Two hundred years ago, the population in Russia was divided in two groups. The elite group consisted of wealthy landowners, while the rest were simple peasants who worked the land.
The educated landowners, or noblemen as they preferred to be called, had interests in art and literature. They lived in large, well appointed mansions that reflected their wealth and interest in the arts.
The illiterate peasants worked the noblemans land, receiving a percentage of the crops and permission to live on the nobleman's property. The two groups lived separately, rarely mixing since their pursuits and interests were worlds apart.
Traveling by carriage through his lands, a nobleman once spotted a peasant sprawled on a garbage heap. Stopping to investigate, the nobleman found that the peasant was drunk and oblivious to the world.
With a sense for humor, the nobleman instructed his attendants to take the man into his carriage back to the nobleman's mansion. The noblemans servants washed the man, dressed him in the nobleman's finest silk pajamas and lay him down in the nobleman's own bed.
The nobleman then positioned himself by the window to observe the peasant's reaction upon awaking.
The drunken peasant began to stir from his slumber. What a pleasant surprise to find himself in such a beautiful room with matching furnishings and an upholstered chair!
The confused peasant blinked in amazement. Never had he seen such splendor. The walls were covered with exquisite wallpaper and decorated with majestically framed beautiful paintings. Covered with a stunning canopy, the bed was soft and comfortable, with a down blanket. It was nothing like the crumbling shack where he spent his unfortunate existence.
"I must be dreaming," he mumbled. "This can't be real. I mustve drunk much too much last night." He pinched himself. "Ouch!" It hurt! "What a strange dream? For sure this can't be real."
The nobleman now instructed his servants to serve the peasant breakfast. The door to the room opened and a well dressed servant entered with a silver tray laden with food.
"Is the master ready for breakfast?" the servant politely inquired.
The unfortunate peasant was confounded. If being in this room was strange enough, who is this servant addressing him as "master? The peasant thought, If I am really me, a drunk peasant, then this must be a dream. But if this is a dream, who is this servant?
The servant waited for his "master's" answer. Finally the peasant asked him to give him the food. "If this is a dream, then this won't be real food," he reasoned.
The servant set the tray on the table, poured his "master" the tea, and uncovered an expensive china plate with an omelet, toast, fresh fish, cooked broccoli, a pat of butter and a glass of orange juice. The peasant thanked the servant and dismissed him.
"This can't be real. I never saw food like this. It's only a dream. I'll try it and prove to myself that it isn't real." Tasting a bit of the food, he stopped, "I never had anything this good. But what am I doing here? Who am I? Am I the drunken peasant on the garbage heap, or am I really the master of this beautiful house and estate?"
The food was delicious and nourishing. After the meal, he walked around the room. Spotting books on the shelf, he had an idea.
"It could very well be that this is my house and estate, after all, what am I doing here if it's not my room and house!? The servant called me 'master,' so I really must be the master of the house. And the food was real. But what is this in my head that tells me that I am a drunk peasant who fell asleep on a garbage heap?
A-ha! It must be that THAT was a dream, and that I have finally awoken from my bad dream and I really belong here. To prove it, I will take a book off of the bookshelf. If I am a peasant, I won't be able to read it. If I am a nobleman, as I certainly must be, then I will be able to read it!"
He walked over to the shelf, chose a large leather bound book and took it to the table. Sitting down, he opened it and began to read. All the letters of the alphabet were there, but the confused man could not make any sense out of the many letters.
Closing the book, he realized he could not read! The room and the food were real! But what is the real reality? Could it be that he is really the drunken peasant, and all that surrounds him is not his?
"A-ha! I know!" he exclaimed, with a flash of inspiration. "All this is mine! I am really the wealthy landowner, and the reason I can't read this book is, because, no one can read books! Yes! Books aren't really read at all, they are just decorations!"
So the peasant came to a conclusion to support his desires and delusions.
A funny story? It would be, if it were not so true. Our ability to delude ourselves into thinking that we are who we desire to be. Being in touch with reality and accepting it is a quality of honesty that is difficult to accept. We can see our friends' faults and fallacies, but to see our own faults requires a desire for truth.