Inspirations from a Wise Man

What would you do if your close friend trusted you with his little daughter as he was facing a life-threatening situation? And what if that friend was from a different religion than you, would you raise her up on your religion or her father’s religion?

This happened to a wise businessman who choose to houner the trust of his friend and take care of and love the daughter as if she was his own. However, someone from the father’s religion found out, and informed a clergyman who decided that the businessman  should be killed.

You might have already read the story of this wise man who believed in religious tolerance and wanted to teach us that the best way to know which religion is better is through the good deeds of positive impact that religion inspires its followers to achieve. The businessman tells the story about an heirloom ring which was believed to have extraordinary abilities of bringing God’s blessing to its owner. The ring passed through generations as each father gave it to his favourite son. One father who loved his three sons equally and did not want to discriminate amongst them made two exact copies of the ring. Before his death, he gave a ring to each son.

After his death, each son started to argue that he had the real ring because their father gave it to him. The brothers went to a judge to solve the matter for them. The judge asked to hear their father’s testimony as he had no other way of knowing which was the real ring. Then, he found a smart way by asking witch brother is the most loved by his two other brothers:

“But hold–you tell me that the real ring
Enjoys the hidden power to make the wearer
Of God and man beloved; let that decide.
Which of you do two brothers love the best?
You’re silent.  Do these love-exciting rings
Act inward only, not without?  Does each
Love but himself?  Ye’re all deceived deceivers,
None of your rings is true.  The real ring
Perhaps is gone.  To hide or to supply
Its loss, your father ordered three for one.”

The judge then suggested that each of them should live his life i the virtues that the real ring might have brought him. And with time, they will be able to tell which one is having the genuine ring :

“Unwarped of prejudice; let each endeavour
To vie with both his brothers in displaying
The virtue of his ring; assist its might
With gentleness, benevolence, forbearance,
With inward resignation to the godhead,
And if the virtues of the ring continue
To show themselves among your children’s children,
After a thousand thousand years, appear
Before this judgment-seat–a greater one
Than I shall sit upon it, and decide.”

In this clever parable, the wise businessman calls for religious tolerance and to focus on the virtues and good deeds that reflects our religious believes rather than falling into endless quarrels and arguments. I love this brilliant story and I appreciate the wisdom of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing who wrote the amazing short play Nathan the Wise as a passionate plea for religious tolerance.

However, the play was banned at the beginning because Nathan was Jewish, his friend was Christian, and the play was set in Jerusalem during the Third Crusade. Some people might find the play offensive because a Christian patriarch requested the killing of Nathan. But for me, it is a great piece of fiction that tackles the themes of religious tolerance, friendship and fostering children. Nathan did not change the religion of his daughter. Nowadays, we hear many problems with the foster care system. In the last few weeks, we saw many articles about the controversy of Muslim foster family having their foster child removed from their care. Then we heard that the girl misses them.

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