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Stories that make you think

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STORIES TO MAKE YOU THINK
Thoughtful stories, motivational tales, and wisdom from around the world
 Some of the most memorable lessons in life come from stories – whether these be nursery rhymes or children’s fables read to us by our parents, parables from the Bible or Jewish wisdom tales, or motivational booklets like “Who Moved My Cheese?”. I thought that it would be fun and helpful to collect some of the stories that I’ve found meaningful and share them with you. Each new story is added at the top of the page.

“The one who tells the stories rules the world.” 

Native American proverb from the Hop “All stories teach, whether the storyteller intends them to or not. They teach the world we create. They teach the morality we live by. They teach it much more effectively than moral precepts and instructions”.

Philip Pullman, author of the “His Dark Materials” trilogy, speaking in 1996

“Everything we know comes in the form of a story, a narrative with a beginning and end. Delia Smith’s recipes and the handbook of latest version of Windows are stories just as much as ‘Coronation Street’. A thing becomes meaningful only when we can embed it in a story.”

Dorothy Rowe, “The Independent on Sunday”, 31 March 1996

“Human beings are meaning-seeking creatures; we crave narratives that have a beginning and an end – something that we rarely encounter in everyday life. Stories give coherence to the confusion of our experience.”

Author Karen Armstrong, “Guardian”, 26 August 2006

“Stories are memory aids, instruction manuals and moral compasses.” 

Aleks Krotoski, “Observer”, 7 August 2011

“Stories are compensatory. The world is unfair, unjust, unknowable, out of control.” 

“Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” by Jeannette Winterson (2011)

 

The hedgehogs

It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals died because of the cold.

The hedgehogs, realizing the situation, decided to group together to keep warm. This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions.

After awhile, they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen. So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth.

Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. They learned to live with the little wounds caused by the close relationship with their companions in order to receive the heat that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.

The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others and can admire the other person’s good qualities.

 


The fence

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily, gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said “you have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.” You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. Make sure you control your temper the next time you are tempted to say something you will regret later.

 


Your influence on the universe

I read the first chapter of “A Brief History Of Time” when Dad was still alive, and I got incredibly heavy boots about how relatively insignificant life is, and how, compared to the universe and compared to time, it didn’t even matter if I existed at all.

When Dad was tucking me in that night and we were talking about the book, I asked if he could think of a solution to that problem. “What problem?” “The problem of how relatively insignificant we are.”

 

He said, “Well, what would happen if a plane dropped you in the middle of the Sahara Desert and you picked up a single grain of sand with tweezers and moved it one millimetre?” I said, “I’d probably die of dehydration.” He said, “I just mean right then, when you moved that single grain of sand. What would that mean?”

 

I said, “I dunno, what?” He said. “Think about it.” I thought about it. “I guess I would have moved a grain of sand.” “Which would mean?” “Which would mean I moved a grain of sand?” “Which would mean you changed the Sahara.”

 

“So?” “So?” So the Sahara is a vast desert. And it has existed for million of years. And you changed it!” “That’s true!” I said, sitting up. “I changed the Sahara!”

 

“Which means?” he said. “What? Tell me.” “Well, I’m not talking about painting the Mona Lisa or curing cancer. I’m just talking about moving that one grain of sand one millimetre.”

 

“Yeah?” “If you hadn’t done it, human history would have been one way …” “Uh-huh?” “But, you did do it, so …?”

 

I stood on the bed, pointed my fingers at the fake stars, and screamed: “I changed the universe!” “You did.”

Source: “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer

 


 

A turn of the screw

There was an industrialist whose production line inexplicably breaks down, costing him millions per day. He finally tracks down an expert who takes out a screwdriver, turns one screw, and then – as the factory cranks back to life – presents a bill for £10,000.

Affronted, the factory owner demands an itemised version. The expert is happy to oblige: “For turning a screw: £1. For knowing which screw to turn: £9,999.”

Author: Oliver Burkeman in “The Guardian Weekend”, 13 August 2011

Source: “Thoughtful and Inspirational Stories, by Roger Darlington.”

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