Parables by Steven Carter

Parables can often be considered aphorisms in story form. The story has to be very short, of course, in keeping with the first law of the aphorism: It Must Be Brief. But many parables consistently meet this and the other four laws: It Must Be … Definitive, Personal, Philosophical, and Have a Twist. There is a distinguished genealogy of authors who produced parables/aphorisms, as evidenced in the rich parables of the world’s religions. Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, the ancient Jewish sages were all master storytellers and master aphorists. Many Zen koans are parables, and writers like Kierkegaard and Kafka regularly used parables to get their philosophical points across. And so does Steven Carter, whom I first blogged about on July 9, 2008 (alas, a post that has disappeared from my site, most likely due to the catastrophic site failure I described here. If anyone has a live link to this post, please send it along…)

The poor teacher
The lion lay down with the lamb. The lamb said, “Teach me how to be a lion.” The lion devoured him. Then, a muffled voice: “I am waiting.”

The master and the disciple
The disciple: “Thank you, master, for your wisdom.” The master: “True humility is to refuse all compliments. Difficult to do, since the only way to be unworthy of compliments is to return them.”

The polarized King Solomon
What would wisdom seem like in a polarized universe, where plus is minus and black is white? Not so different as you and I might think!
Two women were brought before King Solomon; both lay claim to the same child; each argued eloquently on her own behalf. Solomon listened patiently, then dismissed them, saying they would have his decision the next day. The next day both women appeared, beaming in anticipation of Solomon’s judgment. He said, “It is my decree that both of you shall be cut in half to make one woman, so that the child may have its proper mother.”

The identical bald men
Two identical bald men sit down at table. Pointing to his bald pate, one says, “On me it looks good.” The other agrees, “On you it looks good.” Both are comforted.

The rope
“A poor fellow went to hang himself, but finding by chance a hidden pot containing money, flung away the rope, and went merrily home; but he that had hidden the money, when he found it had been removed by someone, hanged himself with the rope the other man had left behind.”
Don’t hide your money; invest it in the man who manufactures rope.