Concerning the events in Newtown

Here’s a story I read many years ago. Considering the horrible event that occurred on Friday, and the debate it reignited I think it’s quite germane.


Many years ago there was an old samurai who had decided to retire and become a priest. Before he could do so however he had to decide which of his three sons received the family sword.

After pondering for a bit he decided to set a test for them. He went to a room in his house and placed a small wooden block on top of the shoji, the sliding door through which the room was entered. When the door was slid open, the block would fall and strike the person in the door.

He called his youngest son to him first. This son was a swordsman. He constantly practiced. He was fast, precise and deadly.

This son came to the room and slid open the door. The block fell and hit him. The son’s sword was out of his scabbard and the block was in two pieces an instant after that.

The old samurai stood up, enraged. “Get out of this house!” he shouted. “You are disowned. You will never be worthy of the sword! You do not know what it means to be samurai and you never will be!”

The old man replaced the block and called his middle son to him. This son spent a great deal of time on sword play, but it was not his only interest. He made some, small effort to study other things as well.

The middle son came to the door and slid it open, with the expected result. This son, however, caught the block before it hit the ground. He then bowed to the old samurai and asked, “You wish to see me, father?”

“I did,” the old man replied, “and I have discovered you are not yet worthy of the family sword. I can see that some day you will be though.”

The block was replaced yet again and the old man called for his oldest son. This son spent some time on swordplay but it was only one of many subjects that he studied.

This son came to the door, started to slide it open…and stopped. He then reached up to remove the block before it fell. He slid the door the rest of the way, entered the room and replaced the block in its position over the door. Bowing to his father he asked, “You wished to see me, sir?”

“Yes,” the old man told him. “you have shown me that you are the one most worthy of receiving the family sword.”


This story has stuck with me for many years. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the oldest son received the sword because he was the least likely to use it.

The youngest son never saw the trap and reacted inappropriately. There was no need to use a sword on the block.

The middle son didn’t see the trap either, but he reacted appropriately, proportionate and proper to the threat.

The eldest son was the only one who saw the trap and he acted to prevent it from activating.

So when it comes to violence and weapons I try to be the oldest son. It’s much better to see where there is a problem and act to prevent it, without violence and with a minimum of effort. Violence, quite simply, is a poor solution to a problem.

Unfortunately, too many people are like the youngest son. They never see the problem and their reaction is inappropriate violence.


P.S. Sorry there has been no posts for a while. Both angel and I have been either busy or ill, or both. We’ll try to get back into posting regularly again.