I was once told a story of a Wiseman, a young boy and a butterfly. I do not know the origins of this story nor am I familiar with the originator. Hence you will not see any credit given for the story. But the following is fact: the story is not mine. It is one of those long African tales with all dramatic echoes whenever they are told. I repeated this story to a group of students at the North West University (Potchefstroom Campus) who had just been elected to form the Radio PUK committee. I was a new member of the committee and looking forward to my gig as a news reader. The story went down so well with my fellow students who were encouraged and I won myself a slab of chocolate. I repeat this story for you, not for the prize but for the moral of the story. Even though this is not my story it is, arguably perhaps, a true story about everyone’s life.
For the sake of brevity I will sever all the linguistic gymnastics that goes with the story and cut to the chase. For those who may not reach the end, the story is about choices and understanding what powers we have when taking decisions and making choices about the future.
There was once a critically acclaimed Wiseman who lived in the hills surrounding a village. To all the elders who had consulted the Wiseman for counsel, his wisdom was unquestionable. A young villager sought to challenge the Wiseman by proving that he too (the Wiseman) had fallible wisdom. He planned his trick to expose the Wiseman. The trick involved a trip to the hills and a butterfly to be caught on the way to the hills. The young man had planned the trick to the last detail. He would approach the Wiseman with a butterfly in his hand and confront the Wiseman with two questions. The first one he was certain the Wiseman would answer. It is the second question which he was certain the Wiseman would never have the correct answer to, as he (the young boy) would manipulate the answer.
The young boy made his way to the hills. On the way he grabbed a butterfly. Wrapped it nicely inside his hand to be comfortable. When he reached the hills and was in the presence of the Wiseman he asked the first question with the arrogance that sometimes accompanies youth, “what is in my hand”. As expected the Wiseman answered and said “son you have a butterfly in your hand”. Then came the second question, the one to which only the boy could give an answer to. The boy asked the Wiseman, “is the butterfly in my hand dead or alive”.
Here is how the boy had planned his trick, if the Wiseman said the butterfly was “alive” he would simply squeeze his hand before opening it to the Wiseman, this he thought, would ensure that the wise man, through a trick, gets the answer wrong. Should the Wiseman say that the butterfly is dead, he would release the butterfly to fly freely.
The Wiseman, with all the wisdom that came with his age looked at the boy straight in his face, looked at his hand and looked at his face again. Then he answered. He said “son the life of that butterfly is in your hands”.
Never mind the tale of a Wiseman, the boy and the butterfly and all its drama. The moral of the story is that the future is in our hands and it is as fragile as the butterfly in the boy’s hands.
Have you ever noticed how we sometimes trick ourselves? We do this by the decisions we take and the choices we make. As individuals or as a collective we can decide what to do with the future. As we approach the end of the year let us use the power we have even when doing simple but important things. During this busy season we must be mindful of the decisions we take and the choices we make. Make good choices when you are on the road. Make good choices when you spend. Make good choices when you relate with family and friends. Let us look forward to the future we make today. Have a Happy Festive Season filled with good choices.