The wise man of the village working in his garden when he was approached by a young man in his late teens.

“What is the secret to a happy life?” he asked.

“Come with me,” said the wise man and they walked together to the edge of a nearby forest to a path that went through the trees for a few miles before returning to the same spot.

“Take a stroll along this path, but look out for the bears that live here,” said the sage.

The young man nodded and walked with trepidation along the path.

A couple of hours later and the young man returned.

“Did you have a nice walk?” asked the wise man.

“It was OK.” he answered.

“Did you see the magnificent oaks, the flowers in bloom, the squirrels playing and the beautiful robins?”

“I didn’t notice them,” the young man responded, “I was too busy looking out for the bears.”

“Go back down the path and don’t forget to take notice of the beauty there.”

The young man turned and re-entered the forest.

This time, he returned within 30 minutes, breathing heavily and bleeding from a gash on his arm.

“What happened to you?” asked the wise man with a glint in his eye. “Did you see the marvellous sights of the forest?”

“Yes, I did, but as I was gazing at a couple of squirrels, a large bear snuck up on me and attacked me.  I was lucky to get away with just this scratch on my arm.  You must be crazy, I asked you about happiness and you send me into the forest to be attacked by wild animals, why can’t you just give me a straight answer?”

“I guess you’ve earned your answer.  The secret to living a happy life is to walk through the forest, and notice the beautiful things without being eaten by the bear.”

“I think I understand,” said the young man.

As they walked back to the village, the young man asked his mentor, “Why couldn’t you just tell me the secret instead of risking me being eaten by a bear.”

The wise man smiled and rolled up his sleeves, showing a series of long scars down his arm.

“Sometimes, we need the scars to remind us of the lesson,”  he said.

I wrote this story as a reminder that we can either:

  • Live in fear and not notice the beautiful things that God has placed in the world,
  • Focus only on the pleasurable things in life and be oblivious to the dangers that are out there,
  • Find a happy balance between finding joy and remembering the consequences for actions.

I suspect that finding happiness is much more complicated than this, but I hope it’s a good start.

May your path be full of beautiful flowers and may your legs be quick enough for you to escape the bears.

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