Put Out the Fire Before It Is Too Late


Dietrich Fischer – TRANSCEND Media Service

By Ann Avery – Based on a Story by Leo Tolstoy

There was a man called Nicolas who was happy in life except for one thing: he and a neighbor distrusted each other. One day, his chicken strayed into the neighbor’s garden. When his wife went to look for the chicken’s daily egg she did not find it. So she asked her neighbor:

“Did our chicken lay her egg in your yard, by any chance?” The neighbor replied,

“No, your chicken didn’t do that.”

The neighbor’s husband heard the story and, because he didn’t like Nicolas, he decided that Nicolas’ wife was accusing his wife of stealing. That afternoon, he said to Nicolas:

“Your wife is a liar. She accused my wife of stealing your eggs.” Nicolas said:

“I will take you to court if you call my family liars.” And so on and forth.

The two men got more and more angry. Every day there was something else. One day the father of Nicholas said:

“Make peace with your neighbor before you have a real problem. Your anger is like a fire. Put it out now, before it grows large. When it is large, it will be very difficult to put it out.”

Sure enough, one day there was a fire in Nicolas’ barn. Nicolas was asleep in the hay, and the fire woke him. He saw his neighbor running away. The fire spread from one house and barn to another. Half the village burned down. Nicolas did not tell the villagers who started the fire. But he did tell his father, and his father asked him:

“Who really started the fire, Nicolas?”

Nicolas didn’t answer his father, but he said to himself:

“It was also my fault, because I did not make peace with my neighbor a long time ago, when the fire of our anger was still small.”


Dietrich Fischer (1941-2015) from Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. 1986-88 he was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University. He has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities and been a consultant to the United Nations. He was co-founder, with Johan Galtung, of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment in 1993.

Excerpted from Dietrich Fischer’s Stories to Inspire You – TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 Dec 2017.

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