Once a man had a dream in which his hands and feet and mouth and brain all began to rebel against his stomach.
“You good-for-nothing sluggard!” the hands said. “We work all day long, sawing and hammering and lifting and carrying. By evening we’re covered with blisters and scratches, and our joints ache, and we’re covered with dirt. And meanwhile you just sit there, hogging all the food.”
“We agree!” cried the feet. “Think how sore we get, walking back and forth all day long. And you just stuff yourself full, you greedy pig, so that you’re that much heavier to carry about.”
“That’s right!” whined the mouth. “Where do you think all that food you love comes form? I’m the one who has to chew it all up, and as soon as I’m finished you suck it all down for yourself. Do you call that fair?”
“And what about me?” called the brain. “Do you think it’s easy being up here, having to think about where your next meal is going to come from? And yet I get nothing at all for my pains.”
And one by one the parts of the body joined the complaint against the stomach, which didn’t say anything at all.
“I have an idea,” the brain finally announced. “Let’s all rebel against the lazy belly, and stop working for it.”
“Superb idea!” all the other members and organs agreed. “We’ll teach you how important we are, you pig. Then maybe you’ll do a little work of your own.”
So they all stopped working. The hands refused to do lifting and carrying. The feet refused to walk. The mouth promised not to chew or swallow a single bite. And the brain swore it wouldn’t come up with any more bright ideas. At first the stomach growled a bit, as it always did when it was hungry. But after a while it was quiet.
Then, to the dreaming man’s surprise, he found he could not walk. He could not grasp anything in his hand. He could not even open his mouth. And he suddenly began to feel rather ill.
The dream seemed to go on for several days. As each day passed, the man felt worse and worse. “This rebellion had better not last much longer,” he thought to himself, “or I’ll starve.”
Meanwhile, the hands and feet and mouth and brain just lay there, getting weaker and weaker. At first they roused themselves just enough to taunt the stomach every once in a while, but before long they didn’t even have the energy for that.
Finally the man heard a faint voice coming from the direction of his feet.
“It could be that we were wrong,” they were saying. “We suppose the stomach might have been working in his own way all along.”
“I was just thinking the same thing,” murmured the brain. “It’s true that he’s been getting all the food. But it seems he’s been sending most of it right back to us.”
“We might as well admit our error,” the mouth said. “The stomach has just as much work to do as the hands and feet and brain and teeth.”
“Then let’s get back to work,” they cried together. And at that the man woke up.
To his relief, he discovered his feet could walk again. His hands could grasp, his mouth could chew, and his brain could now think clearly. He began to feel much better.
“Well, there’s a lesson for me,” he thought as he filled his stomach at breakfast. “Either we all work together, or nothing works at all.”
Source: The Book of Virtues Editor: William J. Bennett