A MAN set out to build a sand castle. He had grand designs of it in his head and he was so excited he got up at the break of dawn to get started on it. Pretty soon, he had a crowd of curious people around watching him work. Someone asked what he was doing, and he stopped working for a moment to explain. Another person asked if he could help, and he said sure, why not?
Later on, some bullies came and jeered at him. He again stopped working, confronted them and had a heated argument with them. He was so mad after that he needed to get a drink and cool down. Then he went back to work and finished one of the castle turrets. Somebody else came along and criticized its design saying it looked ugly. The man looked at the turret and thought it was fine, his assistant thought it was fine too, but the critic was insistent and they spent an hour arguing about it.
Finally, just to appease the critic, the man tore down the turret and began building another one. A couple of small crabs crawled out of the sand near the castle and caused a corner to collapse. The man growled at the crabs and chased them, finally cornering them and crushing them with a rock. He rushed back to the castle to fix the collapsed portion.
Another critic came along and said the design looked too square and they should go for a more rounded look. The man and the critic spent another good hour arguing about it. Finally, the man and his assistant looked at each other, sighed, and began to tear down and rebuild yet again.
And so it was that late in the afternoon, the man and his assistant were left staring at a half-finished castle slowly being washed away by the rising tides.
In another version of the story, the man and his assistant got to work. The bullies came and jeered but the man just ignored them and continued working. The bullies soon got tired and left, but not before one of them kicked a corner of the castle. The man just took it all in stride and began repairing that part.
Then the critics came and the man and his assistant paused briefly to discuss their ideas. Then they decided to incorporate the changes they thought had merit and discarded the ones they could do without. The critics weren’t happy but the man just told them, “Hey, there’s a lot of sand in this beach. Go build your own castle.”
The crabs crawled out and collapsed a corner. The man just watched them go, shrugged his shoulders and fixed that part.
At the end of the day, the man and his assistant shared a toast as they looked at the castle, now complete and basking in the warm rays of sunset. It wasn’t the perfect castle, but it was their castle, and they had built it just the way they wanted it.
So I look at this story as a metaphor of life. I can go through my life arguing with my critics, fighting the bullies and the crabs, and going up and down an emotional roller coaster, and find out at the end that I had wasted too much time trying to please other people, or getting into petty arguments trying to convince them why I’m right and why they’re wrong. Or I could just ignore the bullies, thank the critics, but only apply what aligns with my vision and goal and get on with it. And yes, there will be crabs and the bullies will sometimes do some damage, but if I don’t waste a lot of time on them, there will always be some extra time to fix and readjust and recalibrate.
And yes, what I want for my life may not be what others want for theirs, but my life is my own as their life is theirs so I’ll just tell them, “There’s a lot of sand in the beach out there. Go build your own castle instead of trying to tear down mine.”
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.