A Philosophical Moral Fable

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Hey, I’m looking for some opinions on the following fable… I’m not making the connection between the story and the moral; maybe you guys could share your analysis:

A poor man had a statue of a god, to which he prayed every day, imploring the idol to make him a wealthy man. He spent so much time praying for money that he no time left to work for it. But his prayers were to no avail and he grew poorer and poorer until one day, in anger and frustration, he took a mallet and broke the statue in two. Imagine his astonishment when he found the inside of the idol filled with gold coins! “You hypocrite!” he told the broken statue. “When I showed you respect you gave me nothing. The moment I insult you my prayers are answered!”

MORAL: False riches make false friends.

That has some comic relief to it. I want to say something but I don’t even know where to start.

The guy now has gold coins which can be useful to him, so what does it mean to say “false riches”? I don’t know what is meant by “false friends” either. He can view that statue his friend if he wants, that’s his business. Imo, it’s a matter of luck that he found those gold coins. I can’t see the connection either.

quallnet > bbblackwell
My only guess would be that once he gave up his obsession he regained what he had lost.

ⒶMP3083 > quallnet
Excellent answer, but it doesn’t say if he gave up his idol.

I guess if he learned a lesson about the obsession it wouldn’t have mattered. In a weird way I speak from personal experience.

any person that spends that much time praying has no choice but to be poor. probably deserves it, too.

Abdul > bbblackwell
Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.

My quick take on it is that he finally decided to take action — which is what actually brings results. Praying is simply a way of setting up your intentions. You need to back that up by action, else your prayers/intentions are meaningless.

When the praying man finally decided to take action, he had finally manifested his will.

These are good take-aways, but what of the language itself? What are the “false riches”? What are the “false friends”? And how are these things related in a way depicted by the story?

Are they saying the false riches make for a false friend; i.e. they are a false friend themselves? Or are they saying that false riches brings false friendships into you life?

Is the relevant friendship the one between the man and the idol? This is a false friendship for sure, as he was not truly devoted, only seeking to get something.

It feels like the story teaches something more like what you guys have mentioned, while the offered moral would fit a different story better. I am reluctant to adopt this view, however, as this is an ancient tale of Aesop that has stood the test of time. There must be something I’m missing that will make the connection clear…

ⒶMP3083 > bbblackwell
The gold coins could be said to also represent money and we know (from Passio’s videos) that money is just another form of religion / “god”. “Money is your god” ( They Live )

“You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3-6).
“Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.” (Jonah 2:8)
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21)
“All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit.” (Isaiah 44:9-20)
“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14)
“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!” (Psalm 135:15-18)

The statue is his idol of worship but the money is what he wants, but doesn’t realize that the money is also what he’s worshiping (the real god, perhaps?). Based on this, I think the moral of the story is pointing backwards — since the money (riches) is what he wants, it’s actually the thing he worships, not the statue (friend). They’re both false.

Maybe false idols and false gods lead one to lacking self-love and self-destruction? The real hypocrite is the man. Why? Because he claims to show respect when he himself is lacking self-respect through his ignorance of the circumstances.

“False friends” = false idol (statue)
“False riches” = false god (gold coins)

This next thing has nothing to do with the story, but let’s turn it around. Let’s say he already had the gold coins in his possession, then came upon the statue later thereafter. Would the statue mean anything to him at that point? Probably not.

“False riches make false friends”

I actually completely overlooked this part. My thinking would be similar to ⒶMP3083 above.

Though if we ignore the story for a moment, there is truth to the phrase: “false riches make false friends”. This is actually a problem with ppl who have lots of money. “True friends” become hard to come by when everyone around you is ensconced by your riches. When you lose those riches, suddenly those “friends” are no where to be found (because they are the very definition of “false friends”).

However, this being the actual moral of the story, I’m not fully convinced that it fits. I too feel like I’m missing something. If this is a translation, I would question the choice of words here.

If it truly is the moral of the story, then the only false friend I see in the story is the idol, and the false riches being gold (or the desire for material wealth).

bbblackwell > ⒶMP3083, Abdul, quallnet & holeymoley
Ah, very good! I believe we’ve hit on something here…

So the “false riches” is the misaligned desire (for money in this case). He speaks to the statue as a person (as it represents the God) and so this is the relevant friendship.

A man whose desires are false cannot be trusted to be good. Misalignment is immorality by definition. He smashes the statue, thus revealing himself as the false friend to the statue.

“False riches”, or incorrect perceptions of what constitutes true riches, lead one to become untrustworthy (either due to malicious intent, or merely by way of being lost in error). We can also describe “false riches” as subjective valuation not aligning with objective value.

I knew I asked the right people! There’s a lot here. We have the “mirror” concept, where he projects his own hypocrisy. We also have what’s referenced in this moral from another fable (great quote incoming):

The discontented allow fantasy—rather than reason—to guide their action, and so blame unhappiness on the wrong causes.

Plus everything else you guys have said… Wow. So much can be gleaned from so little when your vision operates beyond the normal spectrum. Way t’ be, y’all!

ⒶMP3083 > Abdul
That came across my mind but I wasn’t sure if it that was the moral of the story, either.

ⒶMP3083 > bbblackwell
That was a good fable. Definitely gets the mind going.

quallnet > bbblackwell
I think Amp and Abdul had deeper insight, but as Gandhi said, wealth without work is one of the deadly sins.

bbblackwell > quallnet
I’d not heard that quote! Yes, that’s precisely what’s wrong with capitalism. By definition, it’s the endeavor of trying to increase the spread between personal work and personal wealth. Having your assets “work for you” means this, and only this. It involves theft in all cases because that wealth-generating work is being done by someone else.

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