A Useless Life
A farmer got so old that he couldn't work the fields anymore. So he would spend the
day just sitting on the porch. His son, still working the farm, would look up from
time to time and see his father sitting there. "He's of no use any more," the son
thought to himself, "he doesn't do anything!" One day the son got so frustrated by this,
that he built a wood coffin, dragged it over to the porch, and told his father to
get in. Without saying anything, the father climbed inside. After closing the lid,
the son dragged the coffin to the edge of the farm where there was a high cliff. As he approached
the drop, he heard a light tapping on the lid from inside the coffin. He opened
it up. Still lying there peacefully, the father looked up at his son. "I know you
are going to throw me over the cliff, but before you do, may I suggest something?"
"What is it?" replied the son. "Throw me over the cliff, if you like," said the
father, "but save this good wood coffin. Your children might need to use it."
People's reactions to this story:
"What's useless to one person isn't useless to another."
"Everyone is here for a reason, even if it isn't obvious."
"There is nothing useless in life, if God created it. Everything has a purpose. Sometimes
when you think something is useless, there will come a day when you need that very
"Each person has their own unique flaws and imperfections. But it's all part of the
purpose and meaning of his or her life. Nobody can decide for another what the purpose
of that person's life is."
"Maybe the story suggests that when someone loses all meaning and purpose in life,
there's no reason to resist death.... But you better be careful about what you assume
"The farmer wanted the son to realize how cold-hearted he could be."
"The father is saying to the son; from your perspective I'm as good as dead, but son you will realize who I am- when you are me ;) "
"That father was truly patient with his son's misunderstanding."
"This story gave me an uneasy, horrid feeling. I was shocked by the father's last
"The wise man always wins in the end, even in the worst of circumstances."
"It's so easy to forget what knowledge and experience any one person has, especially
older people who have been around for a long time. Our society tends to define a
person's usefulness in terms of their physical capabilities and what they can DO.
We tend to forget that human worth is in the mind and heart."
"If we went about things the way the son did, every time we got frustrated or felt
we were the only ones working hard, sooner or later we'd wind up throwing everyone
off a cliff."
"It's interesting that the story is about human worth, but the father points out the
worth of the coffin. Some people are more concerned about material things than about
an old man dying. Maybe some of us are unable to appreciate human worth, so we focus
on the value of THINGS."
"I like the humor in this story."
"Why did the father get into the coffin in the first place? I'm glad he made that
sarcastic remark at the end. I can't believe a son would do this. What kind of
life philosophy leads you to think you should push your own father over a cliff?"
"Be careful! Your children someday may do to you exactly what you did to your parents.
All bad things that you do will eventually come back to haunt you. It's karma."
"What goes around, comes around."
"As far as I'm concerned the son should be shot. The father worked hard all his life
provide for his children. I'm sure the father does not particularly like being old.
So have some respect!"
"This story reminds me of when my father was in a depression. But we didn't throw
him over a cliff. The family pulled together and helped him recover."
"We're all going to get old and useless someday, but that's life. We have to be strong
enough to help those who need our help, and also confident enough to let ourselves
"We often don't stop to realize what we're doing until it's too late."
"I am surprised at how many of the reactions to this story seem to ignore the obvious reason for the old man's comment-this is a joke! Like it or hate it, the author created this for the primary reason to make you laugh. These are not meant to be real people in this story.... As to the meaning behind the joke-I believe it is just to point out the usefullness of things that are not immediately obvious to being useful. Like spending a day to get to a store where something is on sale, and not realizing that the time you waste getting there might be worth more than the amount you save on the purchase."
|| Prosperity || Transient || Successor ||
John Suler, Ph.D. © 1997 All rights reserved.