What One Small Grain Learned

User avatar
Posts: 183
Joined: January 6th, 2005, 4:02 pm
Location: Naples, FL

What One Small Grain Learned

Postby W4TVQ » July 30th, 2007, 12:37 pm


A single grain it was, hardly to be noticed among all the other grains on the stalk. It did not know how it had come to be there, nor did it even wonder. “I am one of these,” it thought to itself – for this particular grain had somehow attained command of thought. “We are all here, we are all alike, and this is reality.”
And so it believed, nor had it any reason to doubt the correctness of its own observations.
Until, that is, IT happened.
IT was a wind. A very strong wind, cold, wet and blustery. All day it blew, and all night it blew, and the little grain hung onto its place among the others with might and main, but at long last the wind won the contest and the little grain fluttered to the ground.
For a while it lay still, exhausted by the struggle. After a while, however, it began to sense that things were not they way they were before. It was no longer in its place among the others. Around it was not the warmth of snuggled-up grains, but instead a sort of vast emptiness that didn’t seem to stop anywhere, and certainly didn’t snuggle up to him, and didn’t feel like anyone he knew.
He had only been there a little while, all by himself, trying to figure all this out, when a green worm came along. It was only a small green worm, but to the little grain it seemed like the worm’s other end was a very long distance away. Reasoning that anything that big should know a great deal, the grain ventured to ask.
“Excuse me,” it said in a small frightened-grain voice.
“For what?” asked the worm in a rumbly worm voice.
“For being small and ignorant,” replied the grain. “I am going to ask you a small and ignorant question, if I may, please.”
“So ask,” said the worm.
“What am I?” asked the grain. “I know I am one of them, but they aren’t around any more and I just sort of wondered what we are. I mean, what I am.”
The worm regarded him silently for a moment. “Hmmm,” said the worm. “I think,” said the worm, searching through all his memories, “that you are a pebble. Hmmm. Yes, that’s it. A pebble.”
“Oh,” said the grain. “At least it’s nice to know that much. What do pebbles do, so that I can set about doing what I am supposed to do?”
“Pebbles,” said the green encyclopedia, “lie there.”
“Excuse me now,” said the worm,” but I have places to go, leaves to eat, birds to avoid. Goodbye, pebble, lie well.”
And the worm was gone.
The little grain practiced Lying There for a while, and thought he was getting to be rather good at it – but somehow, it didn’t feel comfortable, as if it were not really the proper thing for him to be doing. Lying There seemed somehow unfulfilling. And the more he lay there, the more he began to suspect that the green worm was not infallible after all.
Just as he had decided that a second opinion might be helpful, a bird came along. Fortunately, it was a robin, which would have eaten the worm but was not interested in the grain as a potential meal.
“Excuse me,” ventured the grain, thinking that something this very, very big would surely have all the right answers.
“Whaddayawant?” mumbled the robin, hardly interrupting his hungry search for bugs and worms.
“I am small and ignorant, and I wish to ask you a small and ignorant question.”
“Okay, buddy, make it fast, okay? I ain’t got a lotta time, ya know.”
“Please, sir, what am I?”
“A Confounded Nuisance, that’s what. Geez. Whatta dumb question.”
And the robin promptly flew away.
The grain pondered this new information with puzzlement. He had no idea what a Confounded Nuisance was supposed to do, so how could he set about doing it?
It seemed like hours passed after the robin left, during which all the poor grain could do is work on Lying There. In case, you see, that that was what he was really supposed to do.
At long last there came another visitor. It was a very impressive visitor, for it had big, interesting eyes set far away from its head on stalks, and carried a large something-or-other on its back. Because it was moving very slowly, the grain thought he might get a bit more conversation out of it than out of the robin. Anyway, it would be worth a try!
“Excuse me,” he said.
“Certainly,” said the snail, for that it what the visitor was.
“I am small and ignorant…” said the grain.
“Who isn’t,” countered the snail.
“…and I was wondering…” said the grain.
“Who isn’t?” said the snail.
“..if you might be able to tell me what I am?”
Although the grain didn’t know it, he had finally asked someone who really could give him the right answer. The snail gazed at him with its fascinating eyes for a moment, and then asked, “Well, what do you think you are?”
“One of them,” said the grain. "But I don’t know what they are either. The green worm told me I was a pebble, and what I am supposed to do is Lie There. And then the robin told me I am a Confounded Nuisance, but he didn’t tell me what Confounded Nuisances are supposed to do. Do you know?”
“Well,” said the snail, “I happen to know for a fact that you are not a pebble, for I have met many a pebble in my time, and not one of them but was singularly lacking in conversation skills. Besides, you are not hard. Pebbles are hard.
“Nor,” the snail continued, “are you a Confounded Nuisance. In fact, I am a rather enjoying our conversation. Let me examine you for a moment and see if anything jogs my memory.”
Feeling a bit self-conscious, the grain continued to Lie There quietly while the two fascinating eyes examined him, top, Sides, bottom and all, this end, that end … and then withdrew into the large something-or-other.
“I’m thinking,” came a muffled voice from within. “Be back with you in a moment.”
“I have it,” said the muffled voice. The head reappeared, then the eyes. “One remembers things from one’s previous journeys. One overhears conversations. And one mulls these things over, until one arrives at Wisdom. You, my small friend, are a Seed.”
“A seed. Thank you for telling me. May I ask another question?”
“What does a Seed do? I’m tired of Lying There.”
“A Seed,” the snail replied, “becomes.”
“'Becomes?' Excuse me, I’m not following you at all.”
“That hardly surprises me,” said the snail. “Let me put it this way. You are not going to just Lie There for very long. A change, a very big change, in fact a monumental change, is going to occur, and you will become something else quite different, far more wonderful, the very thing you were meant to be.”
Images filed the grain’s small mind, chief among them the image of a very big and beautiful grain.
“No,” said the snail, who apparently could read minds.
“No. It is quite natural, of course, that you should at first imagine that what you will become is a bigger and better Seed. Perhaps a perfect Seed, but still a Seed. But I tell you that you will become something far, far better. You are a small, yellow-colored thing now. What you shall be is a tall, beautiful Green Thing with beautiful green leaves, and in that form you will be the source of Life for many who are like you today, and are bound, as are you, to the same higher destiny.”
“But I like the way I am today.”
“You may remain that way as long as you choose, so long as you do not allow yourself to be exposed to Light and Water. Seeds like you have remained in dark, dry places for thousands of years. But if you expose yourself to Light and Water, the change will happen. And if you are to be a source of Life, it must.”
The grain thought about it. It was all very frightening. And so unfair! Here was a beautiful promise – with a price attached: to be that, you must no longer be this.
The grain looked up, and saw clouds forming, with shades of grey ever growing, and he felt the cool breeze, and somehow knew that the time for a decision was at hand. He knew that the snail had offered, without saying so, to take him to a dark, dry place where Light and Water would not reach him. He could choose that – or he could wait until the greying sky opened and the rain began to fall, and yield himself to the destiny the snail had described.
“What would you have me do for you, small yellow Seed?” Asked the snail.
“If you don’t mind, sir,” he answered, after a moment more of thinking, “I think I’d like to see what it’s like to be a tall Green thing with beautiful leaves.”
“Good for you,” said the snail, with a happy wave of his amazing eyes. “I praise you, small Seed. You have chosen the Way of the maker. You will gleam before Him in beauty.”
And as the snail moved slowly and silently away, the rain began to fall.
"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley

User avatar
Posts: 210
Joined: December 29th, 2004, 9:28 pm

Postby anna » August 1st, 2007, 1:00 pm

Lovely, lovely story! And nice symbolism throughout. The little seed is loveable, and so vulnerable! Thank God for the rain, no? :frog: Thanks for sharing it with us.

Posts: 137
Joined: July 20th, 2007, 11:46 pm

Postby jenjulian » August 1st, 2007, 8:56 pm

This is a fabulous story, and thank you for sharing it. I can connect with every step. This is where I'm at:

The grain thought about it. It was all very frightening. And so unfair! Here was a beautiful promise – with a price attached: to be that, you must no longer be this.

I'm not sure either that the rain will come and the light will shine on me. Such a lack in faith.

User avatar
Posts: 183
Joined: January 6th, 2005, 4:02 pm
Location: Naples, FL

Postby W4TVQ » August 1st, 2007, 11:01 pm

I can relate to what you say: "I'm not sure either that the rain will come and the light will shine on me. Such a lack in faith."

Gradually it is dawning on me that the rain is there and the light is constant, and I simply am not awake enough to be wholly aware of it yet. It's not lack of faith, just a stage in the process of awakening. I am finding it a painful but exhilarating process. Zoofence really helps at this point in my progress ... When I pay attention, that is ...

"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley

User avatar
Posts: 151
Joined: March 28th, 2005, 3:28 am

Postby Speculum » August 3rd, 2007, 6:13 pm

Wonderful story! I like every part of it. I particularly like the lesson that the Process is not about becoming a bigger, better, faster, wiser, or even more evolved seed. Rather, you write, “to be that, you must no longer be this”. In my experience, this essential lesson is often missed or misunderstood, not only by seekers individually but by groups and teachers.

Art, this is a great story, well written, well told. Thank you for posting it!

To the point raised by you and jenjullian about “such a lack of faith”, you’re both right, faith is a challenge. Struggling with faith is probably normal to the species, but I believe that a lot of the difficulty resides in how we are raised from childhood. If, as youngsters, we live among parents, friends, and support groups who stress the values reflected by sayings like “the early bird gets the worm” and “god helps those who help themselves” and “idle hands are the devil’s tools” and “what have you done for me lately” and on and on, then it seems to me likely, even inevitable, that we are going to find it very difficult to accept, much less adopt, the perspective resident in the command, “Consider the lilies, and how they grow” (please see here).

So, for me, the practice is not about struggling directly to increase my faith. For one thing, I don’t think it can be done. Faith is not a product which we can create or manufacture. As I see it, faith is a symptom of our condition, of who and what we think we are. And that we can change. In other words, don’t work on your faith; work on your Self-Image, and faith will evolve naturally. In that sense, faith is like health. There, the practice is to eat right, think right, live right, etc. , and good health follows as a symptom of the practice.

How to change our Self-Image? Here, again, the Gospels Teacher nailed it squarely on the head. (As I have repeatedly said on TZF and elsewhere, I have many Teachers from numerous spritual traditions, and I love every one of them dearly, and my gratitude and devotion to them all is boundless, but few if any have managed to say so much to me in so few words as the Gospels Teacher. Whatever else He was, He surely had a way with words. Rajneesh, who many will remember as a fallen teacher, but who too had a wonderful way with words, wrote a powerful book about the Gospels Teachings. The text was excellent, but the title was perfect: “Words Like Fire”.) Anyway, here the practice for me is “Call no man father”. (For TZF’s essay about that, please click here.) If it was parents and various other authority figures who taught us wrongly (however well-intentioned they may have been), then as adults – as seekers – it is our opportunity and responsibility to reject them as parents and to reject their teachings. We should do so firmly but without rancor; indeed, we should do it with love. And we do not need to say a word to them about this undertaking, and in most instances, we probably should not, for it will only cause pain unnecessarily. In fact, they do not even need to know what we are doing (“do your praying in secret, in the closet”!). But we do need to say it out loud to ourselves, over and over and over again, repeatedly and as often as it takes. This process need not be, should not be, negative. "Our parents" were only doing what they thought was right, and we accepted them as parents only because it seemed they were. Thus, this is not about finding fault or placing blame; it is about recognizing a simple mistake, and correcting it. If we are willing to make the effort to convince ourselves that “our parents” are not “our parents” and never were, and never could have been, we will succeed, because it is the Truth. Here, again, it is as the Man said, the Truth sets us free, because that is what Truth does. It is its Nature to set free, so if we focus on the Truth, in whatever Form or Formlessness we like, it will – it must – set us free.

And as we are freed from the perspective of having had human parents, everything about ourselves will change, all of which will be naturally reflected as increased, self-initiating, self-maintaining faith. After all, what is faith if not awareness that the Truth is True?

All of that said, the real difficulty for me is keeping the mind disciplined, and not letting it revert to old patterns. In the words of Emily Bronte, "Thoughts are tyrants that return again and again to torment us".

At least, that’s the way I see it.

User avatar
Posts: 151
Joined: March 28th, 2005, 3:28 am

Postby Speculum » August 4th, 2007, 7:38 pm

An afterthought: For me, the key with building, and learning to rely on, faith has been to live my life as if the Truth were True, and then observe. At first, one should probably do it slowly, say for a short time, even just a month. It’s like the scientific method, start with the hypothesis that the Truth is True, and then test the hypothesis by living accordingly. If it works, stay with it. If it doesn’t, tinker with it, and try again.

Here’s Nisargadatta on the subject: “Behave as if what I say is true, and judge by what actually happens”.

Posts: 137
Joined: July 20th, 2007, 11:46 pm

Postby jenjulian » August 5th, 2007, 3:58 pm

I like what has been written here about faith. Simone Weil says much the same thing as Speculum quoted:

"Certainties of this kind are experimental. But if we do not believe in them before experiencing them, if at least we do not behave as though we believed in them, we shall never have the experience that leads to such certainties. There is a kind of contradiction here. Above a given level this is the case with all useful knowledge concerning spiritual progress. If we do not regulate our conduct by it before having proved it, if we do not hold on to it for a long time by faith alone, a faith at first stormy and without light, we shall never transform it into certainty. Faith is the indespensable condition."---Reflections on the Right use of School Studies Simone Weil

User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 187
Joined: September 7th, 2002, 3:07 pm

Postby zoofence » August 5th, 2007, 8:54 pm

As I wrote here earlier, I really like this story about the little grain. In fact, I like it so much that, with Art's agreement, I have posted it to TZF's Open Space, where I hope it will remain as long as TZF survives. For those interested, the direct link is http://www.zoofence.com/open0081.html.

Return to “The Sand Box”