Huang Shan Mountain, China
Daily Musings 6/21/09 – Unity
There is a story in the Lieh-Tzu, a Taoist text from over 2,500 years ago, which goes (paraphrased) as follows:
An old man lived in a valley near a high mountain range. In order to do business with the cities on the other side, everyone from his village had to go completely around the mountains each time–which was dangerous.
He thought it would be helpful to everyone if they could move the mountains out of the way, to create a pathway from their small village to the places on the other side.
He told the idea to everyone in the village–but they all laughed. After all, he was a 90 year old man, weak and tired. How was he going to move the mountains, when he could barely lift one stone? The idea was flat-out stupid.
He told them that he wasn’t going to do it by himself–that his sons and grandsons would help, but the people still laughed at him. How could only a few people even hope to move a few rocks, much less the entire mountain?
The old man’s wife also thought it was a bad idea. When she asked him what he was going to do with all the pieces of the mountain that he moved, he said that they would take the rocks to one of the low places which flooded, to help build it up.
The next day, he went out to the mountains with his sons and grandsons. They stayed out there for months–removing the mountain one stone at a time. Slowly, the village began to realize what the old man had tried to say.
Something as large as a mountain can be moved, if everyone works together, taking away one stone at a time.
The gods of the valley noticed the old man’s determination. They also realized in a few generations, the slow-and-steady workers would completely change the landscape, and the mountains were where the spirit immortals lived. One night, the gods moved the mountains to a new location, and opened the space between the small village and the villages on the other side instantly, in honor of the old man’s tenacity in the face of dismissive negativity.
Tackle big projects one piece at a time, to chip away and accomplish things more efficiently. Consider the power of many hands, working toward one goal.
Always remember that teamwork, determination, and hard work can make things happen where they wouldn’t have seemed possible for a single person, or where they wouldn’t have even seemed possible at all.
I am reminded of this when I see big things getting done by many hands.
Ken and I began The Wooden Cow Gallery and Art Space project over a year ago. Neither of us had the funds and time to carry the entire thing alone. We recruited others to help, and through the strength and determination of many hands–we went from nothing, literally, nothing, to a full-fledged gallery and art space in less than 7 months. Almost everyone in the group donated time and money, energy and ideas. We chipped away at the big investments a little bit at a time. Simple things like garage sales and art auctions generated sightly bigger chunks. Ideas were incubated, planned, launched. New things developed. Small seeds grew into a lush garden.
While I am no longer a part of The Wooden Cow, I am proud to see that it’s still alive and still growing. I believe the strength of teamwork made the entire venture possible and the power of many hands will keep it going.
With each person picking up a stone, we moved a mountain. If each person picked up a single stone, toward any project or idea that seemed too huge to complete, they would be one stone closer to completion.
Things like small donations to charities help. Charities for animals, children, health–you name it. Every dollar adds up and chips away at the high price tags on things they need.
Think of the Barack Obama campaign. Whether you’re politically aligned with him or not, think of the power of many in that frame of reference. As a candidate, he accepted small donations from ordinary people. Donating a dollar here and there made a big difference for the campaign. Millions of differneces.
In Taoism, we are reminded that being humble is beautiful. Ideal. Simple. That we are a grain of sand among millions on the beach–but that without each of us to complete the whole, there would be no beach at all.
Remember that the things you do, the actions you act upon, resonate outward from you and affect everything and everyone around you.
So, go ahead. Pick up that stone.
Start that project you’ve been putting off.
Complete it one pebble at a time… You can do it.