A Spoon With Oil A Story About Happiness

A man sent his son to learn the secret of happiness from a sage.

Forty days the young man walked through a desert until he saw, on top of a mountain, a magnificent castle. The sage lived there.

The castle was full of people. The sage walked slowly around the guests, and the boy had to wait for two hours before his turn came.

The sage listened to the young man and said that he did not have the time to explain to him the secret of happiness just now.

The sage said, “While you wait, please have a look around my castle for a couple of hours. But please take this spoon with you while you walk”. The sage gave him a spoon filled with two drops of oil.

– “But, be careful: you mustn’t spill the oil!” The sage said.

The young man began touring the palace, not taking the eyes off the spoon for a second. Two hours later he appeared before the Sage.

– “Well”, the sage said, “did you like the Persian carpets in the dining room, the flowers and the trees in the garden, the ancient books in the library?”

Ashamed, the young man confessed that he didn’t notice anything, because he had spent all of his time concentrating on the spoon and the two drops of oil the owner had entrusted to him.

– “Now, go back and look at all the wonders in my house. You can’t really trust a person until you know where and how he lives.”

With a spoon in his hand, the young man once again went around the castle. But this time, he carefully observed all the wonders of the palace. After a while he returned to the Sage and  described in detail everything that he had seen.

– “And where are those two drops of oil that I asked you to carry around and not spill?”

At that moment, the young man realized that the spoon was empty.

– “This is the only advice I can give you. The secret of happiness is to see all the wonders of the world, and never forget the two drops of oil on the spoon.”

The Lesson

  • No matter how interesting the marvels around you, don’t forget for a second the things you are personally responsible for.


  • Coelho P. The Alchemist. M., 2002.
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