A Hindu Fable: THE MONKEYS, THE FIREFLY AND THE BIRD*

Posted by jlubans on September 29, 2019

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Caption: The Ever Curious George and a firefly

ONCE upon a time
a troop of Monkeys were wandering through a wood. The weather was cold, and when in the twilight they came upon a Firefly they mistook it for the embers of a real fire.
Accordingly, they placed dry grass and leaves around the Firefly, hoping to warm themselves; and one of the Monkeys fanned it with his breath, trying to kindle it into a blaze.
A little Bird, named Suchimukha, was perched above in a tree; and when he saw the Monkeys wasting their time and efforts, he called down to them,
"That is not a real fire, it is only a Firefly. Do not waste your breath."
Although the Monkey heard what Suchimukha said, he paid no attention but continued to blow steadily.
So the Bird flew down from the tree, and once more began to advise and argue with the Monkey.
Presently the latter became angry and picking up a stone flung it at Suchimukha and killed him.
It is foolish to waste good advice on those who do not choose to listen.
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When I was five years old an aunt-in-law gave me a Latvian nickname: Japatis! (John, myself!) It meant, “Leave me alone! I’ll do it myself!”
Even then, I brooked no interference.
Some would say my mulishness has only gotten worse!
Charles Handy, the famed management consultant, tells the story of his daughter’s starting up a first business and his inundating her with well-intentioned advice.
The daughter, after dutifully listening to him, fixed him with a halting gaze and declared: “Stop, Poppy! I know you mean well, but I want to make my own mistakes!”
Maybe the monkey wanted to see where his harmless efforts would take him.
While a do-gooder might have a better way, it matters not to the person wanting to solve something on his or her own. It may be plain old stubbornness or sometimes going down the wrong path opens up other doors, ones you would never pass through if you did things “by the book”.
In this fable the kibitzer dies.
Maybe one should wait to be asked before giving free advice. In advice giving, timing is everything.

*Source: Katha-Sarit-Sagara. Book X, Chapter 60, adapted from the German of F. Brockhaus. To be found in Cooper, Frederic Taber, editor (1864-1937), “An argosy of fables; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land”. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1921.
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© Copyright John Lubans 2019
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