Most of us will not find it difficult to remember or imagine a situation where, by striving towards a goal, many other things in our life were not given the care and attention they required. These kinds of situations often result in “accidents” that can even make the attainment of our goal more difficult or even impossible. Worst of all, if we do reach it – on the way having wrecked havoc in our life as a whole – we may find ourselves with the bitter consequence of discovering that our all-important goal is much less rewarding than we imagined.
General Considerations and Personal Reflections:
Which one of us hasn’t encountered experiences like this in their daily life, as well as in fiction: a person sacrifices love, friendship or family in the pursuit of fame and fortune (or whatever it is they consider important, valuable or “prestigious”)? As a consequence they sacrifice their health, their loved ones, and the values they once held sacred. Even if they attain their goal they don’t have the health to enjoy it, or loved ones to share it with, or values that give our lives meaning.
Things are well when they move together not in isolation is a sort of tautology. That is, it’s true almost by definition like saying: all bachelors are unmarried. Its truth seems to follow from the fact that one’s life is a whole and requires overall, not just partial, balance and development.
That doesn’t mean that everything should move in the same way or the same time, or considered to have the same value. On the contrary, everything doesn’t have the same importance and they need to be prioritized in a way that reflects that. In fact, it is only by having clear priorities and acting accordingly that things will truly move together.
The origins of the following story are unclear but regardless of its pedigree, you may find it casts an interesting light on this principle.
The Four Magicians
There were four magicians who were friends. Three of them were very learned but lacked wisdom. The fourth didn’t know as much as the others but had excellent judgment. One of the others said to her: “What use is judgment without knowledge. You might understand whether something is good, or bad, but not know how to attain one situation or the other.
The youngest of them added that they could illustrate this in action. “Tomorrow” he said, “we must be in Persepolis but it’s a long way. In fact a distance our camels could never make in one day. But thanks to our learning we can shorten the path.”
They asked their wise companion to bring the camels while they consulted their books. When he returned they began to cast their spells. One cast a spell that stretched the camel’s legs to an amazing length. Another enlarged its whole body so four of them could sit between its humps. And the next, made its neck so long it could raise its head over any sandstorm and see the most distant points.
The next morning however only 3 of the magicians mounted this extraordinary steed. The wise magician only said, “Better three rather than four when the problems multiply”. The others laughed at their fearful friend and raced off to the distant city.
They started their journey at a great clip but soon slowed down to a crawl. Belatedly they discovered that this giant camel needed much more food and water than they had brought. Its long neck could no longer support its massive head and now it had to run along its neck on the ground like a serpent slithering after its prey.
Finally, weakened and off balance, the monster collapsed like a tower built with a weak foundation. So they did not arrive to their important meeting and the business opportunity they were pursuing was lost. Happily, their friend was waiting for their return with food and drink already laid out.
On another occasion the four were walking along and came across the body of a dead lion. Wanting to prove for once and all the superiority of their knowledge the learned ones said: “Not long ago this once noble beast moved with grace and strength its body full of vital force. Let us do something for this poor animal. But this time let us agree beforehand so that all the parts agree and coincide in their action, forming a reasonable whole. The problem with that business with the camel was not a failure of our individual ability but of our not working together. And so they agreed on a plan.
The first one said: “I know how to unite the skeleton”. The second said: “I can heal skin, muscle and blood.” The third added: “I can give it life.”
Before they could begin their wise friend interjected: “perhaps this isn’t the best of ideas. After all it is a lion.” “Idiot” cried the one who could join bones: “what kind of magician fears a lion?” “Yes” said the one who could heal the muscles, bone and blood: “who ever heard of a magician who needed to fear anything?” And the one who knew the secret of life added: “we will reduce your judgment to nothing”. “In that case”, said their friend: “wait a moment while I climb this tree.”
With that the others proceeded with their plan… Of course the lion ate them all. When it had padded away the wise magician climbed down from the tree and walked on.