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    Beliefnet Circle of Reason

    Secular Parable & Aphorism of the Week

    Sunday, December 7, 2014, 8:45 PM [General]
    Posted By: Frank Burton

    The Small Soul, The Great Soul
    Great Sky River flowed above two raven-haired women of a forest tribe, long ago.
    One young woman lived her life back turned, instead of face on.
    She combed her long, black hair to entice the young men, but cared nothing for what lay beyond the cypress forest, or the far shore of Great Sky River.
    Over years spent neither exploring nor questioning, her spirit shrank into a hard little ball and died, long before the death of her body.
    But the other young woman lived her life face on, instead of back turned.
    She ignored her hair and the young men, at least long enough to ask, "What is beyond the edge of the cypress forest, and beyond the edge of the horizon?"
    "Who lives on the far shore of Great Sky River, or at its headwaters, or its end?"
    Over years spent exploring, questioning, and gaining in wisdom, her spirit swelled so, that it could no longer remain inside her body.
    And she overflowed into her people -- living on as teachings long remembered, even after her body had long since died.
    Thus, live on while your spirit is dead, or die while your spirit lives on.

    December 6, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Corcle of Reason

    Dedicated to Luke Somers' and Pierre Korkie's "great-souled" teaching, photojournalism and relief efforts to aid Yemeni citizens.

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    Secular Parables & Aphorisms of the Week

    Saturday, November 29, 2014, 1:43 PM [General]
    Posted By: Frank Burton

    The Sunflower, The Barrenwort
    The Sunflower dwelt in a small, tree-lined garden.
    It grew tall, sinuous and broad of leaf in the fulsome light of warm days, and seeded many children.
    But some fell into shade, and the Sunflower's face turned away as those children withered and died -- from lack of a soupçon of the sun's brilliant tang on their yearning leaves.
    The Barrenwort dwelt in the same garden, beneath the dark crook of a tree.
    It too grew broad, ruddy red and majestic, its crimson bloom bathed in the cool light of the moon, and it too seeded many children.
    But some fell into light, and the Barrenwort held dark vigil as those children were stillborn -- from searing sunrays on their tender leaves.
    Thus, seek the soil in which you can grow.

    November 29, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason


    The Negated, The Affirmed
    It was her caste, in this ancient land.
    But she believed -- believed more than anything in her young life -- that she was the true equal of any who trod the soil of their land carrying the red spot of the highborn.
    Slavishly working into the night, she saved money to enroll in private school, because she was forbidden to attend a public one.
    On the first day she boarded a trolley for school, the trolley soon filled with highborn.
    Frowning faces with red dots glared down at her where she sat, and voices called a gendarme.
    She sat still and calm, looking into all their faces, and then saw, peeking out from behind a saffron sari, the small, red-dotted face of a little girl. She smiled at the little one.
    Then a gendarme pushed up to her, and yelled, "Untouchable, leave the trolley to make way for the highborn, who cannot sit next to you!"
    The untouchable woman then looked the little girl straight in the face, and, instead of silently bowing and backing off the trolley, as she'd done countless times before, she straightened her back and said, "No. It is my right to sit here, as it is theirs to sit beside me."
    Shock and anger erupted.
    As two gendarmes hauled her off the trolley by her legs and arms like a sack of grain, she caught the troubled glance of the little girl, saw her pluck at her mother's shawl, and heard, "Mama, it's wrong to hurt the nice lady!"
    And, as she sat in the dirt and looked up to see the little girl stare sadly back at her through a window of the receding trolley, she knew, knew, that she'd won a victory that day.
    Thus, don't contradict who you are. -- via Parker Palmer

    November 22, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason


    The Climber, The Precipice
    Pride etched the stony face of a rock climber, who could scale the sheerest cliff or overhang using just her iron fingers and toes, and her iron stomach.
    Cliffs from which most men turned away in fright she leapt upon -- her fingers digging into cracks too small to see from below.
    Yet one day the climber chanced upon a precipice scoured by the breath of the underworld -- a sheer, volcanic glass wall so vertical and pristine, that she could see her own dismayed face reflected in its smooth black mien.
    For days she camped beneath the black precipice, staring through binoculars for the slightest cracks and handholds, but saw none.
    In desperation, she hammered spear-like pitons, but the wall merely sheared off clean facets at each hammer-blow. She made suction cups for her hands and feet, but even those could grip for no more than a few vertical meters the face of what seemed now to her a looming black obelisk -- her gravestone.
    After many days sunk into depression, she awoke at dawn and saw the obelisk reflect the pink rays of the morning sun.
    Suddenly she knew in her bones that this wall would remain, for all time, impregnable to her.
    And in that moment the black wall suddenly transformed, behind her eyes, from a black gravestone into the shadow of her long-ago departed father, who loomed tall over her to shelter her from harm.
    And so the climber walked away from certain destruction, standing safe on the ground.
    Thus, a fall reveals a thing of value -- where solid ground lies. -- via Parker Palmer

    November 15, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason


    The Astrologer, The Astronomer
    Stardust speaks, if one but listens.
    The Royal Astrologer, known throughout the realm, sat at the king's right hand. He stared at the sky, plucking from its patterns portents of import to the royal court - or at least of import about the royal court. For his premonitions about the court's goings on, its subtle politics and its romantic intrigues, the Royal Astrologer had the king's ear and was made a rich man.
    However, the king's eldest advisors also kept in their employ, in small palace eyrie, an Astronomer. Sometimes confused for the Royal Astrologer by carriers of missives and by new court pages, the Astronomer predicted things of interest less to the royal court than to the realm's farmers, hunters and tradesmen. Oft his pronouncements were droll, like, "The sun will rise earlier in the day starting in two weeks." Or, "The harvest should be planted 107 days from now, not 104 -- our calendar is drifting." The Astronomer was, in fact, boring. The king kept him on only because he so much trusted his eldest advisors -- who weren't very popular at the royal court either.
    But then, one terrible year, into the eastern edge of the kingdom rode a great barbarian horde, and there they pillaged and waged war on the border villages. So large was the horde that all in the kingdom -- now filling to the brim with starving refugees from the border -- feared a full invasion.
    Hence did the king call every advisor and courtier, and, before all the royal court, asked his favorite, "What, O great Royal Astrologer, will be our fate should we send excursions to harass the horde before they fully assemble to invade us?"
    The Royal Astrologer, sweat popping from his brow, breathed heavily as he peered into the sky and pushed around the scrolls and charts scattered on his escritoire. Then he cleared his throat and, in a tremulous voice, said, "Uhmm, you may, O Great King, be victorious by decisive attack! But! But! Beware too precipitous an action, for it, too, is risky!"
    "What is this?" the king spat. "Your advice, 'tis none at all!"
    Then, from the back of the throne room, a measured voice penetrated the silence.
    "You need not attack at all, Sire."
    All in the royal court turned to see the Astronomer, who was looking up from charts filled with intricate swirls, curlicues and numbers, and also staring into the sky, but with an ironic smile.
    "Why say you so, sir?" demanded the king.
    "Sire, I never have much of interest to say to you, it seems -- but this time, I do."
    The Astronomer pointed toward the east.
    "In five days, falling stars shall streak the eastern sky, as they have done on the same night every year since time out of memory. But these barbarians don't study the timing of the skies as I do. Send a messenger to their Chief, two days from now, telling them that the gods will send a sign to them in three nights -- a sign of their army's downfall in battle."
    The astronomer paused and calmly gazed across the entire assembled court.
    "You will probably turn the barbarians away without a single blow of a sword."
    That summer, a horde turned home, and a Royal Astrologer was demoted in place of a Royal Astronomer.
    Thus, predict from fact, not fantasy.

    November 8, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason

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    Secular Parables & Aphorisms of the Week

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 4:28 AM [General]
    Posted By: Frank Burton

    Parable of the Week

    The Leaves, The Compost
    Far above the earth, a great tree arched over a mountaintop.
    In a raging maelstrom of rain and light, the tree was riven. In a blast of green leaves and fire, it fell in twain.
    Its broken wood was chewed by rats and grew wormy.
    Great mushrooms sprouted from its broken heart, and ants chewed its leaves.
    Woodpeckers tolled a staccato dirge on its greying bark, and bears stomped its roots into the mud.
    As the flaking shroud of the great, fallen tree was pulverized and smashed into the earth, it began to compost.
    Fermenting and darkening, it became the richest of soils upon the mountain.
    And upon those loamy remnants of the great tree, the seed of a new tree alighted -- and grew great and tall.
    Thus, from compost arises soil -- from decay of the old, will arise the new.

    November 1, 2010, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason

    Dedicated to Orbital Sciences Corporation's "SS Deke Slayton" Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo ship, and Planetary Resources Corporation's Arkyd-3 asteroid mining explorer, destroyed 6 seconds after launch from Wallops Island, Virginia. Space entrepreneurism is a heavenly road, but no less a hard one.


    The Laggard, The Lapper
    Broadcast on every television in every land, the race would crown the fastest miler in the world.
    The contestants lined up on the track.
    The stadium roared.
    The starting pistol fired, and instantly the racers leapt into motion.
    But then, in all the homes, pubs, and sports bars across the globe, the images and sounds of the race winked out -- and roars of frustration bellowed from those places that day, mingled with a faint announcer's voice, "Due to a technical difficulty..."
    For agonizing minutes, none except those in attendance at the very event knew what was happening in the race.
    Then the satellite image was restored, still without audio.
    Back to the world's eyes appeared the silent vista of a tight pack of runners -- with one lone runner loping far, far behind.
    As the camera zoomed in on the laggard, laughter filled the homes, pubs and sports bars -- with yells of, "How did that pathetic runner get in this race?!"
    The crowds jeered even more as the laggard fell further and further behind the pack of world-class runners straining for dominance -- and jeered most of all when the laggard simply threw up his hands, stopped and walked off the track, instead of following the others into their final lap.
    Only at that moment did the audio come back on.
    And only when they heard the laggard runner sob and wave to an insanely cheering crowd, did the now hushed peoples of the world understand.
    The "laggard" had nearly lapped all the others.
    Thus, running behind others means you are much slower -- or much faster.

    October 25, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), by Frank H. Burton.


    The Pickpocket, The Tailor
    Handy little man, he thought himself, believing the world owed him whatever it hadn't locked away or tied down.
    His nimble fingers flew over women's purses and men's pockets alike, and flew with the speed of thought.
    The Pickpocket took such pride in his craft -- but couldn't tell a single soul. At night, in lonely, dark taverns, he mumbled about greatness into his beer mug.
    Also in the same city lived another handy little man, who believed that the world owed him only what he could barter for his handiwork.
    His agile fingers flew over women's and men's garments alike, repairing rips and tears in them for pay.
    The Tailor took great pride in his craft, and word spread throughout the city that he mended clothes so quickly and well, that no trace remained of their original tear.
    Then, by the nimble hand of Fate, the Pickpocket and the Tailor were cross-stitched.
    The Pickpocket's hands had flown into the Tailor's pocket -- and were impaled on the set of needles the Tailor kept there for his work. The Pickpocket yelled loud and long -- long enough for a constable to grab his collar and carry him off to jail.
    But the Tailor had felt how light the Pickpocket's fingers were. He paid to have the Pickpocket released into his custody on probation -- and hired him to help his growing tailoring trade.
    In the years that followed, the Pickpocket too became a tailor and full partner -- and by joining the society of people who traded good for good to live, became a well-respected and honored member of the community.
    And, forever after, he plucked coins only from out the ears or noses of delightedly shrieking children.
    Thus, the greatest civilizing force in the world is the handshake.

    October 18, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton.


    The Shortcut, The Straight Road
    Anonymous and uncertain were the sisters' destinies.
    The younger was a sharp beauty, who loved fine things. As men flocked to her, with casual dismissal she took shortcuts through their purses and hearts.
    She married a corporate man -- then divorced him to marry his boss.
    In middle age, her beauty faded and her husband leased a younger wife.
    Now wealthy, but alone, she walked the terrazzo and parquet floors of her hollow mansion, seeing only inward.
    She found in her life only what she'd brought to it -- baseness, and unremitting, upwelling regret for her expedient acts, and the injuries they caused to herself and others.
    The elder sister was of softer mien, who loved fine people. As thoughtful friends, colleagues and loved ones orbited about her, with considerate deliberation she walked toward her desires straightly.
    She married a thoughtful man -- and supported him with all her heart and mind.
    In middle age, her career and family flowered to full bouquet.
    Now wealthy in body and soul, she walked the garden paths surrounding her family home, a small grandchild's hand in hers -- and paused to look within, through the reflection of her granddaughter's lucid eyes.
    She found in her life what she'd brought to it -- exaltation, and unceasing, upwelling gratitude and pride for the longer road taken, and the extra acts of kindness that healed herself and others.
    Thus, your path in life will mirror your spine.

    October 11, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton.


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