One day as the little worm nibbled its way through mounds of leaves – as it had done for many days – it got to feeling uncomfortably strange. A ray of disappointment, no, discontent flooded the heart of the small worm as much as was possible for such an emotion to affect the inner mind of such a simple creature.
It was an uncomfortable and strange feeling because, for all its life, the worm had eaten and eaten as it knew it had to do. If you computed how many leaves the worm had eaten, you would find that , for its size, it had eaten a vast quantity. Somewhere in the inner workings of the worm it felt the discontent of repetition. Day after day, in all weathers, it had done the same thing, but today was different. Something within the worm was changed. It had lost its appetite.
Crawling over the soft pile of its life source, it found a corner at the edge of the tray along with several other worms. A deep serenity had been within the worm its whole life long because it knew that it was doing the work it had come to do. It had eaten. From a tiny thing the size of a speck it had grown until it was as large as a grown man’s finger. Now it took its place alongside others and clung onto the side of the wooden tray with its yellowing, sticky feet. An extreme lassitude enveloped it and for one whole day it simply clung there. Something was happening deep within the organs of the worm. It was getting ready to spin.
On the morning of the second day, a long thread of extraordinary sheen came out of its mouth. The worm attached it to the wood as an anchor. Without ever a break, the worm arched itself backwards and forwards, over and over again, working the thread until it became an orb of translucence within which the worm remained. In all this long labour, the small worm was filled with deepest joy for it was able to do its work in the bliss of the now. Nothing disturbed it – no thought – no action – no other yearning.
Soon, the cocoon was complete. It nestled with others along the sides of the tray. And the worm, its work done, rested within.
One day a reaper took the tray and pulled out all the spun cocoons. She dropped them into a tub of warm water. The water softened the single thread. Another worker, skilled at her task, found the end and with dexterous speed, unraveled the thread, leaving the chrysalis exposed to the air. She took the shriveled brown thing that had once been a worm as thick as a grown man’s finger and buried it into a hatching tray where, over time, it could transform itself into a white moth for it had been a lovely specimen and its offspring would continue the strain.
And now, the single thread, still unbroken in all the spinning process, had been joined to many other single threads, making a gleaming, white ball of yarn.
One day a weaver took the ball of yarn and with many other weavers working at their home looms, wove the single thread of the small blissful worm into a gossamer fabric. The workers at their looms sang while the clatter of their machines accompanied their voices. They were happy. They were doing their work and they knew it would bring them financial reward. The threads of this batch of silk were especially fine.
One day some merchants came to the store- room where the cloth was housed. They were excited to see it. Its lustre was especially deep and the feel on their discerning fingers, most satisfactory.
“We will buy this cloth.” they told the weavers and the price they named was good. Everyone was happy. The merchants carried it back to the capital city of their country.
One day, the Emperor of the land sent a message out to all his subjects. He wanted the best gift for the birthday of his daughter, the Princess.
For many days pedlars, salesmen and ordinary folk streamed into the palace to show the Emperor what they had that he could buy for his daughter’s special day. The Emperor sat on his throne and looked at all the people’s wares. He stroked his beard in thought, pondering over each item. But none pleased him.
The Emperor had a special desire within himself. The Princess was turning sixteen. He wanted to give her something that would last her whole life through and that she could use that would be both beneficial and pleasing. He patiently looked at such a variety of senseless things that in a short time his head was spinning. And the noise in the palace was deafening. Puppies barked, cats meowed, parrots squawked, musical boxes played jingles of all kinds, people chattered, squabbled , jostled, bowed and scraped until the Emperor thought his head would burst.
“Enough!” he cried and sent everyone packing.
“Oh Sire” the Chamberlain approached the throne. “There is one more merchant who has something to offer” He said this with great respect mixed with caution for he could see the Emperor had had enough.
The Emperor sighed deeply, but he knew that the Princesses’ birthday was soon and that he had better make one last effort.
“Oh, very well! Send him in.” He squinted down the long hall that had, moments before, been filled with chaos and confusion.
A merchant appeared, very tall, dignified. He carried a bolt of cloth under his arm. As he approached the throne, he rolled the fabric out at the Emperor’s feet so that it floated down lightly like shining light. Perfectly silently, the merchant stepped back and waited.
The Emperor looked at the silk lying iridescently in soft folds on the marble floor. It glowed with life. It reminded him of his daughter’s eyes. It shone like her hair. He had the desire to pick it up and hold it just as he held the princess whenever she needed comforting and love from him.
A deep silence filled the throne room. The white silk lay like a flowing river of luminescence. The Emperor stroked his moustaches thoughtfully.
Suddenly he snapped his fingers and the Chamberlain came running.
“Give this merchant the full price he asks – and then double it. This is the best silk I have ever seen in my life! Call the seamstresses, the housekeeper, the bath attendants, the cook, the princesses’ maid and the masseuse.”
“Within the twinkling of an eye, the room was full of people. They stood grouped around the magical silk which rustled gently with the breeze of such motion in the room.
The Emperor spoke to the seamstresses. “Make the most beautiful clothes for my daughter. She must wear silk always.”
To the housekeeper he said “This silk will be her tablecloth and also her sheets.”
“After her Highness’ bath, this silk will be her towel” he said to the bath attendants.
And to the princess’ masseuse, he said “Rub my daughter with essential oils and only cover her with silk while she rests.”
To the cook he said “From now on, feed my daughter no food that is not as shining with light as this silk is.”
When the Princess’ personal maid came to stand before the Emperor, he looked at her with special attention. “You are closer to my lovely daughter than anyone else, because you are also her friend. Please look after her with care. When she rebels, give her guidance. When she is angry, bear up under the discomfort. When she is lonely, stay close to her. When she is happy, laugh. When she is tired, let her rest. When she is unwise, share your wisdom. And above all else, please guard her from herself.”
And so it came to be. The princess, from her sixteenth birthday, wore silk, slept in silk, ate silk,bathed with silk, was rubbed with silk and even on a Royal picnic, ate off her own silk cloth.
Her skin became full of lustre, her eyes danced with light, she was patient, gentle and more radiant than any other Princess in the history of the land. The people loved her.
Just like the small contented worm that had produced the exquisite thread, the Princess wove a silken thread through life. Every moment of her day she seemed to love – no matter what was happening – as being the most important one; the best and most wonderful moment of all the moments in time. She even found some happiness in moments of pain, knowing that they were only passing moments. And when people were with her, they knew she had come to bring them inspiration.
One day, the princess became the Empress. She was serene, just and kind, ruling her subjects with compassionate understanding. She was slow to anger, yet quick to praise and, again, the people loved her. Especially her maid who looked after her silken garments, sheets, tablecloths and bath towels, and shared her food of light as a real friend should for the rest of their lives.
And if you read the history books, and hear the legends of that land, you will find that the Empress lived an extraordinarily long time (and so did her maid).The Empress was always healthy, happy and loved and because she wove around herself and others a cocoon of gossamer happiness, everyone from that time to this has called her “The Empress of Light”.