”
His brother readily agreed. “Let us go find our sister,” he said, “and see if this will work with her as well.”
They set off and soon found their sister in the forest. She agreed to play the game and the same happened. One or the other brother had a match to her rocks and soon there was a row of rocks again, which melded into each other. They divided up the rocks again and decided to visit their father.
“Maybe we can lessen his burden as well,” they said. “For we have all three been guilty of adding to his burden in the past.”
They set off, happily anticipating their reunion with their father. When they came to his hut, the door was closed. There was no smoke coming out of the chimney. The eldest brother lifted the latch on the door and slowly went inside. In the corner, by his father’s bed, he saw an old woman.
“Ah, you have come at last,” she said. “But alas, I fear it is too late.”
The three siblings went over to the bed. There lay their father, next to a large sack of rocks.
“It is just too heavy,” he moaned to the woman. “Please take it now.”
“No, father, we know how to make it lighter now!” the three exclaimed. “You need only play a little game with us.”
“The time for games is over,” he said wearily. “No, I can no longer carry my sack. It is time for me to go.”
And so saying, he closed his eyes and gasped his last breath. His sack of rocks began to glow and rise up to the ceiling. The woman and the siblings went outside and watched the sack rise until it became a star shining in the eastern sky.
His three children were heartbroken. “If only we had come earlier,” they said to each other.
The father was soon laid to rest in the ground. After the funeral, the king’s man came to the hut. “You must account for all rocks,” he said. The siblings showed him their sacks.
“What of your father’s sack?” he asked.
“Oh, it became a star,” they answered. “And the old woman confirmed this.
“You father was a good man then,” he replied. “He left you no burden. And what of that sack?” He pointed to the sack in the corner.
“That belongs to our mother. She left it here.”
“Then one of you must take it. No rocks may be left in the hut.”
“May we share the rocks?” the sister asked.
Her brother scowled, but the king’s man said, “Yes, you may share them. But first you should play the rock game, for you might find many matches.”
So they played the rock game with their mother’s sack, and indeed they found that the number of rocks lessened considerably. Then they divided the rocks equally and set off on their paths. This time, they each went separately. But they agreed to meet once a year at the hut. I would like to report that they no longer squabbled, but that I cannot do. However, they did keep their promise to meet each year and then they would play the rock game and each one’s burden would be lessened a bit. And when they each had found spouses and had children, they taught their children to play the rock game so that their sacks would never become too heavy.
A Wondrous Enigma
Sisyphus labored long and strong
To push his boulder up a hill,
Only to have it roll back down.
Sisyphus was a determined man,
A man bereft of common sense!
Tantalus, lashed firmly to a mighty rock,
Thirsted for water beyond his reach,
Hungered for fruit beyond his grasp.
Hi shirts he failed to quench and calm,
His hunger only grew with want.
A man left pained and unrepentant.
Prometheus a mighty Titan was,
Fire he stole from the Gods for man,
A thoughtful wag, a cunning trickster.
Zeus in return and punishment
Had Pandora spread her woes.
Prometheus, both blessing and curse!
Phoenix, a fabulous bird it was,
Eagle in size, scarlet and gold,
Enticing in its melodious cry,
A much-admired, long-lived charm
That chose the pyre and rebirth.
A wondrous birth that found the sun!
Is America a stubborn Sisyphus,
A Tantalus blind to bounds,
A Prometheus beyond remorse,
A Phoenix rising from its ashes,
Or a modicum of each,
An enigmatic blend of all?
A Culture's Demise
Ethical barriers are crumbling ever more rapidly,
Moral constraints restrain ever less,
Beliefs of whatever ilk are fast becoming fiction,
As cultural dry-rot goes its relentless way.
Structures spell culture,
Crumbling structures, a culture's demise.
Sic transit gloria mundi!
An epigram a day:
Thistles bear no grapes.
Wars are a retribution and not a solution.
A just war is an oxymoron.
Bad behavior rewarded is bad behavior perpetuated.
Warfare is pathological behavior.
Fault is always the other's.
There are spitters and swallowers.
The spitters infect others;
The swallowers give themselves a stomach-ache.
Piccolo has her say:
Go around obstacles if you can.
If you can't, then go over them.
Do not turn back.