Gnomicon 034

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  034
T 3 Apr 2012

If you want happiness for an hour; take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day; go fishing.
If you want happiness for a month; get married.
If you want happiness for a year; inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime; help someone else.
Chinese proverb

I’d say one would find it hard to argue persuasively against the counter-intuitive final entry in this anaphoric pentad.  It stands out not only by its position but also by its deflection of focus from ‘you … you … you …’ to ‘someone else’.

And it reminds me of a story my Father would occasionally trot out.

It seems a wealthy king was vetting suitors for his beautiful daughter’s hand.

The ingratiating princes came from far and wide throughout the kingdom, and each attempted ostentatiously to outdo the other by offering the father all the tediously predictable gifts — gold, diamonds, rubies, ivory, jade, pearls, land … .  The king had almost made up his mind about whom to select for his fair daughter, but decided first to take his usual walk along the river to ponder the matter just a bit longer.  For a final entrant into the lists had not yet been heard from, a poor peasant from a remote corner of the realm, and even though the king thought the man could in no way compete with the offers already made he felt that the fellow should nonetheless be given his chance.

As the king walked along in royal isolation by the water, he heard a frantic cry from the middle of the river and espied a head popping up above the surface and then sinking down again.  “Help, help,” the head yelled.  “I can’t swim!”  The king, a not unkind or unfeeling creature, looked around and, seeing no rescuers on the way, himself jumped into the water, swam out to the bobbing man, and brought him to shore and safety.  Here he received sincere and genuine thanks from the drowning man for having given him back the gift of his life and the opportunity still to sue for the king’s daughter in marriage.

“And who,” my Father would ask, “do you think won the hand of the princess?”


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