The passing of the man in the mask

October 12, 2016

For years the man in the skull mask has terrorized all the kampung folk – no one knows who he is….despite countless police investigations…it has yielded virtually nothing….and really only added petrol to the fire of who is the man in the skull mask.

There are many rumors concerning the mask marauder – many believe he is not of this world. For one he leaves no tracks and some swear within the blink of an eye he can transform into either a deer or eagle to foil an ambush. Many have claimed to have witness this – the man in the skull mask it seems is at one with the multitude of spirits in the jungle….he commands the winds and rivers listen to his counsel – it is as if he is fashioned from the very earth itself. Then there are others who believe he is a tortured soul cursed to roam darkness. As they have seen him in the shadows and have trembled to his terrible cries. Rubber tappers leave Nasi lemak to placate him, they murmur…do not harm us.

For years the man in the mask has kept the peace – he is the law – brigands fear him. Even the Ang Mui offer him three grilled pigs every November as tribute. They tremble. As they know only too well the sting of his lash. The man in the mask gives no quarter. He has the cunning of a mongoose and strength of ten men and an ox to boot when it comes to a fist fight. Many know his bite.

Some say the man in the mask is a highly educated man. An aristocrat from a noble landowning family….but it is hard to fathom his real identity. As no one really knows who he is.

From time to time, kampung folk will offer alms to placate him….though he has not been seen in these parts for so many years.

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Whenever we experience set backs. It is perfectly natural to succumb to resentment and anger. And to try to get even. This is a natural reaction of most people. After all no one likes to be put down, given a dressing down and even reduced into a laughing stock.

But I believe very strongly, even amid these moments of defeat – there is great wisdom to be mined from the carnage. Life changing lessons that will hopefully teach the high and mighty along with all of us little people – the value of humility, the wisdom of letting go and making peace with the the things that we should NEVER try to exert control in the first place – for no matter what is said and done, it will always be a foolish enterprise to believe one can never control everything in this world….especially such a free spirit as the internet.

As the sages say, ‘this too, shall pass.”

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Wisdom can be mined and gleaned anywhere. If only we still our minds and see it for what it is. This story, recorded in the Talmud, speaks, of an impossible ring, a king who desired to control everything and finally understanding of a thing along with acceptance why it is impossible to control everything in this world……

At the height of King Solomon rule. The king believed he was all powerful and beyond compare, and yet, he was not content. As there were certain aspects of statecraft that he could not exert absolute control over….and this distressed him no end.

One day when his depression was most acute, he told his advisors, “I am too often depressed by life. (since he could not control so many things in his life) If things go my way, I do not trust that they will last. If they do not, I fear my woes will never end. I have dreamed that there is a ring that contains the knowledge that will bring me peace of mind. Please go and find this ring. I wish to have it by Succoth, six months from now.”

The king’s advisors each went their own way, asking in each place for this marvelous, powerful ring that would bring their king peace of mind. They went to the finest jewelers and goldsmiths in Jerusalem and described the magic qualities of the ring, but no one had heard of it. They traveled to Damascus, Babylon, and Tyre and spoke to traders and merchants who had traveled the seas, but no one had heard of such a ring. They traveled to Egypt and many other places – but nowhere did they find it and no one knew of such a ring.

Many times the king asked them if they found the ring, and they replied, “Not yet your highness.” Solomon’s hope was fading.

Six months passed. On the eve of Succoth, the advisors still had not found the ring. They had given up. All save one, the youngest. Unable to sleep, he walked through the city streets all night. In the morning he found himself on a street with the poorest houses. He saw an old man setting out his simple jewelry and trinkets for sale. In one last attempt he described the ring to this man.

The old man was quiet for a while, and then he smiled. He went inside his simple dwelling and returned with a plain gold ring. With a sharp tool he engraved something on it and laid it in the advisors’ hand. As the wise man read what was written on the ring, his heart filled with joy. “This is the ring,” he exclaimed. He gave the old man all the money he had and hurried back to the palace.

That evening at the Succoth feast, King Solomon silenced the crowd. He asked, “Advisors, have you found me the ring of my dreams?” All were silent except the youngest advisor. He stepped forward as he spoke, “We have your highness.” The king looked at the ring and read the Hebrew words engraved there, “Gam Zeh Ya’avor” – “This too shall pass.” He handed him the simple gold ring. As he read the inscription, the king’s sorrows turned to joy and his joys to sorrow, and then both gave way to peace. And the king was reminded in that moment that all his riches and glory were impermanent, and all his sorrows would pass away as do the seasons and years, all his blessings and all his curses would pass away.

From that time on, King Solomon wore the ring and was reminded – in blessings and in curses, in good times and in bad, that “This too, shall pass.”

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