Keeping everything in perspective

by Richard on November 19, 2007

From my archives…

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.” The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.

The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things–your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions–things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else–the small stuff.

If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups, take your wife out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers.”

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }


Kim 11.19.07 at 3:45 pm

I know this parable - except in the version I know the liquid poured into the jar is tea. And now in the redaction of a Methodist minister it beomes beer!

Now I could threaten that I intend to report you, Richard, to your National Methodist Teetotal Secretary (or whatever he is called). I myself, as you know, have had the trauma of being so reported, in reaction to a piece I once wrote in my church newsletter on responsible imbibation (though one might have thought I had advocated mandatory binge drinking), and I was duly directed to the straight and narrow.

In fact, however (as I know you also know), you are being a Methodist fundamentalist, as John Wesley, while he prohibited spirits, loved his beer so much that he campaigned for real ale and wrote recipes for home brewing. Tea, on the other hand, he regarded as a waste of time and money.

Certain kinds of fundamentalism obviously have their merits (hiccup!). :)


dh 11.19.07 at 4:21 pm

(being humorous here) All of this talk of alcohol. While I’m not going to sit here and say drinking alcohol is wrong, what does one say about “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess but be filled with the spirit.” or all of the other passages regardin being drunk as being sin? (another humorous note) Seeing the hiccup with regard to alcohol seems to imply the being drunk concept. :) On this side of the lake one is considered drunk on the road at .08% or about 2 beers within 15 minutes and within a total of 30 minutes. Should we apply that standard to being drunk from the Bible? I don’e see anywhere in Scripture supporting being enubriated as being okay. Again, I’m not saying drinking alcohol is necessarily a sin just the concept of being drunk and the definitions therein.


Art 11.19.07 at 11:24 pm

Ba! That’s a great one. And I have never been enubriated from only two beers!


Beth 11.20.07 at 12:51 am

I have to say that enubriation always struck me as a bad thing. Which is not to say that I’m tee-total as my Methodist grandparents were, just that I’ve never met anyone who I like when they’re very enubriated, including myself!


ee 11.20.07 at 10:33 am

I’m reminded of the quote: ‘Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.’ (attributed, probably erroneously, to Benjamin Franklin).


Ivan the Crank 11.22.07 at 4:18 am

I’m not sure where I fit in now, as I am not a regular partaker of spirits, but since earlier this year my doctor, the son of a Southern Baptist preacher, has prescribed the same treatment for me as his father to help lower my cholesterol and that is to take niacin, omega 3 and a small glass of red wine each night. My last report shows that the combination is working. Eating better and exercising more wouldn’t hurt, but neither has the small amount of red wine.

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