A Boy in Bengal
The other day I was talking with a good friend of mine and he told me a story that I’d like to share. We were discussing difficult life decisions and he gave me a bit of wisdom that I won’t soon forget. A life lesson from the road.
There was once a young boy in Bengal. His teacher came to his home one day to mentor him and test him on his abilities. In line with local tradition, the teacher was welcomed into the home and treated to a snack and refreshments. While he began to enjoy his gifts, the teacher gave the boy a complex mathematics problem to solve. As the boy began to work the problem, he quickly flustered and denied his ability to complete the problem on his own. When the teacher returned to him, the boy had not completed the assigned problem. The teacher asked the boy, “Why have you not completed the problem?” The boy replied, “The problem is too difficult, and I do not understand it.”
The teacher looked at the boy, and exclaimed, “Pick up your pencil, this time begin the problem again. With a fresh mind, confident in your ability.” The boy did as he was told and began the problem again.
After a few minutes the teacher returned and the boy had completed the problem. The teacher noticed that his answer was not correct although he had done the work. Therefore, he instructed the boy to begin again from the step where his initial mistake occurred. The boy began again from the step and completed the problem, again incorrect. The teacher again showed the boy where his mistake occurred. This process went on a few more times until finally, the boy arrived to the correct answer.
Once he completed the problem, the boy was intrigued by his new ability to solve complex problems on his own. The teacher, who was about to begin eating a banana, offered to him by the boy’s family, decided to teach the boy something. The teacher looked to the boy, and said rhetorically, “Do you see this banana, with all of its peeling?” “There is a delicious fruit underneath the peeling of this banana. However, we cannot eat the peeling. We must first approach the banana from different sides in order to peel away its complex layers. Then, and only then, are we able to realize its reward. Therefore, that is how you must live. You must approach life’s difficult decisions as we approach this, when you find peeling, decide first how you must take off the peeling. Once you remove the peeling, there your answer will be.”