Every July 5-10 in a small town in Turkey there is a huge celebration for Nasreddin, one of the most memorable characters in Middle Eastern literature. In fact, UNESCO declared 1996-1997 to be the International Year of Nasreddin!
So who was Nasreddin? He may or may not have actually lived in the 13th century, but his stories have spread around the world from Turkey to Africa, to China to the U.S.
Nasreddin (sometimes spelled Nasrudeen) was a sort of philosopher-fool in a turban and goatee. He went around doing and saying crazy things that sometimes had a bit of wisdom to them but always brought a smile.
So today, just to lighten things up a bit, I’m going to share two Nasreddin stories. The first story is just for fun.
A neighbor came to Nasreddin’s yard and Nasreddin went out to meet him. “Can you lend me your donkey today?” the neighbor asked. “I have some goods to transport to the next town.”
Not really wanting to lend his donkey, yet not wanting to hurt the man’s feelings, Nasreddin said, “I’m sorry, but I’ve already lent him to someone else.” Just then, the donkey could be heard braying loudly behind a wall in the yard.
“But Nasreddin,” the neighbor exclaimed, “I can hear it behind that wall!”
Nasreddin was indignant. “Who are you going to believe, me or the donkey?”
The second story has a bit of insight.
Hiding behind some bushes, Nasreddin observed a man walking down the road carrying a backpack. The man had his head down; he looked depressed. Nasreddin ran up behind him, grabbed the backpack and ran off ahead of him.
“Hey!” the man yelled, and gave chase. Nasreddin ran around a turn in the road, dropped the backpack, then hid behind bushes. The man came running around the corner and then stopped when he saw the pack in the middle of the road. Amazed and delighted, he picked up the pack and went off down the road whistling.
“Well,” Nasreddin said to himself, “I guess that’s one way to find happiness!”
Someone has said: to find enlightenment, you must lighten up. But that doesn’t mean to get rid of our burdens; we all have burdens. To lighten up means finding a way to carry the burdens with some joy and not take ourselves quite so seriously.
Guest Post by Landon Saunders
No one has a magic “fix” for these times. So many are experiencing life in a way never before experienced. Work, home, children, habits, worship, travel, routines—all have been upended.
We’re in new territory. We’re having to plug in our GPS even to know how to deal with our kids!
But, thankfully, we still have heart. And that’s not nothing.
The heart is hard to exhaust, even though we can sometimes feel we’ve lost heart. The heart helps us pilot our way through unexpected, difficult times.
And the heart surprises us with what it can come up with. Think for a moment what you have come through—yourself.
We’ve even said, “I’ve surprised myself!” The heart does a pretty good job at “making it up as we go along.”
Yes, no one has a magic “fix” for these times, but you do have heart. And, that’s what gets us through.
So, take heart. Trust your heart. Look for the surprises of your heart. I’ve even heard the song: “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” Even a glimpse of joy can be worth the world.
Let your heart surprise you.
I love these lines by American poet Edwin Markham, former poet laureate of Oregon:
“Defeat may serve as well as victory to shake the soul and let the glory out…Only the soul that knows the mighty grief can know the mighty rapture. Sorrows come to stretch out spaces in the heart for joy.”
These days, there seems to be more than enough grief and sorrow and trouble to go around. On top of the daily news, many of us are experiencing family troubles, troubles with friends, troubled hearts—and it’s easy to feel swallowed up by troubles, like Jonah, in the ancient story, who was swallowed by a whale.
I’m familiar with the dark side. There have been times that failure and troubles and inner darkness left me feeling somehow disqualified as a person.
But I was wrong. I now know that the troubles and grief and failure in fact qualify us to be persons in this world. They are a part of being human, part of living in this world, and they come to every person. They can add depth to our story. In fact, the broken places in our lives can let the light in.
Joy and exuberance and meaning are not found when troubles are eliminated. They are found by finding a way to live in the world as it is. As Camus said:
“In the midst of winter, I found that there was in me, an invincible summer.”
That’s why it’s so important, especially in troubled times, to open up, to reach up, to keep reaching for light, to overcome and break through to joy—again and again.
This is a time to stretch our hearts for joy! If ever we needed people who have been through darkness and learned there to love life more deeply, this is such a time. How we need people who can radiate that deep love of life to those around them!
I wrote the following quotation down from somewhere and think about it often. I think it captures the spirit we need now:
“Life is immense and you need wisdom to break the self barrier. Free yourself to live, learn, laugh and learn about joy! The horizons widen before you. Come up! Come out! Life is not some small stale place of recycled fears and dreams. Stretch yourself!”
Guest Post by Landon Saunders
Centuries ago, the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote: “To create something, you must be something.” But how do you get to be something? How do you become a somebody?
More and more it seems like the most common answer to that question is that your sense of being “somebody” is identified with what you do. The problem is, no matter what you do, most of us rarely feel that this tells the whole story of who we are.
A sense of self based primarily on accomplishment is, at best, a fragmented identity. It presents only one side of your total self, and it inflates that one side until your sense of self becomes lopsided.
So, if it’s not accomplishment that makes us “somebody” or “something,” what is it? The answer is, simply, You. To be somebody, you must realize and embrace that you’re the only expert on your life.
This doesn’t mean you can find all the resources for growth within yourself. But it does mean this journey is your journey. You must accept that the decisions you face in your life are yours to make, and no one else can make them for you.
Don’t be discouraged by this; instead, embrace the excitement and adventure that are yours. Then the“somebody” you have become can create something beautiful.
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