The Lesson of the Red Camellia and The Best-Tasting Dish

The Lesson of the Red Camellia

One night a man in the prime of his life got up to go to the bathroom. On the way, he spat into the garden. To his horror, his sputum was bright red, a telltale sign of tuberculosis. His legs turned to jelly and he sank to the floor.

When the man didn’t come back to bed, his wife grew concerned and went looking for him. She laid a hand on his forehead and found that he had a raging fever. The household was soon in an uproar, and they sent for a doctor. Meanwhile the man told his wife what had happened, and she went out to the garden to see for herself. She had discovered that he’d spat onto a fallen petal of a scarlet camellia. When she told him this, his fever magically disappeared, and the next morning, he sat off for work as usual. If he hadn’t found the truth, he could have made himself truly sick.

There is no need to live in fear of what may come. Change is only natural: the earth itself has day and night, the moon waxes and wanes in the sky, the ocean has its high tide and low. In our lives too, we experience both fat and lean. When you are at a low point, just wait, for ‘this too will pass.’ When you are at rock bottom, you are undergoing a test. Think of it as God’s way of training you so that in time He can give you something better than you have ever known.

A hothouse flower does not smell so sweet as one exposed to wind and cold.

Rain and sunshine are equally good. Anyone who can’t appreciate this is of little substance. It is essential to open the eyes of the soul.


The Best-Tasting Dish

Once there was a king who was determined to eat the world’s tastiest dish. He gathered chefs from all over, but he had grown so accustomed to fine dining that his palate was jaded, and nothing appealed to him. “None of them can cook worth a damn,” he growled. “find me a better chef!”

His aides were at a loss, until someone came forward and announced himself to be the greatest cook in the world.

“Can you cook food that will satisfy me?” asked the king.

“Yes, Your Highness, although I must ask that first you do exactly as I say.”

“Sounds interesting. All right, I’ll do it, so go ahead and make the food.”

For the next three days, the new chef never left the king’s side, but simply sat and did nothing.

“When are you going to cook for me?” asked the king.

“Soon, Your Highness, I promise.”

On the third day, when the king was weak with hunger, the chief bought a simple dish of vegetables. “Here is the world’s tastiest dish, just as promised. Bon appetite.”

The king fell to eating ravenously. After wolfing down the dish, he marveled, “I’ve never eaten anything so delicious in all my life. What is it, and how did you make it?”

“The sauce that makes all food delicious is hunger,” replied the chef. “When you are close to starving, any food tastes like ambrosia.”

The pleasure of eating comes from the lessening of hunger. Without the discomfort of hunger, the pleasure of fine dining could not exist. The same is true in life: those who avoid suffering cannot experience pleasure, either. True happiness is not for the timid.

Tulisan Kenetsu Takamori dalam Something You Forgot…Along the Way, Stories of Wisdom and Learning, Tokyo: 2009.


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