By Rabbi Pinchos Jung
Two men looked out through prison bars,
one saw mud and one saw stars.
Why were their views, from the very same spot, so strikingly different? How did it happen
that they saw opposites? Was it just that one of them looked up towards the sky and the other looked down at the ground?
Here is another, more pertinent, question. Why do so many of us spend the majority of our spoken words on grumbles and complaints, murmurings and meanings? Why do some of us walk about with faces as long as the Forth Bridge and as sour as vintage vinegar? Why do we often bear a grudge against the whole world and everything in it, except our beloved selves?
If we expect nothing we are safe. Whatever we receive is proﬁt
Other people are just the reverse. They are forever in good spirits, happy and smiling as if they’d just won ‘the pools'. They think positively. They see good in everything that happens to them. They see good in every person they meet. They are grateful to Hashem for all they have. They are even grateful that they don’t have more. They enjoy every minute of their lives. They never see mud and they always see stars.
These perpetual grumblers consider themselves ﬂawless. They deserve health, wealth and every happiness. However much they get, they are forever in need of more. They are never satisfied. They expect Hashem to do everything just as suits them, down to the last detail. Suddenly frustration hits them. To them it means disaster. They were so busy brooding over what they lacked that there was no time to enjoy what they had. It has been said that this ridiculous attitude has caused more misery than all the wars of history.
Those who start from zero and move slowly upwards are always content.
Let’s begin by being honest. Are we fulﬁlling our duty towards Hashem? How much we ought to expect from Hashem in return? If we expect nothing we are safe. Whatever we receive is proﬁt. We are alive and well; we can see and hear; we can walk and talk; we have clothes to wear and homes to live in. Aren’t we fortunate! Many people don’t even have that; we are not necessarily better than they are. The chances are that they grumble far less than we do.
Those who start from zero and move slowly upwards are always content. Those who start from infinity and refuse to move one peg down, end up with stomach ulcers, high blood pressure and their hopes dashed as ﬂowers by the pounding hailstones. Is all the aggravation necessary? Does it gain them anything? Compared to some suffering people, we live in Utopia. Do we deserve all those stars and so little mud? We ought to cope with our isolated little mud-pies without a murmur. In fact, every cloud has a silver lining. If we gaze enough at the sparkling stars we will discover that the mud is shining too!