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April 05, 2019 Friday 11:56:01 AM IST

I’M OK, YOU’RE OK

Reflections

A esop’s fables are well-known all over the world. However, stories about Aesop are not so famous even though he is considered to be one of the greatest story-tellers of all time. Historians are not certain about his whereabouts. While some trace his origins to Africa, others think he was from Phrygia in Turkey.  It is believed Aesop (620 BC - 564 BC) was a slave in Greece who was granted freedom by his master because of his exceptional skill to weave fables of great moral value.

One day while Aesop was in Athens, a traveller from another city asked him, “What sort of people live in this town?” In response, Aesop said: “Please tell me first what sort of people live in your town. Then I will tell you about the people here.” Though unhappy with Aesop’s response, the traveller said, “I come from Argos. The people in my town are not very welcoming. In fact, many of them hate strangers.”

“I am sorry to say this,” Aesop lamented. “However, how can I refrain from saying it? You will find out the people of Athens are just like the people of Argos.” A few minutes later, another traveller asked Aesop the same question. Then Aesop asked him where he was from and how the people of his city are. “I come from Argos,” he said with a twinkle on his face. “The people in my city are very friendly and they always welcome strangers.”

“My friend, I am very happy to say this,” Aesop said with a sparkle in his eyes. “You will find out that the people in Athens are just like the people in your great city of Argos.” How can the people of the same city be welcoming and unfriendly at the same time? How can they hate and welcome strangers simultaneously? What is the meaning of the answer of Aesop?


Two travellers from Argos presented two different impressions about their people. In fact, they were not only different but also contradictory. While one saw his compatriots as unwelcoming and against strangers, the other one saw them as very friendly and welcoming strangers. Among these two, who is right? Or rather, what does this story convey?

If one traveller saw all his compatriots as unwelcoming and against strangers, it does not mean everyone in Argos was like that. Of course, there could have been some people who were not friendly to strangers as in any other city. However, since the second traveller gave a clean certificate testifying that his compatriots are very friendly and welcoming, the first traveller could not have been right. According to the second traveller, all the people of Argos were very friendly and welcoming.

The reality

Now, what is the reality? The first traveller who came to Aesop failed to see the goodness and nobility of his fellow human beings. It was probably the lack of goodness and nobility in him that resulted in his failure to see the goodness and nobility in others. He could only see the shortcomings in them. But the second traveler was much different. His goodness and nobility made him see the goodness and nobility in others. That was why he was able to give a clean certificate to his countrymen.


How about us? Are we like the first traveller who could only see the negative side of his fellow human beings? Or, are we like the second traveller who could really appreciate and celebrate the goodness in his compatriots? If we notice the faults and transgressions of others, more than their goodness and good deeds, we are unquestionably like the first traveller. However, if we are able to see the goodness of others more than their defects, then undoubtedly, we are like the second traveller.

As Aesop made it clear in his answer, we often find what we look for in others. If we look for their goodness, then we will obviously find their goodness. But if we search for their flaws, we will somehow find them even if they are trivial. This is because all human beings have their strengths and weaknesses at the same time. If we have a better proportion of goodness in us compared to our weaknesses, then we will always look for the goodness in others. However, if we have more meanness in us than goodness, then our meanness will be reflected in our evaluation of others.

A serious problem

If we think we alone are good in our society and the others are bad, then remember, we have a serious problem on hand. Hence our focus should be to transmit our goodness rather than to dwell on the foibles of others. If we are truly good as we think, then our focus will be always on spreading that goodness around.


There is an Aesop fable about rose and clay. A man picked up a piece of clay which he found on his path. It had the smell of roses. “Where did you get the fragrance of the rose flower?” the man asked the piece of clay. “I have been with rose flowers for a while,” replied the piece.

If we are good people, our goodness will be reflected in our homes and wherever we are, making them better places for others to live. However, if we are mean, our meanness will make the lives of others unhappy and unbearable. Let us make sure that we always reflect our goodness which we can do only by seeing the goodness in others and doing nothing but good in our lives. 



Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, CMI


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