ONCE UPON A TIME...
215 Story-Mirrors for Self-Reflection
HEDWIG LEWIS SJ
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Remember the prophet who forced a king to look at himself in the mirror? The mirror made the king realize the gravity of his crime and repent. The mirror that the prophet used so effectively was ... a story.
The second Book of Samuel in the Old Testament (ch 12) tells us what happened. Prophet Nathan came to King David and told him, "Once upon a time…"
The moment you hear those words, "Once upon a time…" you open your ears and heart. Whether we are aware of the power of the story or not, all of us humans - simply because we are humans - are enchanted by stories. We read them, listen to them, see them enacted on a stage or a screen, fully absorbed. They transport us to another world.
It is much later that we realize that some of the stories have touched us at our deepest levels. They have helped us see the truth. They have transformed us.
This is what Nathan’s story did for King David.
This is why Jesus told us stories. Many other religious teachers did the same. They knew that stories could do what they wanted to achieve by their teaching - make their listeners see themselves in a way they haven't done so far and inspire them to change.
The first offering of the Dawn Book Club to its members this year, 2010, and the fifth since its inception, is a collection of beautiful stories - stories that act as mirrors in which we can see ourselves.
The person who has collected these fine stories from various sources is Fr Hedwig Lewis, SJ, a veteran writer who has more than 20 books to his credit. His earlier collections of stories have had a tremendous appeal even beyond the shores of India.
All those who know Fr Hedwig would agree that his daily life itself is a beautiful and inspiring story that can motivate us. Those who don't know him will never imagine that a man with such a positive attitude and one who keeps publishing book after book is someone who has a serious, debilitating health problem.
Why would Fr Hedwig collect stories? Because he knows their power. But it depends on you to let these stories reflect you and your life and change you or not.
You can go to a store and see the many mirrors available - without really looking at your image reflected in any of them. Some avoid looking at themselves in the mirror.
hey say a British mathematician, called Thomas Hardy, regularly covered all surfaces that could reflect his image - like glass doors, windows or mirrors - with a piece of cloth. Wherever he went, he couldn't be comfortable and relaxed until he did this. He was not happy to look at his image, because he thought he was very ugly. By choosing not to look at his image in a mirror, he lost the chance of doing something about whatever he thought was wrong with his appearance.
So you can let these marvellous stories simply lie on your table or book shelf. Or you can carry them with you - within you - and let them reflect you and slowly transform you.
No other manuscript has been so easy and such a delight to go through and edit as this one. May these fine stories, carefully collected and told by a veteran writer, delight you and work their magic on you!
M.A. Joe Antony, SJ
Culture and Communication, Loyola College,
Chennai - 600 034
After a dozen years and an added twenty books, I am once again offering a new collection of stories. In 1998, when I worked on my Mirrors trilogy – Mirrors of Life, Mirrors for the Heart, Images In Mirrors – my resources were limited to the stories I had been collecting for well over twenty years. I had no internet connection at the time. The present work is a choice selection from an almost unlimited source: the “world-wide-web”.
Unlike the Mirrors trilogy, Once upon a Time - 215 beautiful, inspirational stories, is the fruit of research. This does not mean that I planned my themes and then scouted for relevant stories. It was the other way round. I had been collecting stories that have been circulating on the internet for the past decade. Then I grouped them according to themes – approximately. No water-tight compartments are possible because practically every story can have a myriad nuances and it can find new interpretations in different contexts, given the creativity and versatility of the speaker or writer.
Once I had got most of the stories categorized, I researched the internet so as to incorporate information about the authors and fill in details that may have been missing. Then I ‘retold’ many of the stories, editing, adapting and abridging them for the book.
This book is like a kaleidoscope that presents the varied patterns of everyday life through stories. Each story offers a kaleidoscopic image, for life is made up of different ingredients rolled into one. When taken together, the stories offer a world-view of recreated realities. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. It is your perception that gives life to what you see. And what you perceive can have an influence over your thinking, attitudes and behaviour.
I believe in the power of stories. And the fact that even some of my other books which contain stories have a popular appeal, has provided me with the assurance to produce a fresh compilation of inspirational and motivational stories.
A word of caution: This book is meant for ‘reflection’ – one ‘mage’ or story at a time, followed by a pause for reflection. It must not to be read at one sitting. The story in a certain section may fall under the same theme, but it may have a different wavelength from the one preceding it or following it. If read in sequence, without a pause for reflection, it may jar.
Most stories may appear down-right straight and simple on first reading. Do not rest content. Give it a second thought and you may discover its depth and challenge. You will discover a twist in the ‘tale’. Let me illustrate this with a story.
A farmer saw a tiger’s tail swishing between two large rocks. In a moment of haste, he grabbed the tail and pulled. All of a sudden he realized he had an angry tiger by the tail and only two rocks stood between him and the tiger’s teeth and claws! So there he remained, afraid to loosen his grip on the enraged animal’s tail lest he surely be killed.
A monk happened by and the farmer called out in desperation, “Come over here and help me kill this tiger!” The holy man said, “Oh, no. I cannot do that. I cannot take the life of another.”
Then he went on to deliver a homily against killing. All the while, the farmer was holding tightly to the tail of an angry tiger. When the monk finally finished his sermon, the farmer pleaded, “If you won’t kill the tiger, then at least come hold its tail while I kill it.”
The monk thought that perhaps it would be all right to simply hold the tiger’s tail, so he grabbed hold and pulled. The farmer, however, turned and walked away down the road. The monk shouted after him, “Come back here and kill the tiger!”
“Oh, no,” the farmer replied. “You have converted me!”
Hedwig Lewis, SJ
Ahmedabad - 380 009
The fifth Dawn Book – the first to be sent this year to the subscribers of the Dawn Book Club – was dispatched early May. The book, called Once upon a Time, has been written by the well-known writer, Fr. Hedwig Lewis, of the Gujarat Province. It is a fine collection of 215 beautiful, inspiring stories, collected from various sources. So if you are looking for stories to use in your talks or homilies or simply to reflect on their message… M.A. Joe Anthony, Madurai [Jesuit] Newsletter, July 2010
Read these fine, inspiring stories and realize their power. See how they reflect you and your life. Tell them to your children at home or your students in your school or your audience at functions, or your congregation in the church…
The New Leader, August 16-31, 2010