March 17, 2007

A Parable and a poem

Found this little story in my email tonight and though I cut it way down, because it went on and on belaboring the obvious, I think I left the heart of it and all you need to know.

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what you see."

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked, "What does it mean, mother?"

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity - boiling water. Each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.


Which one should we, recovering from schizophrenia, emulate? The carrot that went in strong and firm and came out softened and weak, without any backbone? The egg, which was thin shelled and delicate, and through trial by boiling water came out hard, no longer vulnerable? Or the coffee, which yielded to the boiling water, embraced it, and changed that which was causing pain into something wonderful? Take your pick, but choose wisely as we all can come out of recovery differently and not necessarily better off.


Bereft of nerve, muscles grow thinner.
(Your heart is quick, your spirits light.)
You’re just a garden variety sinner.

The meaning of illness is always inner,
offering comfort, inflicting blight.
Bereft of nerve, muscles grow thinner.

The one at the top, the medal winner
feels most the stark encroaching night,
though he’s just a garden variety sinner.

As you grow weak, as hopes get slimmer,
your mind takes off in airless flight.
Bereft of nerve, muscles grow thinner.

You never curse as life grows dimmer,
no god or fate do you indict.
You’re not even a garden variety sinner.

Misfortune’s friend, you’re no beginner:
Many’s the time you’ve felt contrite.
Bereft of nerve, muscles grow thinner;
you're not even a garden variety sinner.

Posted by pamwagg at March 17, 2007 10:18 PM


The coffee! Give me liberty, or give me death!

Posted by: Michael S. at March 29, 2007 05:36 PM

Dear Pam,

I've read your villanelle out loud several times and it's quite beautiful. And sad for Joe seems so brave and sweet amidst such personal devastation, he's "not even a garden variety sinner", far from it, I think he's a bit of a saint. Do you ever read your poems aloud to Joe? This one he really should hear. You are wonderfully bright, clever and sensitive and some publisher just better publish your work!

Posted by: Kate K. at March 22, 2007 03:41 PM

Post a comment

Please enter this code to enable your comment -
Remember Me?