Stone Soup

Provisions were so scarce in the little village following the war that everyone horded what meager supply he had. When one day a tired, haggard soldier wandered into town, he was advised to move on.

“We have nothing to share with you here.”

“Oh, that’s quite alright,” he answered. “I was just about to make stone soup to share with you.”

And with that, he removed a smooth stone from a velvet bag. He dropped it into a large pot which he filled with water and set over a fire. As the soup began to heat, he carefully tasted the broth and made signs of great satisfaction. The curious villagers gathered round him.

“You know what is even better than stone soup?” he asked. “Stone soup with cabbage. Now that’s a real treat.”

An old man stepped out of the circle and returned in a few moments with a cabbage from his carefully guarded stores.

“Now that we have the cabbage, I do wish there was a bit of salt pork. Salt pork does a great deal to flavor the broth.”

The butcher suddenly remembered that he had a scrap of salt pork in his shop. Soon, to this was added carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs. When all was done, the soldier ladled the warm, fragrant soup into bowls and everyone ate his fill.

I loved this story as a child. It seemed to me a most wonderful trick to play on the unsuspecting villagers. The “magic” stone held no magic at all.

Or did it?

An intriguing convergence of events today made me think of the story.

Mike shared with me the curious account of how W* built a deck. He and a friend, equally unskilled in the carpentry arts, made a show of beginning. Perplexed. Confused. A neighbor, seeing their difficulty, brought his considerable expertise to the project. Before long, several carpenters had gathered to contribute to what turned out to be a splendid construction.

Stone soup.

He shared this while I was reading Steven Pressfield’s new book, Do The Work. I was in the middle of the section titled Start Before You’re Ready. Provocative. Disturbing. Convicting. Inviting? Terrifying. Starting is ALWAYS the hardest part for me. Perhaps not only for me.

“Babies are born in blood and chaos; stars and galaxies come into being amid the release of massive primordial cataclysms.” ~SP

There is a terror in not being able to see where you are going. But I know, from experience that once I can get past the first few words, the path begins to illumine itself. Just like the invisible bridge that conveys Indiana Jones across a chasm in The Last Crusade. Just like the path that opens for the Israelites along the bottom of the Jordan River AFTER the priests plop their toes into the water. Those bloody, chaotic, frantic, terrifying first steps unleash something bigger than you or me.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way…”

~W. H Murray

Stone soup.

Thank you, Steven Pressfield, for again giving me a much needed kick in the pants!

Dear reader, if you have ever had a dream, of any sort, I beg you to read BOTH Steven Pressfield’s the WAR of ART and Do the Work. The latter is available as a free Kindle download through May 20th. Simply click the title.

What dream terrifies you so much that you know you MUST follow it? What are you waiting for?

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

*Though my friend, W, will read this story with great good humor, I elect to preserve his anonymity. πŸ™‚