It seems to me that one malady we political junkies suffer from the most is lack of historic perspective. What do I mean? What is the nature of this "illness?" To my way of thinking, it is the tendency, found in so many of us who feel passionate about politics, political action, and political issues, that we've sunk down about as far as we can go, and that the blue sky we so desperately crave, is far beyond our reach. George W. Bush and the current crop of Republican lawmakers infesting Capitol Hill will do that to you! Its a feeling given currency in the writings of John Milton: "We know of no time when we were not as we are now . . ."
This lack of historic perspective can lead to weak wills, flaccid spines and fatigued souls. So what is Doctor Stone's prescription for what ails us? Why a fable, that's what. The following is an age-old Jewish tale from the remarkable collection of stories dealing with King Solomon, the wisest of them all . . .
King Solomon, we are told, had more than a thousand wives. Understandably, he also had an incredible number of children. Lamentably, the wise king's favorite son was a very depressed lad. Being both wise and highly intuitive, Solomon understood his son's problem. The boy, who idolized his father , felt that no matter what he did, no matter how much he learned, he could never be the kind of son who could measure up to the wise king who sired him. Solomon also understood that merely saying to the lad "you don't have to out-perform me; you don't have to out-think me; I love you for who you are" would not be enough. He had to come up with something far more drastic; something that could truly convince his son that he was indeed, very, very special. After a great deal of prayer and contemplation, Solomon hit upon a plan . . .
One day, Solomon called for his depressive son. As the lad entered the throne room, Solomon made a great gesture of dismissing all of his servants, attendants and advisors. When they were alone, Solomon said to the boy: "I have a very special gift for you; a gift which no one else on the face of the earth possesses."
"What is it?" the boy asked, a dubious look on his face.
"It is an object that will place within your hand and your life the most profound bit of wisdom there is. And no one but you will possess it." The boy stared in amazement, not able to believe what he was hearing.
"Hold out your hand," King Solomon commanded his son. The boy did so. The king reached into the pocket of his robe and pulled out a most unique coin -- a coin that was made of ruby on one side, and sapphire on the other. He placed the coin in his son's hand.
"Now, close your hand," he commanded. The boy closed his hand.
"This coin contains the most profound wisdom in the universe," the king began. The boy started at his father, admiration and awe in his eyes. "You know the feeling you get that everything is wrong, everyone is against you and that there is no hope for the future?" the king asked.
"You, I certainly do," the boy responded in a monotone. "With me, it's a way of life, I'm afraid to say." Solomon smiled.
"Well, my son, when you feel that way, I want you to look at the ruby face of the coin. Engraved on it is a lesson that will carry you through. Please, open your hand and read what is there."
The boy opened his hand, stared at the coin's red face and read the Hebrew words gam ze ya-ah-vor, "this too shall pass."
"But father, could this be true?" the boy asked in amazement.
"Oh yes, without question it is true. And what's more, things will begin to get better and better and better, until the time will come that all this pain, misery and depression you feel is even less than a distant memory. You will feel so strong, your life will be so wonderful, that you will feel invincible."
"I cannot wait for that day father," the boy said, a smile beginning to work its way into his eyes.
"And when you reach that blessed plateau, I want you to take out the coin and read what is on the sapphire face. Now, open your hand, turn the coin over, and read what is on the other side." The young prince did as he was told. He opened his hand, studied the words on the sapphire side of the coin, and blinked once, twice, thrice in utter amazement.
"Well, what does it say?" King Solomon asked, in a gentle, soothing voice.
Gam ze ya-ah-vor "this too shall pass!" The boy closed his hand and looked up at his father. "But it says precisely the same thing!
"Yes, my son," Solomon answered. "This is the most profound lesson I can teach you -- a lesson I promise never to teach anyone else. That in life, you must have both balance and perspective. Nothing -- neither the pain of loss and oppression or the joy of victory and success last forever. Rather, they are a mere part of life's natural cycle. The object is to keep that in perspective."
From that day on, so we are told, King Solomon's favorite son was a changed person.
And may that lesson not be lost upon us. The dark days which currently surround and surmount us will one day pass; the baton will once again be passed into the hands of those who truly care about more than assisting the haves of society. We will once again be restored to the offices we so dearly seek. Things will get better and better and better. And then, as it inevitably must, the baton will be passed back . . .
It's all a matter of historic perspective.
And, if King Solomon is right, the baton should be coming our way soon -- perhaps in 2006, definitely in 2008 . . .