Saturday, December 14, 2019

Inspirational Wisdom from Noah benShea's "Jacob the Baker"

Noah benShea wrote Jacob the Baker 30 years ago. This slim volume of just 113 pages tells the story of a fictional humble baker who, during his spare time at the bakery, jots down his thoughts and observations about life. One of those scraps of paper is accidentally baked into a loaf of bread, after which customers implore Jacob to regularly include his thoughts with the baked goods.

Here is one of Jacob's aphorisms about anger: "When our hand is closed in a fist, we cannot hold anything but our bitterness. When we do this, we starve our stomachs and our souls. Our anger brings a famine on ourselves."

The corrosive effects of anger are discussed in the wisdom literature in many cultures, and this is no doubt because anger is an emotion that many people struggle to control. Understanding that anger is self-destructive is a first step toward controlling anger, but even after that first step is taken there is still a long road to follow to calm anger, or at least redirect those negative energies in a positive fashion.

A customer asked Jacob how he found the strength to carry on when life is difficult. Jacob replied, "Each of us is alone. Each of us is in the great darkness of our ignorance. And, each of us is on a journey. In the process of our journey, we must bend to build a fire for light, and warmth, and food. But when our fingers tear at the ground, hoping to find the coals of another's fire, what we often find are the ashes. And, in these ashes, which will not give us light or warmth, there may be sadness, but there is also testimony. Because these ashes tell us that somebody else has been in the night, somebody else has bent to build a fire, and somebody else has carried on. And that can be enough, sometimes."

The capacity of the human spirit to not just endure challenges but to triumph over seemingly insurmountable obstacles should be a powerful inspiration to everyone.

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