Wednesday, May 27, 2009

troubled

There’s a story that you’ve probably heard about a village whose inhabitants constantly and bitterly lamented the inequities of life and fate. Wearying of their complaints, the village headman told the villagers to each pack up their troubles into a sack and to hang the sack on the branches of the big tree at the edge of town.

As the villagers stood looking up at the sacks hanging in neat rows, the headman told them that, while, in this world, everyone must bear some burdens, in the interests of fairness, he would allow each of the villagers a choice of troubles. The villagers circled the tree, checking the size and weight of the various sacks, loosening the ties and examining the contents. And, of course, in the end, each person took his own troubles back.

I suppose the moral of the story is something like: and you thought you had it bad or be grateful for what you have. But sometimes, especially when I’m confronted with evidence of exactly how inequitably troubles seem to be apportioned, I can’t help but wonder how true that really is. If you could, would you trade your sorrows for someone else’s? Or, like the villagers, do you prefer the devil you know to the devil you don’t?

31 comments:

de said...

The tricky part about this fable is that when you choose a sack, whatever is in there becomes a trouble. If you had encountered it in your life previously, you may have dealt with it without any big deal, but now, it's different. Which I guess means better the devil you know.

Tash said...

I thought about this last weekend. Not exactly in terms of bearing another's troubles per se, but thinking I could stand to trade my sack if someone else actually found mine more reasonable. The other sack was kinda familiar though, so not so much on the not knowing.

Hows that for cryptic. I gather you know where I'm heading with this circular jibberish.

In the end, I wish we could all be like the zen tale, and just put down our loads and quit carrying them -- they're a lot to drag around.

Kymberli said...

*sigh* I guess "neither" isn't an option, is it?

Betty M said...

I'm sticking with the devil I know. The way the world usually works if you give up your own particular set of troubles for someone else's you will probably end up with some of the good stuff going in the trade too. Or am I just too gloomy?

Wordgirl said...

This will be the biggest cliche ever -- but I've spent so much of my life making sense of my troubles, beset by them -- that they feel so intricately linked to the core of who I am -- I wouldn't trade them.


Whoa. That's weird to say out loud.

Mrs. Spit said...

I would take the sack marked "baby that won't ever sleep" and give away the sack marked "dead baby" in a heart beat.

But, I doubt I could find someone willing to make the trade.

Which Box said...

I have a distinct memory of being in 6th grade, post gym class locker room, putting on my terribly un-hip clothes in my usual state of pre-teen angst, having suffered through another pitiful athletic endeavor, and realizing that, despite it all, I wouldn't trade my life, flabby body, poor coordination, bad clothes and all, for anyone else's in the room. Even the most popular girls. Especially the most popular girls who seemed to have it all effortlessly. It was a powerful realization for an 11 year old, and I've tried to hold onto that since. Not always successfully, but most of the time.

And, like you, Niobe, I have endured some tribulations glad they had come to me, knowing that meant another would not have them.

So, the devil I know.

And I have zero idea where Tash's circular logic is going.

niobe said...

Mrs Spit: Well, yes. But I think the way it works is that you have to take on all of the other person's troubles. So, as Betty M points out, you'd be losing some of the good things that you currently have. For example, what if, along with the baby who won't sleep came a troubled marriage, health issues and a low-paying job that you couldn't stand?

leanne said...

I'll stick with my own devil. As sucky as my troubles have been, I've seen others suffer through much worse. I *almost* feel lucky in my unluck.

Bluebird said...

Assuming a trade would leave open the possibility to take someone else's *relationship* troubles - I'll stick with my own bag.

I love my husband, I love my mom and my sister (even though they both have questionable taste in men) and my maternal grandparents. . . granted, we have issues just like the next family, but I'd like to hang on to them. I wouldn't trade my bag of troubles for an unhappy marriage (unhappy at it's core, not unhappy due to external circumstances like dead babies) or an unsupportive family. People matter the most, imo. I just wish I had more people who matter actually living under my roof. . .

Coggy said...

I'm kind of with wordgirl. My troubles really make and made me so I don't know who I'd be without them. I do think someone elses troubles always look easier to bear from the outside. Inside the person bearing them may be drowing, I guess it's all relative.

I've also had bad followed by good things happen to me, so maybe my troubles seem easier now and I'm just full of it.

Some people do get shit on way to much though and I really don't get that either.

Trish said...

I would definitely keep my own troubles. The devil I know is way better than the one I don't.

Virginia said...

Well, that depends on the other person's troubles. Like my sister, who views her life as utter misery while I see all the blessings she has?

But I wouldn't take her marriage, not for anything.

So I guess I'd stick with my own troubles.

Aurelia said...

Truly, I don't think anyone would ever take my bag of troubles, so there wouldn't be a trade to be made!

But if you had asked me a few years back before Julius, and when we were thisclose to bankruptcy, what I would do and whether or not I would trade then? I might have.

I can tell you that for sure I would have traded years and years ago when I was a teen/young adult. I really didn't see any hope of having a good life back then.

Furrow said...

I really haven't got much to complain about at this point -- though I often do, anyway-- so I guess I'd keep mine. A couple of years ago, I might've thought I was troubled, and might've been tempted, but it would have been a mistake.

My Reality said...

I don't understand why the devil picks on the same people over and over and leaves others completely alone.

I don't think it matters if you pick the devil you know or the devil you don't; you have to deal with the shit no matter what.

Lavender Luz said...

My sack of sorrows is molded to my frame. I would not trade it for something less customized.

Kristin said...

I would definitely keep the troubles I know.

Life in Eden said...

Funny, I was just thinking about this in a way today. I was at the hospital where one of the babes was having a routine surgical procedure. Nerve wracking nonetheless, and now he is fine.

But there were families there with children who had significant illnesses and congenital issues. As we left with our healthy children, there was a couple in the elevator just holding on, trying not to break down.

While at times it brings me to tears of exhaustion, I'll taking my not-sleeping-babies and their cranky brother and their dad who-is-not-around-enough but still loves me to pieces -- over anything else.

Azaera said...

I'd take my own in a heartbeat. Because they are mine and they make me strong and they make me who I am. When I can emerge from the darkness and say I have faced ane beaten another demon I feel proud of myself.

missedconceptions said...

I sometimes wonder if it's the troubles that are the trouble or how we deal with the troubles.

And usually those that complain the loudest are those that can't deal with their particular bag, not those that actually have the biggest, or baddest, bag.

three minute palaver said...

Interesting question to pose to your readership (considering your previous "confession" post garnered that your readers are an adulterous, suicidal, unhappy lot...).

I for one would not change my troubles for anothers. My troubles are a trifle compared to some and my happiness and joy is Mt Everest compared to some.

I am one of those rare breed who thinks I married the best man in the whole world, so I couldn't risk losing that, could I?

and my 2 (living) daughters are worth every pound of flesh and deal with the devil I made to have them...

So, I know I can't change a thing about my life without risking not ending up with those 3 fabulous people that I can't live without.

[even with a dead baby sack, a failed 1st marriage sack, health problems sack, and numerous assorted crapola bags that I am sure others would avoid like the plague]

Quadelle said...

My troubles are part of me - some unwisely chosen, some unfortunately allocated. At times a new addition has thrown me out of balance for a while, but for the most part my troubles have settled in around me - not in a restrictive way, but so that I can still manage to function.

Of all the troubles to choose, I would choose mine.

A simple being said...

since i already have the trouble and know the trouble and have been slpped by the trouble id keep mine, after all getting punched in the gut with it is half the battle right?

Aunt Becky said...

I would chose my own. They are mine.

Dayna said...

I would choose my own.

Lisa b said...

I was thinking this over niobe and I decided it is not that I want my own troubles but that I am scared to wish for anything else.

B said...

I'd trade.

I don't see the evidence of others carrying their load in the way I do.

Which either means it's a heavy load or I am bad at carrying it.

And I'd give either of those up.

Rebecca said...

I'd like someone to live with my Troubles and see how they did with them.

Cos frankly, I think I've done marvellously.

Emily said...

I know. I know. I am late to the game, again.

I wrote about this, recently. Privately. About how our "troubles" become familiar to us and familiarity becomes comfortable. We (meaning I) learn to smudge our demons around the edges, fluff up their hair, fuzz their ears, etc. so that they become almost endearing and acceptable bed fellows... I know there are exceptions to this rule. But I think it must be how we (again, I mean I) make it through from one day to the next. I think it would be hard to fuzz the ears of someone else's demons. Hard to see them as anything other than what they are.

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