Decisions

2 Nov

Let me tell you a story.
One day Mullah Nasruddin went for a walk. It was a nice clear day and he had nothing much else to do. Besides, he needed the exercise.
The day turned from being warm and pleasant to being really hot and Nasruddin decided it was time to go home.
His normal route hoe would have been along a road, but the road was dusty and rocky and it left him exposed to the sun. Just beside the road, there was a forest.The forest was cool and shady and full of birds and butterflies and brightly coloured, perfumed flowers.
Nasruddin decided to leave the hot, dusty road and walk through the forest.
Just as he was enjoying the cool shade, the scent and colours of the flowers and the songs of the birds, Nasruddin fell into a deep hole.
Obviously the  must have been hidden by the undergrowth, but anyway, Nasruddin had to admit to himself that he hadn’t really been paying attention to the ground under his feet, he’d been too busy admiring the birds and the flowers and the butterflies.
The hole was very deep and the sides were very steep. Nasruddin had to scramble and climb to get out and when he finally managed to haul himself out, he was very hot and dusty and his fingers felt all sore and swollen from scrabbling at the sides of the hole.
He dusted himself off, and tried to cheer himself up.
As he finally made his way home, it occurred to Nasruddin that really he had been very lucky. If he could have had such a nasty accident while he was walking in a beautiful forest, then who knew what might have happened to him if he’d stayed on that hot and dusty road.
When I first read this story I was about fourteen and I thought Mullah Nasruddin was being very silly.
It took me about twenty years to realise that Nasruddin was quite right. He had no way of knowing what might have happened to him if he had stayed on the road. All he knows is what happened to him on the route that he chose. Even if he went back to the road another day, he still wouldn’t find out what might have happened if he had stayed on the road on that particular day.
Essentially you can never be sure how clever, or stupid, your decisions were, because you can never know for sure what would have happened if you had chosen to do something else.
Does that help?

I should add that this is a traditional story that I’m retelling.

If you find this story interesting, or you want to read more about Mullah Nasruddin then there are various collections of stories about him that are available from any good book seller (Or you could try your local Public Lending Library. In fact, do please use your local library the old adage, use it or lose it comes to mind)

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