BeliefWorks: The Art of Living Your Dreams
I WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU A VERY OLD STORY. It is now just a myth, but if it happened, it happened before people explored all the places on the earth, discovered the wonders of science, or began to build machines to make life seem easier. In this time, people lived off the land and the sea, and they did not venture very far from where they were born.
This story begins with a clan of people living in the jungles of eastern India. They had been there as long as anyone could remember. They were hardworking and always busy--fixing this and improving that--and, oh yes, continually gathering food. There were many families in the clan--mothers, fathers, little ones, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Looking out for everyone was a small group called The Old Ones. They provided guidance when no one else could decide exactly what to do.
One pleasant summer day, a group of children ventured far from the village. Their job was to look for food. But like most children they played, teased each other, and only sometimes did what they were supposed to do. Quite by mistake they came upon a magnificent mango tree. It was very tall--perhaps 50 feet or more. The mango tree was heavy with fruit dangling from long stems. Up in the highest part of the tree were the most beautiful, large, and luscious mangos anyone had ever seen.
Two of the loudest and most adventurous boys climbed the tree first. They picked some of the giant mangos from the top of the tree, throwing them down to their friends on the ground. Everyone was laughing, eating, and having a marvelous time, covered with the sticky sweet juice of the mango.
Suddenly, a large snake came out of its hiding place coiled among the branches in the mango tree and began to wrap around one of the boys. The other boy watched in horror as his friend began to turn red and sputter, unable to breathe. He broke off a branch and hit the snake repeatedly but it did no good. Each time the boy gasped for breath, the snake squeezed tighter and tighter. Frightened, the second boy shinnied down the tree as fast as he could.
The others on the ground stopped laughing when they saw one breathless boy come down out of the tree and not two. They could hear their friend in the tree, moaning. And it was getting dark. Not knowing what else to do, they ran.
That night in the village, the Old Ones held a council to decide what to do. At first there was a lot of talk. No one in the room had seen what happened, but that didn't stop anyone from giving their opinion about what they assumed went wrong. After a while, the talk died down and for a long time no one said much of anything at all. Finally, the Old Ones ruled that some of the men would go, as soon as it was light, to get the boy. And the Old Ones made a law. No one was allowed to pick mangos from that tree ever again.
Several years passed and life went on in the village as it always had.
One unusually hot and sultry summer day, frayed parents who badly needed to find the children something to do sent them out to gather food. The children wandered through the jungle all afternoon, and just as they started to head back, they came across the very same mango tree. Spotting the giant fruit at the top of the tree, a slender young girl with a big toothy smile began to climb to pick the mangos. As she wrapped her arms and legs around the tree and started up, some of the other children grabbed stones from the ground and threw them at her yelling, "Lawbreaker! Lawbreaker!"
Crying and scared, she came down from the tree as fast as she could.
You see, the slender girl with the big smile was a baby when the law was passed forbidding anyone to pick the magnificent mangos. As a matter of fact, several of the children there that day had never heard of the law. But the children who threw the stones remembered their friend who had perished by the snake and knew they must uphold the law made by the Old Ones.
And so, many more years passed.
It was the dry season before the monsoon and it seemed to everyone that the progression of cloudless hot days, one right after another, might never come to an end. Mothers, wanting a little peace, sent the children out to look for food. After many hours circling the village keeping out of sight, the children once more came across the mango tree. The youngest boy and his twin sister, seeing the beautiful fruit at the top of the tree, yelled with delight to their friends, "Look what we found!" and began to climb up the giant fruit tree. A few of the boys picked up rotten fruit from the ground and threw it at them shouting, "Lawbreakers! Lawbreakers!"
Confused and frightened, the young climbers quickly came down from the mango tree.
This time, the boy and girl who got in trouble were not even born when the law was passed. And the children who yelled "Lawbreakers! Lawbreakers!" and threw rotten fruit learned about the law, not from any direct memory of the boy who perished by the snake, but from other children who were there that day.
And so, the same thing happened over and over again. And the fruit in the great mango tree was forbidden to be picked. The snake had long since moved on and by now had died of old age. The danger was gone, but the law was upheld, not by those who were there when the law was made, but by children who had learned from other children, who had learned from other children that you would be punished if you tried to climb the tree and pick any of the giant mangos. It was the law.
But after so many years no one could quite remember why. ...
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