The Turtle and the Hermit Crabs.
A sea turtle, while swimming through the deep, came upon two hermit crabs who were having a disagreement.
“Hello crabs,” said the turtle, “What do you do?”
“Oh hello turtle,” replied one crab, “the two of us are arguing over who should occupy a new shell we have found.”
“Amazing!” said the turtle, “that you can choose a better shell when it comes along, while I am stuck in this one.”
“I suppose it would be amazing, ” said the crab, “were it not for all the other crabs. Whereas your shell comes at birth, we crabs must fight and scavenge, search and bicker, for a shell of our own.”
Conflict is the currency of choice.
The Sundial and the Watchmaker.
A watchmaker, fascinated by all horological apparatus, visited a sundial that had been long ago erected atop a hill near the center of the village.
“Oh sundial,” said the watchmaker, “now that we have gears and springs, my watches have made you quite obsolete.”
As if shaken from a deep trance, the sundial replied “Oh my, a visitor! What you say is quite true, watchmaker, your creations are an improvement over me in nearly every way.”
Having taken the word 'nearly' as an affront, the watchmaker guffawed and then retorted, “Why... surely in every way. You do not even function on a cloudy day!”
“That too is undeniable,” said the sundial, “but I never need another's hand wind me up, and I always know – behind whatever clouds might skirt across the fickle skies – that the sun is up there.”
The Ant and the Grasshopper, Revisited.
The winter came and the grasshopper, who spent the summer playing and singing and bounding through the grasses, starved to death at the first frost, a harsh end to his happy carefree life.
The ant, on the other hand, who had worked long and hard throughout the summer, saving up food and digging out a cozy subterranean den, spent the winter in the dark, munching carefully rationed meals, the meagre surplus of long toil. Its one hope was the return of spring.
When the last frost finally melted, the now quite elderly ant emerged into the crisp vernal air and caught a glimpse of the returning sun. Then, the ant died.
The Helmet and the Cedar.
After an ancient battle, the helmet of a slain soldier was abandoned in a forest. Beneath the helmet a sapling cedar had sprouted, and, as the years went on, the sapling became a tree which grew around and through the helmet – its wood intertwined with the helmet's metal.
The tree came to resent the helmet, complaining, “Curse my luck to have planted down right here! This blasted helmet has bent and twisted me as I have grown. I shall never be as fine and lofty as my fellows in this forest.”
Then one day a lumberjack, who had been working through the woods, came upon the cedar and spoke: “This tree is too gnarled and not worth the effort to fell. Cedar, I will leave you in peace.”
The helmet, who had long remained silent, at last spoke up: “Cedar, my friend, it seems that we are partners in oddity and accident. Just as you have been made strange by the accident of my fall, accident too has it that I now protect a tree instead of a soldier. Your odd life has become my odd purpose.”
Even ends may be accidental.
The two buckets.
There were two buckets, one old and full of holes, and one new. A dairy farmer sat on the old bucket, overturned to serve as a stool, while she milked her cow, using the new bucket to catch the milk.
“This is the life!” spoke the new bucket to the old, “I am filled! I can feel the pressure of the milk against my ribs, the warmth and vitality of it gives me hope in this world.”
“Do you really, ” asked the old bucket to the new, “not know your fate? But no matter, it comes quite soon. I hope only that you will be just as glad for it as you are now.”
A bucket is filled that it may be emptied.
The candle and the diamond.
A jewel thief, while making his escape, was wounded by his victim. Hoping to hide, the robber fled into a secret cave where he lit a candle, thinking to bandage his injury by its light. His gambit, however, proved vain, and he quickly succumbed to death, releasing from his hand the prize he had stolen: a magnificent cut diamond.
The diamond, glistening by the candle's flame, suddenly lamented “No one will ever find us here. Just think, after gracing the noble necks of countless rulers of the world, my fate is to be forever interned here, a diamond among the crude rocks of this cave.”
“Cherish your pride while you can,” replied the candle, “for my hour draws near. And as I dim and flicker out, so too will your brilliance.”
A diamond's shine is not its own.
The Peripatetic and the Pauper
A peripatetic scholar had come to the agora in order to sell fine books from the back of his cart, the collected wisdom from his travels and encounters. The nobles all purchased these valuable tomes for their sons who might come know the world and be better fit to take charge city affairs.
The scholar, feeling fine for the small fortune he made that day, spotted across the market a pauper selling odds and ends spread out on a blanket. Feeling generous, he approached the pauper and spoke: “Ho friend. I notice that your life's lot is sorry indeed. I have but one volume remaining on my cart and am willing to part with it for half price.”
“Even at half price,” spoke the pauper, “it would cost all that own.”
“Ahh but you could read it, gaining in wisdom, before selling it on for more than you paid. I want simply to help you.”
“Even so,” replied the pauper, “no one would buy such a tome from me, it is your reputation alone that supplies such value to mere words.”
After a long pause, the pauper continued: “I will, however, sell you all my wares at half price. I must be rid of them if I am to leave the city.”
The Beetle and the Window.
A beetle had crawled for hours across a window pane when a squirrel, who had been watching the beetle from its branch, scampered up and asked: “Ho beetle. What is it that you have been doing? To me you seem to wander aimlessly.”
“I have been trying to reach that lush cabbage down in that garden,” replied the beetle, “but I cannot seem to find my way there.”
“No indeed,” agreed the squirrel, “I do not think you can get there through that window. Even a thousand beetles would not be able to make their way through it.”
The beetle stopped. The squirrel continued, “I'm sorry, I did not mean to upset you.”
“It isn't that... ” spoke the beetle, trailing off. “But what” inquired the beetle, “is a window?”
The fox, the lizard, and the marmot.
A fox, a lizard, and a marmot met at a pond. Much to their surprise, floating toward them on a lily pad was a length of copper wire and a marbled piece of cheese.
“The gods!” remarked the fox, “they wish for me to wear this cheese around my neck! You see, the wire is the color of my fur. A token of their favor!”.
“Fool,” cried the lizard, “it was meant for me to tie around my head as a crown, they say I am to rule the animals. The marbled cheese matches my scales.”
The two argued this way for some time, each citing different auguries in their effort to determine how best to see themselves favored.
At last the marmot spoke. “I am quite hungry, might we eat the cheese – we could slice it evenly with the wire?”
This enraged the fox and the lizard, who declared a truce, killed and ate the marmot, and went back to bickering about who was best fit to rule.
The warbler and the stone.
A stone passed decades perched atop a high rocky cliff. From that broad vista it bore witness to the thrum of the forests and marshes, to the caprice and grandeur of the sky, and to the daily dramas unfolding in the bustling villages of the common folk below.
One day, a warbler landed up on the rock. Looking up to the sun, it began to sing. After hearing the warbler's voice, the rock spoke: “I wish I could do that. Here I sit, observer to the theater of the cosmos, but for all that I cannot myself cry out as I am moved.”
“It is not difficult,” replied the warbler, “I will assist you.”
The warbler pecked and shoved at the base of the stone, loosing it from the hill and sending it tumbling down cliff, knocking and banging against the rocky hillside. With each collision, a sharp “Ach!” could be heard to echo through the valley.
Inspiration is not met in passivity