Not so long ago a middle aged man was in a car travelling along a freeway with his mother. She was driving. They were going to visit relatives.
Son had a habit of always complaining, a kind of endless whine, like a constant metallic engine noise, and perhaps nobody experienced this more than his mother. It was stream of consciousness, related to how unfair life is, people in general who were giving him a hard time, various minor illnesses, and the inconvenience of other life events imposed by God. Mum’s driving was a constant topic of complaint. Mum did not complain about this nor about anything much, very stoic, eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, but after some hours it left her feeling tired, exhausted.
They pulled in for fuel at a big service station in the middle of nowhere. Mum filled up the car and son went to the bathroom. Mum paid for fuel, waited for a few moments for son to return, and, not thinking too much about it, then drove off without him. She knew she could claim later it was a result of the early onset dementia that he claimed she had. She smiled happily, mind at ease, and drove away with her phone switched off.
Son emerged to see her driving away. For the first time ever, despite waving, despite phoning, he couldn’t get her attention. Of course he had nobody to complain about this too so he rang several friends who wouldn’t answer, and a brother who never did.
He looked up at the sky and cursed God which is never a good idea. A wirey man in a demin jacket thin legged jeans and pointy black shoes, saw all this, and being an astute observer of human nature decided to see what mischief he could make.
He asked the son what was wrong and of course he had a genuine complaint now so was full of criticism of his mother and how cruelly she had treated him since he was a child, and how she had dementia and he may never find her again.
“I go as far as the next village and can give you a lift if you like.” The wirey man said. The son agreed to the lift and away they went. While the son complained all the way, he didn’t notice that the wirey man stole his phone which had all his cards while it rested beside him on his seat. The wirey man grew tired of listening without respite, and, as it grew dark, pulled over by an old motel, and let out the complaining man with a little nudge. The owner here is an old friend, tell him hi from Wirey.
The complaining man had barely paused in his list of the cruelties imposed on him by the world, including his mother, and barely noticed that he was no longer in the car. He reached for his phone and it wasn’t there.
The wirey man drove away, smiling, knowing that someone so totally occupied with their own misery and intent on complaining about it, can’t listen or truly observe the character of another, even a thief who is stealing everything they have.
The complaining man crossed over to the beat up old motel with weeds growing through the concrete and a flickering neon sign half lit. as the sun went down, realising that he had no other option but to complain some more and ask for help.
A chubby man in the office, the receptionist as well as the cook, was very happy to see him as though he hadn’t seen anyone in years. As much as the complaining man was a complainer this man was in direct proportion enthused about life, proud of his motel, and the endless beauty of the sunset shining in though the neon glow of the sign outside his office.
Would you like a room?
I don’t have any money and I have no way of getting home.
No problem. Not only that, you can have the special.
“What do you mean, the special? The type of special where you buy a special meal for $5 and you get a plate the size of a postage stamp?”
“Our best room. It comes with no monetary charge, in fact there are 5 gifts and 1 responsibility.”
“What is the responsibility? This sounds like something I am likely to complain about.”
We can discuss that in the morning. Make yourself at home, the bed is freshly made, warm and soft. And all the answers will be provided for you along with a hot breakfast in the morning. I am happy to say though that you won’t be disappointed in the gifts or the responsibility.
At this stage the complaining man only heard soft bed and hot breakfast as he was so tired from complaining all day.
The Chubby man let him into the special room, closed the door and left him alone. After lying on the soft immaculately clean bed looking at the ceiling, and cursing his mother, which is never a good thing, he fell into a deep sleep.
In his dream he woke up to a knocking on the door of his room. In his dream it was morning and the chubby man had brought a large breakfast with egg, bacon and sausage, his favourite, though he had to say:
“The egg is underdone, the bacon is more limp that crispy, the coffee is cold and the sausage is burnt on one end and raw on the other.”
“Never mind” the chubby man in the dream said, I will now bring you your gifts and after that it won’t concern you anymore.
The first gift was wheeled in on a trolley on a silver plate under a silver cover. It was an embossed card. The plate was handed ceremoniously to the Complaining man, who cautiously opened the card and received the first gift
Your first gift is the gift of PATIENCE, to be precise, to always wait 30 seconds before being able to speak.
The Complaining man went to speak of his outrage but could not for thirty seconds. As he struggled to open his mouth, the Chubby man went out and brought in the second gift, which was a parrot in a cage which sang one word, LISTEN, paused for 15 seconds, then sang out “Listen” again. The chubby man smiled, admiring the parrot – isn’t he beautiful – his name is Listen. Please take good care of him.
The Complaining man whose thoughts were coming so close together found himself caught in an endless frustrated silence. He had little choice, he was trapped, he could only sit, wait, and listen.
The complaining man stood up in anger. Only to be greeted by the third gift. which was a face mirror with a silver frame and handle. He held it up in order to observe what was happening with his mouth that he struggled to open. Etched in the glass was the word REFLECT. He was about to throw the mirror at the Chubby man, but for a moment, caught himself reflecting on the potential seven years bad luck and how that would impact on his current situation, and paused, unable to decide what to do.
The chubby man wheeled in his trolley with the forth gift. It was another embossed card, opened, it read. In order to UNDERSTAND, Hear yourself, and as he read, like an audio recorder, all of his anger and complaint for the past 24 hours began to play back in his head in an endless flow that he could not switch off. It was a very uncomfortable experience, there was no pause, no volume control, he heard exactly what he had said to others, he saw the events unfold in his mind, without spaces, just one long whine. Unable to speak out loud, forced to listen, he desperately wanted this to stop, but it would not.
Removal of the source of the complaint
A doctor with a greyish white coat and a mechanic in greasy overalls, moving quickly, wheeled in a mechanic’s chest of tools. Without speaking the mechanic grabbed the complaining man by the arms and pinned him down while the Doctor picked up a pair of long tweezers from an array of tools and inserted them up the complaining man’s nose. Much to the complaining man’s surprise the doctor pulled out a plastic object like a smoke detector, as you may find in a motel, with a flashing red light, and making a terrible whine.. The doctor put it in a hazardous waste bin and hastily exited with the mechanic and all the tools.
The complaining man waited thirty seconds, which he found remarkably easy to do and asked the Chubby man what was that all about.
That was the fifth gift, the removal of the source of your complaint.
The Complaining man had become a peaceful man. The peaceful man realised that he longed for nothing, he felt content, he felt he would be happy anywhere. The whine had been there so long he had forgotten when it came and had no longer noticed it was there.
PEACE – he now realised that when he had complained that this had been all he ever really wanted. To be without discontent, to be free of this primal whine, free of craving, of finding everything not good enough. He had only ever wanted this peace.
And then he woke up.
The Chubby man knocking on the door and bringing him a breakfast which he ate and found very satisfying.
After waiting thirty seconds the peaceful man said, I believe I have received the gifts in my sleep, or so it seems.
Yes I am happy that in your dream you received the gifts, for everyone the gifts received are just what they need, he smiled, for me, my five gifts led me to be cheerful.
Now, I would like to ask, what is the responsibility you mentioned.
The responsibility is to share this peace and contentment with others.
The cheerful chubby man and the quiet man who was at peace engaged in many conversations.
After some negotiation, and reconnection with his mother, The Peaceful man took over the role of motel manager and the Chubby one hitched a lift towards the sunset.