Natural Order

A very wealthy man asked a Zen master for a text which would always remind him how happy he was with his family.

The Zen master took some parchment and, in beautiful calligraphy, wrote:

“The father dies. The son dies. The grandson dies.”

“What?” said the furious rich man. “I asked you for something to inspire me, some teaching which might be respectfully contemplated by future generations, and you give me something as depressing and gloomy as these words?”

“You asked me for something which would remind you of the happiness of living together with your family. If your son dies first, everyone will be devastated by the pain. If your grandson dies, it would be an unbearable experience.

“However, if your family disappears in the order which I placed on the paper, this is the natural course of life. Thus, although we all endure moments of pain, the generations will continue, and your legacy will be long-lasting.”

Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian author who has sold more than 100 million books, which include 14 short story collections and the novel “The Alchemist.” He has been a fan of the Internet since the early 1990s. He spends at least three hours a day online, writing e-mails back and forth with his readers and posting photos on Flickr, MySpace and a blog.

Coelho’s online activities also include promoting pirated copies of his own books. Since 2005 he’s been directing his readers to an online site where they can download his books, in languages from German to Japanese, for free. “I always thought that when, at the beginning of your career, you strive to be read, you can’t change your mind later and become greedy about it.”

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