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Flowering Sage

Garulus the Sage, a man much given to instruction, dwelt in the first light of history's morning. It happened that his zeal for knowledge and virtue, in others, grew with the years, until his ceaseless admonitions drove all his friends away. He noticed this fact eventually, and was so startled that for a moment he stopped talking. Thus he was able to hear a passing crow protest: "Too many good words, without good works, are noise!" The crow hurried away.

From that moment Garulus began adorning his words with good works which blessed many people; and some of the people kept him company, briefly, out of gratitude. But his tireless instruction continued unabated: it wore the moss of the rocks and the gloss off his good deeds. Soon thepreceptor was alone again.

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"It is strange," he said (aloud) to himself. "My precepts are wise, my works unquestionably good. Why does no human wish to hear me? The answer is obvious: humanity is unworthy. So be it! It shall go and instruct the animals!"

He shared his thoughts with lions, and for a while they sat humbly at his feet. Then, as his discourse rolled on, and on, and on, the kings of the forest stirred. They began to fidget; they looked around desperately. At last they slunk away, whimpering.

The sage preached to gazelles, and they too greeted him with joy, listened with dwindling delight, and finally sprang away. To domestic flocks and herds Garulus spoke so generously that the animals stampeded; and the heredsmen encouraged him to stampede also, speeding his departure with airborne gifts.

One day Garulus approached a mountain.The vast rock greeted him with joyful thunder; but as he continued to instruct it, deep into eternity, the mountain started panting. Steam gushed from its indignant granite nostrils; then, heaving itself up, it staggered away across the landscape.

"A miracle!" cried a pair of sparrows, who had been watching from a safe distance. "The sage can move mountains!" And they sat on his shoulders, twittering praises.

Garulus modestly explained that mountain-moving was just a little knack he had, the result of wisdom, knowledge, and virtue; and he prolonged his explanations until the sparrows realized just why the mountain had moved. The followed its example.

"Very well," said the sage, unmoved. "Humans, animals, rocks, and even birds all scorn my advice. The loss is theirs! I shall preach to the vegetable kingdom!"

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So he poured out his wisdom on the leafed and petaled people. Flowers put forth their sweetest fragrances as he began to speak, so luminous were his opening paragraphs; then one by one the flowers closed up inself- defense. Bushes, which had welcomed his first exquisite admonitions, crept away on thier roots. Trees blossomed at his saintly approach, and then turned yellow. The grass, which had stood up to greet him, lay down again to sleep.

Garulus was astounded: the humble botanicals also rejected his instruction! Why?m Unwilling to discuss so embarassing a question aloud, even with himself, he fell silent; and in this new stillness a brave lily opened her petals and spoke: "Next time, before instructing the people, listen."

The sage stared at the floral messenger. "Flowers have no vocal cords. How can you talk?"

"By echo -- as you do in your wisest moments. Listen for those moments."

"Listen to what? Plants? Rocks? Animals? Humans?"m

"To them all. But especially listen to the silence. And then after listening, be quiet for a while."

His mouth dropped open, in words: "Be quiet?m I'm a sage! It's my dutym to speak out!"

"It's your duty to be wise."

"But what about sharingm my wisdom? That's in my job description."

"Share your wisdom wisely: humbly, briefly --"

"Briefly? You mean pithy little lecturettes of five hours or so?"

"Of five minutes --"

"Five minutes!"m

"At the most." The flower added, "Unless your hearers invitem you to speak for longer."

"But I've hardly even startedm in five minutes!"

"That is the whole problem."

Garulus bowed his head. "The trouble is," he confessed at last, "that brevity just isn't me.m I'm naturally a volublem person."

"You are naturally like the rest of us, a citizen of light. Live so, and let your shining quietness preach for you."

"But that's impossible!"

"Flowers do it," the lily said.

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