the mask and the rice

I should admit that, on the subway, people pay a lot of attention to the use of masks: they wear them with care, covering their mouth and nose well, donning it not only inside the carriage but also on the platform and on the escalators to the exit. I must confess that it is strange in Italy to see this scrupulous respect for the rules. It is strange and at the same time comforting, because it testifies to a respect for others that I did not think was so common.  

Observing these people, masked with colorful strips, each of them with their own style and habit, I thought about how this damned virus forced us to take care of each other, perhaps in an unconscious or forced way, nevertheless in a sincere and essential way.

All those who wear the mask do not do it primarily to protect themselves but to protect others. The choice to wear this annoying device is not aimed at self-protection but at mutual protection. This measure is effective in so far as everyone decides to respect this precaution.

Do you remember the story about the rice, the heaven, and the hell? The wiseman tells that hell is like a large dining room: each of the guests is seated at the table with a huge cup of steaming rice in front of them and two very long chopsticks in their hands. Unfortunately, the length of the chopsticks prevents the fellow diners from eating all of God’s gift, leaving them a sour taste in their mouths. The astonishing thing comes when the wiseman recounts that the dining room of heaven is identical to that of hell. With one difference: the fellow diners, using their long chopsticks, feed the guests seated in front of them, allowing everyone to enjoy the excellent hot rice.

The logic is clear, isn’t it? Both the mask and the rice remind us that our happiness sometimes consists in making others happy.


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