The Stick, Your Life

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Once upon a time, two boys chanced upon a long straight stick on the river bank. The stick was quite long, almost twice as high as a person, so they decided to break it in two. However, the stick didn't exactly break in the middle, so that one of the sticks was longer than the other one. The taller boy decided to give the shorter stick to the other boy, who was shorter than him. The short boy merely smiled and shrugged. Then they started playing with the sticks, using them as mock swords, as fighting staves and eventually using them as fishing poles to catch fish from the river, which they promptly threw back in after. As sundown neared, they both ended up lazily doodling on the sand with their sticks. Then, as the sun slipped below the horizon, they both went home towards their village in the twilight, happy with the sticks they got.

Many, many, many years later, the boys reunited as old men. They decided to go to the river they once played in as boys. Interestingly enough, they found the sticks they used to play with as kids, and took them along on their trip down memory lane, down to the river of their youth. They were both in their 60's now, and the shorter man revealed that he was dying of cancer. The tall man's face turned pale and gray as he learned about this, but the shorter man just smiled at him and said "It's all right. We all have to go sometime." Then, after a long silence, they found themselves doodling on the sand by the river bank using their sticks again.

The tall man said, "Why is it that you can shrug off your condition like that, you're so free of worry." The short man said, "Why is it that you worry so much about me, when you should be worrying about yourself and the life you are leading and headed to?" Distraught and a little bit insulted, the tall man said, "Excuse me, but I'm not the man who is struggling to pay his debts, and has very little to call his own." It is revealed that the taller man had become a highly successful businessman, and even entered politics, and became a mayor of a town for several years. He had lived an exemplary life. Meanwhile, we find out that the shorter man joined the circus, and lived a life on the edge of poverty and simple living.

"I'm NOT the failure here." stressed the taller man. "Aren't you regretful of the life you have led, which might even have been the cause of your ill health?" The short man looked at him and smiled, "Causes are not important. In life, it's like we are given sticks, and sometimes one is given a longer stick, and sometimes we are given a shorter stick." They both pondered for a bit, and started doodling with their sticks in the sand again. The old man replied, "I still can't fathom why you could be so happy in your condition. It's for a long life that we all strive for..."

"Long?" the short man interrupted. "Is that how we really have to gauge life?" He then took the tall man's long stick and walking along the river bank for a few paces, he drew a long thin line on the sand. "This," he said, " how you lived your life...a long, thin line, that you want to continually extend for as long as you might be long, but it's thin and frail. But it's because you had a goal, so your line was straight and narrow, and had no option to bend."

He then dropped his own shorter stick on the sand, and holding it in the very middle, he dragged it on the sand sideways, leaving a short, but very, very wide line.

"This..." he smiled and looked at the tall man, "...this is how I lived mine."

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