I figured that it was time too add another installment to my Aesop's Fables essay series. Today we shall examine the fable "The Ass and His Masters." (Candidly, I substituted 'donkey' for 'ass' in the post title to avoid an unintentional pornographic meaning.)
My favorite version of this fable comes to us from Aesopfables.com:
The Ass and His Masters
AN ASS, belonging to an herb-seller who gave him too little food and too much work made a petition to Jupiter to be released from his present service and provided with another master. Jupiter, after warning him that he would repent his request, caused him to be sold to a tile-maker. Shortly afterwards, finding that he had heavier loads to carry and harder work in the brick-field, he petitioned for another change of master. Jupiter, telling him that it would be the last time that he could grant his request, ordained that he be sold to a tanner. The Ass found that he had fallen into worse hands, and noting his master's occupation, said, groaning: "It would have been better for me to have been either starved by the one, or to have been overworked by the other of my former masters, than to have been bought by my present owner, who will even after I am dead tan my hide, and make me useful to him."
Other interpretations of "The Ass and His Masters" substitute the Greek god Zeus for the analogous Roman god Jupiter. Nevertheless, the story flows the same either way.
Depending upon the scholar in question, we are provided some fairly distinctive and disparate morals from this particular fable:
- He who finds discontentment in one place is not likely to find happiness in another. [source]
- 'Tis madness and folly to appeal to providence and nature. [source]
- Slaves miss their former masters the most when they have had some experience with their new ones. [source]
Personally, I resonate the most with the first moral of the three. I take comfort in this moral today, specifically, because I'm feeling somewhat down.
What happened was that few hours ago I decided to run some Google searches on some of my old friends from Cornell University whom I have neither seen nor heard from in 10 years. I was struck by how many of these people are now corporate vice presidents, university professors, or medical doctors.
You may or may not recall, depending upon how long you have been reading MTA, that I went to Cornell specifically to maximize my chances of being admitted to medical school. In retrospect, I can see very clearly that, although my extra-curriculars and such were in fine order, my weak aptitude for the 'hard sciences' pretty much torpedoed any likelihood of my getting into med school. Add to the mix that I had no med-school personal connections at that time (unfortunately, nepotism and 'who you know' factor heavily into a candidate's being accepted into an M.D. program), and you have yourself a recipe for disappointment.
At least 98 percent of the time, I am at peace with my forced career diversion. I have since learned that I possess natural gifts for teaching and information technology. Consequently, I have enjoyed a wonderful career in these fields for the past decade.
Nevertheless, as happy as I felt for my old college buddies when I saw what they are doing nowadays, I simultaneously experienced an unpleasant gnawing in my gut that said, "Damn! Is it too late in my life to reapply to medical school? The way things turned out back in 1995 sucked."
The bottom line, for me anyway, is that unless I am happy internally, then it matters not one iota which career field I choose for myself. This is where today's moral, "He who finds discontentment in one place is not likely to find happiness in another," comes into play.
I can make what I feel to be a strong hypothesis that, were I to apply to some medical schools this year and even get admitted, my mind would still broach the age-old questions:
- Did I make the right choice?
- Am I truly happy?
- What is the meaning of 'success' in life?
At the moment I work in a career field that matches both my professional interests as well as my natural aptitudes. Moreover, my work is focused on helping others. What in the world else could I want?
You know: money, property, and prestige. Does my old friend Michael, who now works as a jet-setting plastic surgeon in New England, have these three 'possessions'? Yes, I'm quite certain that he does. Would I want to exchange places with him, were I mystically and magically given the opportunity to do so? Not on your freakin' life.
In summary, there exists much wisdom in the timeless admonition to 'Count my blessings.'