Three Questions…

Leo Tolstoy’s short story, “The Three Questions” tells the tale of a Tsar who is looking for the answer to three of life’s questions. In an excellent adaptation of the story for children, the hero of the adventure is a small boy who longs to be good but doesn’t know the best way. “The three questions” encapsulate his dilemma;

When is the best time to do things?
Who is the most important one?
What is the right thing to do?

The boy goes on a quest to seek advice from a wise old turtle but turns aside from his goal to help the turtle with his digging, to rescue an injured panda and to find her lost cub. He confides his disappointment to the turtle, who smiles and says that the boy’s questions were answered by his own actions;

The best time to do things is now.
The most important one is the one you are with.
The most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.

It seems to me that in its simplicity this story brings us sharply into contact with some fundamental truths about relationship. How often we find ourselves restless, our minds and hearts in other places rather than engaged in the moment and the one we are with. Staleness and complacency creep in and we miss opportunities for fun, intimacy and connectedness.

The theme of being present in the moment is ubiquitous in wisdom literature down through the ages. Seneca, the Roman Stoic philosopher and contemporary of Jesus wondered, “When shall we live, if not now;” Eckhart Tolle, the favourite spiritual teacher of Oprah, has commented about our tendency to worry about and plan excessively for the future:
“…a dysfunctional way to live. It generates a constant undercurrent of unease, tension and discontent. It does not honour life, which is Now and never not Now.”

The Celtic Christians developed a tradition of prayer where every day tasks as lowly as making the bed and building the fire were hallowed by prayer and a mindful reverence. Pascal in his Pensees  suggests that we shy away from this kind of vital engagement because “the present usually hurts.”  Even at their very best our relationships will be flawed; there may be difficult memories and unresolved pain, misunderstandings and irritations.  Tolstoy’s questions step over our modern desire to analyse and  intellectualise and silence the cynic in us.

How might our relationship with our beloved be different if tomorrow we were to consider that…
The best time to do things is –  now.
The most important one is – the one you are with.
The most important thing is – to do good for the one who is standing at your side.

One Response to “Three Questions…”

  1. Sonya says:

    Hmmm…food for thought.