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Shooting Gems Into the River

Sadhu Sundar Singh, the Christian mystic from India, tells a little parable about the importance of living in the present.  It seems there is a hunter who is walking along a riverbank, one day.  Looking down at his feet, he sees some unusual-looking stones, scoops them up and puts them in his pocket.  The stones are of the perfect size and shape for his slingshot, so he uses them, one by one, to shoot at birds.  Eventually, he has shot all the stones into the river, except one.

Some time later, the hunter is in a city.  As he wanders through the market, he reaches into his pocket, takes out the remaining stone and absent-mindedly tosses it up in the air and catches it again.  He’s doing this as he walks by the stall of a certain jeweller.  “Stop!” says the jeweller.  “Let me see that stone.”

The hunter shows it to him, and is amazed when the jeweller offers him several thousand rupees for it.  It is, he tells him, a very precious gem.

“Woe is me!” cries the hunter. “I have been carelessly shooting gems into the river. I could have been a millionaire. But thank God, I have saved at least this one.”

- Sadhu Sundar Singh, excerpted from Wisdom of the Sadhu

Every day of our lives, says the teacher, is like a precious diamond. We may have wasted countless days already, and truly they cannot be recovered – no more than the hunter could go back and reclaim those gems he’d shot into the river.  Yet, we still have the option of trying to live our lives in such a way that we are fully alive in the present and awake to the future.

The past is truly past.  It’s over and done with – there’s nothing to do but let it go.  As for the future, it’s shrouded in mystery.  Yet, we do have a certain measure of control over the future.  That instrument of control is known as the present, and it is wholly ours.