Monday, January 27, 2003

How Traditions Start

Here's a story I heard once, that probably speaks for itself:

There was a monastery where the abbot and the monks would take in stray animals. They loved the animals, but they had problems with one particular cat. Every day, during the hour of prayer, the cat would come into the chapel and begin meowing loudly, making it difficult for the monks to concentrate on their prayer and meditation. The abbot found an easy solution. He ruled that every day, before prayers, someone would be assigned to take the cat and tie it to the front gate so it couldn't wander into the chapel during prayer time. After prayers, it was, of course, released.
So it was that day after day, before prayers, the cat would be tied up, and prayers went on peacefully, without interruption. Years went by, new monks came, old ones either moved on or died, and finally the old abbot died. He was replaced by one of the newer monks, who was a good leader and knowledgeable in religious matters. Still, the practice continued of tying the cat to the front gate before prayers.
One day, the cat died.
What did the new abbot do? He went out and found another cat to tie to the gate during prayers!