A brilliant young research graduate put in for an award, and did not get even an honourable mention. He had reason to suspect jealousy in the judges. When his teacher asked him about it, he blazed out against the corruption at “the top.”
“But you still want to get there?” asked the teacher.
“Well, yes. I’d like my work to be recognized.”
They were sitting on chairs on the verandah, and the teacher fetched a piece of rope from the garden. He put it round one of the pillars, and passed the two ends to the pupil.
“Bring that pillar near to you.”
“But that’s impossible.”
The pupil stood up, braced his feet on the floor, and pulled. No result. The teacher said, “People sometimes think, if I can’t get to the top, perhaps I can bring the top down to me. And they criticize and condemn, to denigrate it. But that is not the right way.
“Sit down, and lift your feet off the ground a bit. Now pull on the rope again.”
At the first tug, the chair began to slide across the smooth floor, and ended up beside the pillar.
The teacher took the rope, put it back, and said no more.
The scientist pondered the incident. Some years later, another piece of his work was highly praised, and now the merit of the first piece was also recognized. A friend remarked, “You know, we all thought you were remarkably calm over that first rejection; it was a real scandal.”
The researcher told him about the rope and pillar, and added confidentially, “Finally I came to realize that while I braced myself on my egoism, and tried to bring the pillar of success to me as I stood, I wouldn’t succeed. When I gave up ‘I’ and ‘here,’ my efforts had their natural result. The teacher did it in that special way: considering the state I was in, I don’t think sermons would have had much effect.”