A man died, leaving his property to his two sons. As the sons were dividing things between them, they came across a package left for them by their father. It contained two rings. One was obviously valuable, while the other was cheap. The elder brother asserted his right to the valuable ring, leaving the cheap one to the younger. This younger brother took the his ring and examined it. Running around the outside were the words, “This too shall pass.”
The years passed. Each brother prospered in the business he founded with his inheritance. The elder was elated whenever things went well, but also became arrogant and boastful, viewing his success as a reflection of himself rather than mixed with good luck. The younger took pleasure in the same good fortune but held a more circumspect view, as he ran his finger over words on the ring.
Then the economy collapsed and the two brothers lost everything. The elder fell into a depression, crying that he was ruined, that his life had been a waste, and that there was no possible future. He even attempted suicide. On the contrary the younger brother, as he contemplated with dismay his loss and what it meant for his family and employees, continued to run his finger over the words on the ring, “This too shall pass.”
This younger brother focused on the words as he surveyed all he had lost. The words inspired him to focus on what he needed to do now. And he got to work. The words also reminded him to maintain his perspective on what mattered most - his family and those he cared about - and so he retained his sense of purpose. His suffering merely became a new context in which he found meaning through serving others. And he reminded himself that what had been in the past was always going to change, and so too would the current situation. In time of course that change did occur, his fortunes shifting again, prompted in no small part by his focus on what mattered and what needed doing.
This is my version of a Buddhist tale which I heard years ago. On the surface it is a simple moral tale which expresses a mere platitude: that all things change, and your present suffering will change too. Simple tales are worth their weight in gold, however, if we stop trying to prove we are clever and let time-tested wisdom sink in. There is a great difference between simple truths and simplistic thoughts. Many of the important truths about life have been powerfully expressed, somewhere at some time, in stories and folk sayings. At certain times in life the right story can be a life buoy, something we can cling to to keep our head above water, or something that gives us clarity and strength, a compass to move forward.