The Ultimate Happiness

by Rev. Sam Trumbore September 10, 1995

King Grabbit was a fellow who had just about anything he wanted in the material world. He had a wonderful stable of horses. He had all the fine clothes and jewels he could possibly want. He had the finest entertainment whenever and whereever he wanted it. His every wish and whim was satisfied.

But the poor fellow suffered from boredom. He decided what he needed was to find the ultimate source of pleasure. Then, he thought, he could finally escape his boredom and be eternally happy. The King asked around in his court who might be able to advise him on finding and enjoying the ultimate pleasure. The advice came back to him that he must see the wise woman on the edge of the Kingdom.

So the King set out with his cadre of courtiers and soldiers to pay the wise woman a visit. She was quite surprised by his visit. Once they had shared a pot of tea and gotten to know each other better, the King asked his question, "Where might I find the ultimate pleasure that I might enjoy it, never be bored again and be eternally satisfied." She chuckled to herself and said, "Hmmm, the only thing I know of in the whole realm which might satisfy you O great royal one, is the Blue Bird of Happiness that lives deep in the forest."

The King was delighted. "Wonderful, I will command my soldiers to search the entire forest, capture the bird and put it in a cage for me to enjoy forever." The wise woman frowned and responded, "No, no, no, your soldiers will never find it as it is very crafty and good at hiding. You must go alone into the forest if you are to have any chance of seeing it. Once you do find it, you then must capture it and then release it. Only then will your wish be granted."

The King was full of confidence having never failed at anything before in his entire life. "Sure, no problem!" he said. He thanked the wise woman for her advice, packed some provisions and set off into the forest alone.

The King searched and he searched and he searched but he could not find that bird. He searched all night and all day until he was physically exhausted. He came to a clearing where he collapsed and began to cry, despairing of ever finding the Blue Bird of Happiness, the ultimate pleasure.

Between his sobs he heard a scratching sound. The King looked up from his sobbing and there in the clearing before him was the most beautiful bird he had ever seen in his whole life. The colors were fantastic. The different blues, the indigos the little bit of green combined in the most magnificient way he had ever seen. He was awestruck by the irredescent glow of this bird. The shape of the feathers, the curve of its neck, the clarity of its eyes, delighted him beyond anything he had seen in his whole life.

Once the King regained some of his composure, he thought to himself, "The wise woman said I must find the bird, capture the bird and then release the bird. Now that I have found the bird, I must capture it." So he lunged at the bird to try and catch it but the bird quickly dodged his hands and jumped to a tree branch. The King climbed into the tree trying to catch the bird but each time it jumped out of his grasp to a higher limb. Soon the bird was at the top of the tree and the branches were too weak to support the King's weight. The bird sang the most beautiful song he had ever heard then flew away.

The King was filled with sadness when the bird disappeared in the trees. Then a hopeful thought came to him, "Perhaps if the bird has been here once, it will come again! I will build a ladder so I will be to reach the top of the tree next time and catch it." So he gathered tree limbs together and assembled a ladder which would reach the top of the tallest tree.

The next day, sure enough, the bird returned to visit King Grabbit. The King once again began to chase it and the bird hopped into the nearest tree. This time the King leaned his ladder against the tree and scrambled up quickly after the bird. But once the King got to the top, the bird hopped to another tree. This happened several times until the King realized his plan was doomed to failure. The bird sang another beautiful song and flew off.

The King, unaccustomed to failure, became more determined to catch the bird. He decided to make a net out of vines he found in the forest to throw over the bird when it first arrived. Well, I suspect you have guessed it, that clever bird was able to wriggle out of the net every time. No matter what the King tried, he couldn't catch the bird.

Frustrated but not ready to give up, the King decided if he couldn't catch the bird in the clearing, perhaps if he followed it when it left, he would be able to catch it perhaps as it slept or bathed in a stream. So when the bird left the next day after escaping any attempt to catch it, he followed it deeper into the forest.

Soon the King came upon a second clearing. In this clearing was a fellow chisling away at a marble statue. Around him were broken, unfinished works of art. There were castings, there were sculptures, there were carvings, and there were clay models all images of the blue bird of happiness. The bird landed on a tree limb in front of the artist and he began to shake with frustration. He took his hammer and broke his statue in two.

"What are you doing?" asked the King. The fellow sighed, "I decided to seek the ultimate happiness and was directed to this bird by the wise woman at the edge of the forest. She told me to find the bird, capture the bird and release the bird. I found the bird but I couldn't catch it. Then I thought she must have meant I had to capture the image of the bird. So I have been trying to do just that and have not yet been able to capture its beauty. Just as I think I have done it, that bird reappears and puts my efforts to shame."

The King thought to himself, "I'm no artist. I can't sculpt or draw. If I am to capture this bird, there must be another way." So the King followed the bird further into the forest.

The King came upon a third clearing where he found a small hut with the windows boarded up and the door barricaded. The bird landed on the roof of the hut and pecked it a few times. An anguished cry came out from the hut and the bird jumped to a tree branch and sang a beautiful song which only made the occupant of the hut scream louder.

"What are you doing?" asked the King. A voice from the hut answered, ""I decided to seek the ultimate happiness and was directed to this bird by the wise woman at the edge of the forest. She told me to find the bird, capture the bird and release the bird. I found the bird but I couldn't catch it. So I decided to give up but the image and the song of the bird would not leave my mind and I realized I must have captured the bird in my mind. So ever since then, I have been trying to release the bird. I would try and try to forget about the bird but it just as I thought I had completely forgotten it, I would see it in a tree and my desire for it would return. To clear my mind of it, I found this hut and boarded up the windows and doors so I couldn't see the bird again and attempted once more to clear the bird out of my mind. Now that bird lands on my roof and pecks which stimulates all my old memories of it and then sings its wretched beautiful songs and I am tormented by its loveliness which I cannot release no matter how hard I try."

King Grabbit thought to himself, "I'm no ascetic. I like having beauty all around me. If I am to release this bird, there must be another way." So the King followed the bird further into the forest.

Finally, deep in the heart of the forest, the King came upon a fourth clearing. In this clearing was seated a old man quietly sitting on a log. The bird alighted before him and a big smile came over his face. He reached out his hand with a few morsels of food which the bird came forward and ate. The bird sang its beautiful song and then flew away. Big tears flowed down the cheeks of the old man as he watched the bird disappear into the forest.

"What are you doing?" asked the King?

"Come sit with me, share my food and shelter, and find out for yourself!" he replied.

The King was a little confused by this request. He thought for a moment, looked around and saw the clearing was comfortable, felt the warmth and hospitality of the old man, and decided that yes, he could spend a little time here and try to figure out what this old man knew about capturing and releasing the blue bird of happiness.

So they sat together and each day the bird would come and appear before them. Before the bird would come, the King would be filled with longing for the bird, wanting to see that bird again. When the bird came, the King's desire almost overcame him and it was almost impossible for him to just sit and watch the bird without trying to grab it. Gradually he learned how to offer the bird some seed and allow it to eat from his hand. Then when the bird began to fly away, the King was overcome with grief and despair that the bird was leaving, not knowing if he would ever see it again.

This went on for a few weeks. Until gradually he noticed, as he sat there and became familiar with his surroundings, how beautiful the clearing and the forest really were. He began to notice some of the flora and fauna of the forest and enjoy the silent smiling company of the old man. Some of the intensity of his feelings diminished.

Then one day after the bird left, he noticed after wiping his eyes a change within him from before the bird had come. Now he noticed things a little more clearly. He noticed the way the light danced on the leaves of the trees as they swayed in the wind. He noticed the pleasant sensations of the wind against his cheek. He noticed the sparkle, the sound, the clearness and the sweetness of a bubbling creek nearby. His enjoyment of these simple things exceeded any memory of his encounter with these things before.

His enjoyment of these simple facts of his surroundings seemed to build each time the bird visited until one day, he realized he had forgotten to wait for the bird to come as he was so absorbed in the beauty of a fern and an furry caterpillar crawling on it. When he rushed back to the clearing, he realized at that moment that he had captured the bird and he had released the bird.

The smiling old man sitting in the clearing bowed to him and the King bowed in return. The King returned home feeling a new sense of freedom and peace grateful to the wise woman, the old man and the blue bird of happiness for teaching him about the ultimate pleasures of life.

Copyright (c) 1995, by Rev. Samuel A. Trumbore, All rights reserved.