Once upon a time, there was an acorn which sat on the side of a hill. The acorn looked down over the grassy meadow below and gazed in wonder at the trees in the distance. He delighted in seeing how many leaves they had to wave in the breeze, and at the fruit which grew from their branches.
The acorn often thought about how he would also like to have leaves and fruit like the trees in the distance, and eventually he became so enthusiastic about the idea that he set about trying to obtain those things.
At first, the acorn tried to sprout leaves and fruit through his own efforts. Day after day, he concentrated, strained and invested all of his energy into making the desired leaves and fruits, but no matter how hard he worked at the task, he couldn’t succeed.
Next, he prayed to the sky above. ‘Please, Sky, give me leaves and fruit like those wonderful trees in the distance. It would be so much fun to wave leaves in the breeze, and to be adorned with such attractive fruit.’
Unfortunately, either the sky didn’t hear his prayer, or it didn’t care, because he received neither the leaves nor the fruit.
‘Perhaps I’m not spiritual enough for the Sky to hear me,’ the acorn thought, and so he committed himself to a regime of study and spiritual development.
He learned about something called the Law of Attraction, and about the techniques of visualisation and affirmation, which it was said would make all his dreams come true. Enthused by the idea, he started using those techniques to try and attract leaves and fruit from the universe. He visualised having so many leaves they couldn’t be counted, and having fruit so plentiful that the trees below were envious.
Sadly, his efforts were no more effective than his earlier prayers to the sky had been, and the acorn began to feel dejected. ‘It’s useless,’ he thought. ‘The Law of Attraction doesn’t seem to like me any more than the sky does. I might as well give up completely.’
A few days later, a crow was exploring the meadow and looking for snacks, when he came across the acorn. The crow noticed that the small, shiny acorn was looking sad and forlorn.
‘Hello, friend, what’s the problem?’ the crow asked.
The acorn looked at the crow and frowned. ‘All day long I look at the handsome trees below, with the fruit on their branches, and at the way they have so many leaves to wave in the wind. I also want to wave such leaves, and to be adorned with such fruit, but I have tried everything I know, and I have nothing.’
The acorn explained how he had first tried to obtain leaves and fruits through his own efforts, and failed. Then he explained how he had prayed diligently to the sky, and how his prayers had gone unanswered. Finally, he explained how he had learned about the Law of Attraction, and had tried visualising and affirming having an abundance of leaves and fruits, but had only failed yet again.
On hearing all of this, the crow laughed. And laughed. And then he laughed some more.
‘Well I’m glad that you think it’s funny,’ the dejected acorn said. ‘But it isn’t very kind to laugh about my misfortune right in front of me.’
The crow smiled and shook his head. ‘No, friend, I’m not laughing at your misfortune. I’m laughing because you have not experienced any real misfortune at all.’
‘Weren’t you listening?’ the acorn asked. ‘I have failed in my efforts, I have failed in my prayers and I have failed with the Law of Attraction. If that’s not real misfortune, then what is?’
‘Real misfortune is setting down the wrong path, and then getting frustrated when nothing seems to work out, but continuing along that path regardless,’ the crow replied.
The acorn thought about the crow’s response, but it didn’t make any sense to him. ‘I’m sorry,’ the acorn said. ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’
The crow nodded down to the meadow below. ‘Those trees that you see in the distance are apple trees,’ he said. ‘They grow from apple seeds. It takes a long time for them to reach such a size, and to have so many leaves, and even longer to bear so much fruit on their branches. They didn’t get those things through effort, or by prayer, or by using the Law of Attraction. They simply waited and allowed nature to take its course. By doing that, their potential, which was contained in their original seed all along, unfolded of its own accord. Their leaves and fruits, which look so attractive, are simply a by-product of the trees reaching their full potential, nothing more.’
‘So I must simply wait,’ the acorn said.
‘No,’ the crow replied. ‘You can wait and wait for months, years or even decades, but you will never get to bear the leaves and fruit of an apple tree.’
‘Why not?’ the acorn asked. ‘Am I not good enough?’
The crow laughed. ‘It is nothing to do with being deserving,’ he said. ‘It is only because every living thing on this Earth has its own purpose and potential. The purpose and potential of an apple seed is to unfold and become an apple tree. But you are not an apple seed.’
‘I’m not?’ The acorn sounded surprised, and very disappointed. ‘Then what am I?’ he asked.
‘You are an acorn,’ the crow said.
The crow lowered his beak to the acorn and nudged him so that he would be able to take a look in the opposite direction. The acorn looked up and saw, at the very top of the hillside, a tree which was many times bigger than any of the apple trees below, with many more leaves to wave in the wind, and quite different – but still very beautiful – fruit on its branches.
‘That is the most handsome tree I have ever seen,’ the acorn said. ‘In some ways, it is even more handsome than the apple trees below. What is it?’
‘That is an oak tree,’ the crow said. ‘It is a magnificent tree, and even the apple trees below admire its stature.’
‘I can see why,’ the acorn said. ‘Now I think I would much rather be an oak seed than an apple seed. But, as you said, I’m just an acorn.’
The crow laughed. ‘As with most trees, the fruit of the oak tree is also its seed,’ he said. ‘But in this case they are not called oak seeds.’
‘They’re not? Then what are they called?’
‘Well, that’s quite a coincidence,’ the crow said, ‘because they are also called acorns. You think about that and I’ll visit you again the next time I’m hunting for snacks.’ And with that, he winked at the acorn knowingly and flew away.
It took a minute or two for the acorn to fully understand what the crow had said, but when he finally did, his spirits soared, and he thanked the sky for being kind enough to ignore his earlier prayers.