The Rich Man’s Mansion
Have you heard the story about the wealthy man who lived in a grand mansion with many beautiful rooms? This man, rich by many standards of the day, had built for himself and his family a mansion of the most sublime beauty. It contained many beautiful objets d’art and a vast garden of flowers and plants from all over the nation. The man himself, by any determination, was a good man. He donated to charity and was a founder of numerous community benevolent funds that he had established to relieve the suffering of the poor.
Now, because there was much social unrest, crime and anti-social behaviour in his neighbourhood, he decided to erect a large security fence around the perimeter of his residence. This high-walled fence had barbed wire and security cameras placed in strategic locations around it to ensure that no unwanted breaches occurred and that ruffians from the village would be unable to enter. He even had an entry gate installed that was manned by burly security guards who were under strict instructions to prohibit the entry of any uninvited intruders or visitors.
The rich man and his family enjoyed the many comforts of the luxurious dwelling within the walls of this confine. Through the advent of all his security apparatus, he managed to retain a sense of peace by keeping out the undesirable element of the village’s inhabitants. Yet it came to pass one day that a devastating earthquake struck his village, an earthquake so severe, that it seemed as if the very foundations of the earth were in freefall. This terrible quake did considerable damage, not only to the surrounding village, but also to the mansion in particular.
Fortunately, neither the man nor members of his family were injured; yet after all the tremors had passed, his once beautiful mansion lay in ruins. All of the magnificent architecture was reduced to piles of rubble and was now but a memory. The house and all the security walls and apparatus that had kept the place safe and secure, were now nothing more than detritus. It was only in the period after the terrible tremors and fearful destruction that the man realised many of the townsfolk had suffered a similar fate to his own. Many had lost all their belongings; some had even lost loved-ones and family. It was a devastating experience for everyone.
A few days after the initial shock, the townsfolk became hungry and many of them became angry and aggrieved. They needed food and had no shelter to escape the cold. Some of them even sought retribution from others in revenge for certain assumed wrongs. Some looted and stole what valuables remained in the town. With the walls of the mansion now clearly breached, it was but a simple process for the angry and distressed townsfolk to pillage and raid what was left of the rich man’s mansion. He was powerless to stop the onslaught on what was once his pride and joy. All of his objets d’art, the statues, the furnishings and equipment were stolen or destroyed.
The pain that the rich man experienced on seeing his pride and joy lying in ruins was heartrending. It was as if the very substance of his being had been wrenched from his heart; it was as if he had lost a part of himself. But life had presented the rich man with a significant challenge. It soon came to pass that he realised that there were now many choices laid out in front of him. These had much to do with his future actions. Indeed, upon reflection, the rich man began to see this calamitous event as very much a pivotal point in his life. From this point onwards, the decisions that he made would shape all of the future and affect indelibly the remaining years of his life.
As the man pondered his future, he began to realise that it was not so much what he would do with his life from now on, but rather how he felt about what had happened, and how he would allow that feeling to manifest itself through his future actions. He saw clearly that he could feel totally resentful and angry at what had happened. He could blame God for deserting him in his time of need. He could feel resentment and anger towards the townsfolk for pillaging his prize possessions; he could seek revenge and justice against these same people. This, he thought would at least give him some sense of satisfaction and recompense for his many losses. Yet, resentment and revenge – were they the only choices he could make?
As he contemplated such a profound question, he began to take stock of the many things he still had in his life. He realised that he was still healthy and able-bodied. He was a highly skilled trader, gifted with much acumen and knowledge of the silk trade. His reputation for fair dealing was also well known amongst his peers and customers. Much more than this, however, was the fact that he had the support of his loving partner and children, who were the apple of his eye.
Profoundly, thought the rich man, with so many blessings he could rebuild what he had lost. He knew it would be hard work but that was well within his capabilities. This time he also understood that he should engage with the townsfolk and allow them to become a part of the rebuilding process. Perhaps, he thought, they might also be involved somehow in the ownership of the new project, and he made a mental note to explore this idea later.
With such a determined and renewed outlook, he saw no value in pursuing of any vengeful actions, nor was he motivated any longer by a need to blame anybody, including God, for what had happened. Leaving behind any feelings of malice, resentment or revenge, his mind was free to begin the exciting journey of recreating his life anew.
By Stephen Chong M.Ed.
Excerpt from The Music of the Soul: A pathway to a rich and fulfilling life, 2011, p.40-43, Sid Harta Publishers Pty Ltd.