Worry is one of the most debilitating habits of mind. Most of the things we worry about are hypothetical, but that doesn’t lessen their power to undermine our ability to keep faith in the Master and focus on meditation. Worry is a tyrant, so let’s take heart from the following story in which a brave people confronted another such tyrant with a brisk rebuff:
Long ago, the Spartans lived in the southern part of Greece in an area called Laconia; they were therefore sometimes called the Lacons. They were noted for their simple habits and their bravery; they were also known as a people who used few words and chose them carefully. Even today, a terse answer is often described as being ‘laconic’.
Philip of Macedon wanted to bring all Greece together under his rule and so embarked on a war against other states, including Sparta, which was one of the last to stand against him. Knowing that he must subdue the Spartans if he was to succeed, Philip brought his army to the borders of Laconia, and sent a message to the Spartans:
“You must submit at once,” he threatened them, “otherwise I will invade your country. And if I invade you will receive no mercy. If my army sallies forth it will pillage and burn everything you hold dear. If I march into Laconia, I will level your great city to the ground.”
The next day a messenger on horseback left Laconia and came across to Philip’s camp, bearing an important looking scroll. He was conducted to the general who had impatiently awaited this reply. When Philip opened the missive he found only one word written there.
That word was “IF”.