Thursday, 13 October 2016

Besting the Ghost

Besting the Ghost

By BoSt

To fall in love with someone special and then plan to share a life time with them through a bond of marriage is ideal. Often however considerations other than love come into play in marriages. In fact, it is still the custom for families in many countries to have an arranged marriage in order to augment political or economic status. But I digress. Let us just say, in the olden days this arranged marriage business was often the norm. 

There was once a young couple who, after pomp and ceremony, settled in to live comfortably in a fine house with lots of land at the edge of town. As beloved children their families had seen to it that the couple would be compatible before they were married. Unfortunately many hidden vices surfaced after the marriage to disrupt their harmony. In time they were no more than two strangers barely speaking to each other but still living under one roof for the sake of appearances.

They thought they would be miserable forever, if only there were children to bridge this growing gap. But fate had other designs and before long, the couple’s strained but seemingly mundane life was seriously rocked with the onset of a grave illness that beset the young wife. Finally, after failed attempts to cure her, on the verge of expiring, the wife whispered to her husband in his feigned distress: “Dear husband, despite all your bad characteristics I still love you very much... Alas our time together was so cruelly interrupted.” She gasped a painful breath before resuming, “But marriage should be forever, here and in the hereafter...Promise me, after I leave you do not hasten from me to another woman. If you do, I shall find no rest and shall certainly return as a ghost and cause you endless trouble.” 

Soon after this implied threat, the wife passed away. The husband at first respected her last wish and stayed celibate for some time, three months and two days to be exact. But then the loneliness drove him to seek the company of another. Chancing on an exquisite beauty at a small gathering, he became smitten at once. At first he observed her from afar in other social gatherings, and then he pushed for an introduction and gained a chance to converse with her. She was every bit as intelligent and artistic as she was beautiful. He could not help but fall deeply in love with her. This time through his own will they became engaged to be married. Immediately after the engagement party however a ghost appeared in his quarters that very night and continued on every night after that, with accusing words and gestures, blaming him for his breach of promise. The ghost was determined and angry as she related exactly what transpired between him and his new fiancĂ©. Whenever he gave his new beloved a present or a token of their love, the ghost would describe in detail the particulars. She related, word for word all their private conversations. This so perturbed him that he suffered from a persistent case of insomnia. One of his close confidants advised him to take this problem to the local priest who lived in a seminary close to his home. He resisted this notion at first but as the problems persisted, he at long last went to the Priest seeking his help. 

“Your former wife became a ghost and knows everything you do,” thoughtfully commented the Priest. “Whatever you do or say, whatever you give your fiancĂ©, she knows of, you say? Hmm. She must be a very wise ghost. Really you should admire such a resourceful apparition. Here’s an idea; the next time she manifests, try bargaining with her. Tell her that, since she is so knowledgeable, you can obviously hide nothing from her and that if she can answer you one question, you will promise to break off the engagement immediately and content yourself thereafter to remaining single. “

“What is the question I must ask?” inquired the man.

“The Priest smiling replied: “Take a large handful of rice and ask her exactly how many grains of rice you hold in your hand. I she cannot tell you, you will know that she is only a figment of your imagination and upon this realization your trouble with the ghost should be no more.”

On the subsequent night, when the ghost again manifested, the man at first flattered her and told her that he was overawed that she knew everything.

“Indeed,” replied the ghost,” and furthermore, I also know that you went to see that Priest today.”

“I relent; but since you know so much,” demanded the man, “pray tell me how many grains of rice am I holding in my hand?”

There was no answer. The apparition simply vanished and from then on he saw no more ghost.

The End

Friday, 7 October 2016

Canadian Happy Thanksgiving 2016

Canadian Happy Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving Day in Canada, celebrated on the second Monday of October, falls this year on October 10. 

Historically this holiday had its roots in religious cultural traditions as prayers of thanks and their corresponding ceremonies are the norm among many religions after the harvest. 

Today, however, it is primarily celebrated as a secular holiday. It is considered a statutory holiday in all provinces except for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Despite their businesses being open, many Maritimers join in the celebrations regardless.

The origin of the first Thanksgiving in Canada can be traced all the way back to the explorer Martin Frobisher, who strove to find the Northwest Passage. 

-Sir Martin Frobisher (British School, Dulwich Picture Gallery)


His Thanksgiving celebration, the giving of thanks, was not for a harvest but for his and his crew’s fortitude and their survival of the grueling long journey from England that led through the perils of storms and icebergs.

In 1578, on his third and final voyage to these regions in Frobisher Bay in Baffin Island (present-day Nunavut), during the formal ceremony and the first-ever service ministered by the preacher Robert Wolfall in which they celebrated Communion, Frobisher gave thanks to God. Hence the Thanksgiving tradition was born and it continued on with subsequent settlers that arrived in the Canadian colonies.

Painting by George Agnew Reid, (1908), arrival of Samuel de Champlain at Quebec City

Chaleur Bay and Gulf of Saint Lawrence — extract of Champlain 1612 Map

Canadian Thanksgiving can also be traced back to the French settlers who came to New France with the explorer Samuel de Champlain in the early 17th century. The French settlers celebrated their successful bounty at the end of the harvest season. The feast and the sharing of food also included the indigenous people of the area. Champlain had also proposed the creation of the Order of Good Cheer in 1606.

19th century artist's conception of Champlain by E. Ronjat 

19th century artist's conception of Champlain by E. Ronjat

With the arrival of many more immigrants in Canada, the celebrations of a good harvest became a common event. Scottish, Irish and Germans settlers have also enriched this tradition of giving thanks for the good harvest. 

The US tradition of Thanksgiving (such as the turkey or what were called Guinea fowls originating from Madagascar), was also incorporated when United Empire Loyalist fled from the United States during the American Revolution and settled in Canada.

This old Canadian tradition of giving thanks during family gatherings, regardless of religions and creeds, will undoubtedly grow and flourish, for many years to come.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

And Finally, I would like to include this nice Zen story about what it means to be thankful:

The Giver Should Be Thankful

The master of Engaku in Kamakura, Seisetsu was so well known for his teachings that many flocked to his tutelage. Consequently, the School’s accommodations became seriously overcrowded.

Umezu Sibei, a highly successful merchant of Edo, happened to be visiting the region and so paid a courtesy visit to the esteemed teacher. Noting the meagre lodgings of the school and feeling rather magnanimous he, on his return to his residence, made arrangements to donate five hundred pieces of gold (ryo) towards the construction of a more spacious school. 

A few days later, his chest swelling with pride, Umezu revisited the school and personally handed the sack of gold over to the teacher Seiseutsu. But when Seisetsu simply received the amount with his matter-of-fact attitude and only the assertion: “All right. I will take it.”, Umezu became highly dissatisfied.

One can live a whole year on just three ryo, Umezu grumbled under his breath, yet I’ve not received even a simple thank you for my magnanimous gift of five hundred ryo?

Refusing to take his leave, Umezu shifted uncomfortably and, after clearing his throat with a slight cough, added poignantly: “You know of course that in that sack are five hundred ryo?”

“Yes I know; you mentioned it previously.” Seisetsu replied impassively, turning to leave.

“Though I’m a wealthy merchant, five hundred ryo is still considered a hefty sum,” Umezu grumbled rather loudly.

“Do you wish a thank you for it?” Half turning, Seisetsu asked.

“Well, don’t you think you ought to?” responded Uzemu.

Seisetsu simply said: “Why? It’s the giver who should be thankful. ”