There’s an old fairy tale, or maybe a fable, I remember from my childhood storybooks. The story is about a spoiled little girl, a princess of course, who had everything she ever wanted. Then one night she looked up at the sky and saw the moon and decided that she wanted that too. Her father, the king, tried to explain that he couldn’t get the moon for her. The princess started to cry and cry. She stopped eating and stopped sleeping and she became weak and ill. All the king’s advisors tried to explain to her why she couldn’t have the moon but she didn’t seem to hear them. Her maids tried to distract her with her toys and tempt her appetite with her favorite foods, but she turned her face away from them. The princess kept on crying for the moon and gradually became so ill her father was afraid she would die.
Finally, in his desperation, the king sends out a proclamation that anyone who could comfort the princess would be given half his kingdom. Many people came and built odd devices to capture the moon, all of them failing. Many others came to try to reason with the little girl, all without success. In the end, a simple traveler came and instead of chasing the moon or giving lectures he sat down with the princess and listened to her. “What does the moon look like?” he asked her. “How big is it?”
“It is a round golden disk.” she told him. “It is just the size of my thumbnail, for when I hold up my hand my thumbnail covers it in the sky.”
So the traveler went away and fashioned a round golden disk, just the size of the princess’s thumbnail and placed it on a chain for the girl to wear around her neck. He presented it to her with a flourish and she smiled and clapped and asked for something to eat for the first time in weeks. Her father the king was tremendously relieved and rewarded the traveler with half his kingdom.
As a child I don’t think I understood the story, although I did recognize that the little girl was being silly and that the traveler fooled her in some sense. I always wondered what she thought the next time she looked at the sky and saw that the moon was still there. But now I hear a different message in the story. I can think of times in my life that I have been crying for the moon, refusing to be happy because some detail in my life didn’t work out the way I thought it should.
I think that crying for the moon is something we all do, sometimes. We get our hearts and minds set on one particular outcome and insist that nothing else will do. We lose sight of all the good things we already enjoy and make ourselves ill, at least on a mental and emotional level, yearning after what we don’t have. It’s not that we shouldn’t dream. It’s not that we shouldn’t work to improve our lives. It’s not even that we shouldn’t try things that seem like they might be too hard, if those things seem worthwhile. It’s just that we shouldn’t lose sight of the good we do have in our lives. We shouldn’t forget to laugh and eat and enjoy our blessings while we listen to our hearts to figure out what the moon really means to us. We shouldn’t stop living while we work to obtain our dreams.