On Defeating Fate

Defeating Fate
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Once St. Francis of Assissi visited the sultan of Egypt. Eager to insult the saint, the sultan laid a trap for him. He ordered a carpet, designed with the image of the cross, to be spread where the saint must stand before the sultan, who schemed “If he walks on it, I shall accuse him of insulting his god; if he does not, I shall accuse him for insulting me.”

The saint’s vigilant eyes didn’t fail to notice the crosses that covered the carpet. Yet he trod on it for he didn’t want to show disrespect towards the sultan. But the sultan awaiting such an opportunity, accused the saint for insulting his god.

Without a moment’s hesitation, the saint said: “our Lord died between two thieves who were also hanged on crosses. We Christians have the true cross; but the crosses of the thieves we leave to you and these I am not ashamed to tread on.”

We can’t but simply admire at St. Francis of Assissi’s presence of mind. Seeking danger is folly. However cautious we may be, we cannot expect to pass through life without being occasionally in some danger. When we are in danger we should muster up courage and face it like the little boy David who faced the giant Goliath…meet it firmly and calmly.

What really confounds us during the time of danger is fear. We are unable to do anything for our protection or relief. Say, for example, our clothes catch fire. Fear grips us. Fear drives our common sense away. We rush here and there like wind unknowingly allowing the fire to spread. Clothes burn very quickly and soon scorch the body. We may even be killed. But such a chance is less, if we act with prudence.

All that we have to do is to think what best can be done to escape harm. By throwing ourselves on the floor and rolling there, or by wrapping a carpet closely round ourselves, we can instantly extinguish the flames. Yet how many of us don’t panic at such moments and do all such things that are unwarranted of us? When fear rules us, it banishes our prudence and common sense, we have no way but to yield to the so called ‘Fate’. Yet some keep themselves calm and watchful, so as to escape the impending evil. This is known as preserving our presence of mind, a quality that is always admirable.

It is not that we do not have the presence of mind. Like every other human being we too are endowed with it. But fear is a predominant emotion that easily overwhelms all our other emotions. When Fear spreads out its tentacles towards us only one in a thousand would manage to escape with the help of prudence. Perhaps that is why we admire in others what we lack in ourselves.

Life creates situations both friendly and unfriendly. It is only the unfriendly ones that teaches us lessons. They are our critics and without them we will never know our worth. When the situation is quite critical, how to wriggle our way out of the web woven by the spider of fate? For this we need the presence of mind. Here is the best example of a man on whose doors an unfriendly fate knocked twice to put him into the ever-gaping mouth of death and how with his presence of mind he was able to put himself out of the jaws of death.

In his attempt to pull the king out of his sober mood, a court jester joked about the queen. The king took it to heart. He decided to punish the jester with death for the dig he made on his spouse.

Next morning the jester was brought to court. As ordered earlier a cur was brought in. “For all that you have said about my queen, I can do no better than treat you like this cur. You can kill this cur in any manner you like. And you will be killed in the same way”.

“To compare me with a street dog is punishment enough, my lord! When you have already punished me enough, why do you want to punish me again?’ said the jester. “Shut up, act,” howled the king. The jester held the cur’s tail tightly with both his hands, raised the dog above his head and brought it down the floor with such a great force that the animal died after letting out a sharp yell. The king forgave him for his presence of mind with a warning that he would not be spared next time.

Months passed. The jester was very careful in handling words. That’s the power of man-made words. Words infuriate. Words console. Words kill. Words bring us back to life. On one unexpected moment the jester was caught for the slip of his tongue. “No way out. Choose your death. You can choose to die in any manner you like. Let it be also your last wish. I will not go back on your words,” promised the king. The jester said, “Your Majesty. I would like to die of old age”.

About the author: P. Raja
P. Raja
P.Raja (October 07, 1952) a son of this divine soil, Pondicherry, India famed for its spiritual heritage, writes in his chosen language, English, and also in his mother tongue, Tamil. More than 5000 of his works – poems, short stories, interviews, articles, book reviews, plays, skits, features and novellas – have seen the light through newspapers and magazines that number to 350 in both India and elsewhere. He has 30 books for adults and 8 books for children in English and 14 books in Tamil. Apart from contributing special articles to Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literature in English (London), Encyclopedia of Tamil Literature in English, and to several other edited volumes, he has also written scripts for Television (Delhi). He broadcasts his short stories and poems from All India Radio, Pondicherry. He was General Council Member of Central Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi (English Advisory Board - 2008-2012) representing the Pondicherry University. He is Editor of TRANSFIRE, a literary quarterly devoted to translations from various languages into English. His website: www.professorraja.comAuthor can be reached at [email protected]

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