This too shall pass

A fable from the Sufi poets.

📜 There was a king and he once said to the court sages: “I have a ring with one of the finest diamonds in the world and I want to inscribe a message under the stone that can be useful in a situation of extreme despair. I will give this ring to my heirs and I want it to serve faithfully. Think of what kind of message will serve this purpose. It must be very short to fit in the ring.”

The sages knew how to write treaties, but did not express themselves in one short sentence. They thought and thought, but could not come up with anything.

The king complained about the failure of his venture to a faithful old servant who raised him from infancy and was part of the family.

And the old man said to him: “I’m not a sage, I’m not educated, but I know such a message. For many years spent in the palace, I met a lot of people. And once I served a visiting mystic whom your father invited. And he gave me this message. Just don’t read it, pass it to the craftsman and only open it when there is no way out at all”.

The king listened to the old and faithful servant.

After some time, the enemies attacked the country and the king lost the war. He fled on his horse with the enemies in pursuit. He was alone, and there were many. He drove to the end of the road, only to arrive at a huge deep cliff before him.

If he fell there, it would be the end. He could not go back, the enemies were approaching, and he could already hear the clatter of their horses’ hooves. He had no way out and he was in complete despair.

And then he remembered the ring. Recognising the time had come to look beneath the precious stone, he found an inscription: “This too shall pass.”

After reading the message, he felt that everything was quiet.

Apparently the pursuers got lost and proceeded in a different direction. Horses were no longer heard.

The king was filled with gratitude to the servant and the unknown mystic. Words were powerful. He put away the ring. And hit the road.

Again he gathered his army and in due course returned to his palace and to power, and so arranged a magnificent feast for the whole kingdom - the people loved and celebrated their king. The king was happy and proud.

The old servant came up to him and in a soft tone urged him to “Look at the message again.”

“Now I am a winner, people are celebrating my return, I’m not in despair, not in a hopeless situation.” Replied the King.

“Listen to the old servant,” he answered, “the message works not only in moments when everything is bad, but also in moments of victory.”

The king looked at the ring and discovered: “This too shall pass.”

And again he felt a silence fall over him, although he was in the midst of a noisy dancing crowd. His pride dissolved. He understood the message. He was a wise man.

And then the old man said: “Do you remember everything that happened to you? Nothing and no feeling is permanent. As night changes into day, so moments of joy and despair replace each other. Accept them as the nature of things, as part of life”.

This fable was shared to me by a friend, and I learnt from wikipedia that it comes from medieval Persian Sufi poetry.