✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters

Experience Always Counts

It is said that the great Roman leader Julius Caesar recorded the earliest known version of this proverb, ‘Experience is the teacher of all things,’…

It is said that the great Roman leader Julius Caesar recorded the earliest known version of this proverb, ‘Experience is the teacher of all things,’ in ‘De Bello Civili’ (c. 52 BC). Over a century later, the Roman author Pliny the Elder in ‘Naturalis Historia’ (AD 77) wrote, ‘Experience is the most efficient teacher of all things,’ and the Roman historian Tacitus said simply, ‘Experience teaches,’ in his ‘Histories’ (c. AD 209). But sadly, throughout history, semi-cooked and half-baked disciples have always challenged their Masters, to the utter peril and damnation of these upstarts. We shall illustrate Experience with a few stories; perchance those pretenders would take heed.

The First is a Zen story: Over many decades, the Master had taught his disciples the technique he called The Ninety Nine Principles. Every student who had studied under the Master had imbibed those 99 Principles and had gratefully graduated, going on to set up his own school. No one had ever asked whether there was any more Principle to make it 100. Then one day, a rather pompous student enrolled. After studying under the Master for several years, and learning all the 99 Principles, the young student queried the Master whether there was anything more to learn; whether, indeed, there was one more principle to make the total 100.

The Master told the student that 99 was all there was. There and then, the indisciplined disciple challenged the Master. Abomination! But the Master calmly accepted the challenge. All the other students stood watch. The duel lasted several hours, and all the 99 Principles were deployed by both. Just when all seemed lost for the Master, he struck a quick blow to the arrogant student’s back with his fingertips. The student fell to the floor, unable to rise; his arms would not respond and his legs refused to move. He was removed from the duel ground. It later emerged that the Master had used the Dim Mak (Death Touch) to disable his younger rival. It was, indeed, the 100th Principle, reserved for such a day.

The Second is a variation of the First, also Zen: After winning several archery contests, the young and rather boastful champion challenged a Zen Master who was renowned for his skill as an archer. The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull’s-eye on his first try, and then split that arrow with his second shot. “There,” he said to the old man, “See if you can match that!”

Undisturbed, the Master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the young archer to follow him up the mountain. Curious about the old fellow’s intentions, the champion followed him high into the mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy and shaky log. Calmly stepping out onto the middle of the unsteady and certainly perilous bridge, the old Master picked a far-away tree as a target and fired a clean, direct hit. “Now it is your turn,” he said as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground.

Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to step out onto the log, no less shoot at a target from that dangerous position. “You have much skill with your bow,” the Master said, sensing his challenger’s predicament, “but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot.”

The Third is about an old dog: One day an old German Shepherd starts chasing rabbits and, before long, discovers he’s lost. Wandering about, he notices a leopard heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch. The old dog thinks, ‘Oh, oh! I’m in deep trouble now!’ Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the leopard is about to leap, the dog exclaims loudly, ‘Boy, that was one delicious leopard! I wonder if there are any more around here?’

Hearing this, the young leopard halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror coming over him as he slinks away into the trees. ‘Whew!’ says the leopard, ‘That was close! That old German Shepherd nearly had me!’

Meanwhile, a monkey who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the leopard. So off he goes, but the dog sees him heading after the leopard with great speed, and figures that something must be up. The monkey soon catches up with the leopard, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the leopard. The young leopard is furious at being made a fool of and says, ‘Here, monkey, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving canine!

Now, the old German Shepherd sees the leopard coming with the monkey on his back and thinks, ‘What am I going to do now?’ But instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn’t seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old German Shepherd says: ‘Where’s that damn monkey? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another leopard!’

Moral of these stories? Don’t mess with experience…age and skill will always overcome youth and treachery!