Parable #2: Things Are Not Always What They Seem

A Parable by Donald Lee

(This week is the fifth installment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about perceiving the spirit as real. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)

Parable 2
Things Are Not Always What They Seem

Things are not always as they seem; the first appearance deceives many.


(Ancient Greek philosopher)

Franklin was crying. Oh, good grief, I thought. What have I done now to make a grade-seven boy cry? It was my math class, and the students were getting their introduction to algebra. Nobody likes it. It’s one of those awkward things in life you just have to get through, like pimples and puberty. So I casually worked my way over to his desk and knelt down beside him.

“Franklin, what’s the matter?” I asked gently. He just shook his head and continued to sob quietly.

“Are you upset because you don’t understand the math?” He nodded.

“Don’t worry about that, buddy. Everyone is struggling with it. It’s just math. It’s not worth crying over. You’ll get it. I’ll help you. That’s what I’m here for.”

I did my best to be compassionate, but I was flabbergasted. What is this world coming to? was my first thought. Were kids these days so darn fragile they cried over a math problem? Math was nothing. What would happen when they encountered real problems? Sometimes kids were so smother-loved into a fairy-tale, cuddly, touchy-feely fantasy life they couldn’t deal with the real world.

I should have known that things were not what they seemed.

A while later, an email from the administration to his teachers arrived in my inbox. It didn’t help much.

“Franklin is going through some issues right now, so try to be patient with him.”

Some issues? No kidding.

Sure enough, Franklin started crying the very next day. Students nearby noticed and discreetly motioned for me do something. Again, I knelt down beside him.

“What can I do to help you, Franklin?” He just shrugged his shoulders.

“I won’t bother you now, then. If I can do anything to help you, just raise your hand.”

Franklin was also in my grade-seven band and doing well on the oboe. That afternoon, he happened to be the first to wander into band class. He dejectedly plopped himself down in one of the desks in the classroom area of the room instead of following the usual procedure of collecting his music and instrument and sitting in the rehearsal area. I slid into the desk next to his.

“What’s troubling you, Franklin?” I asked.

“My mom and dad are getting divorced,” he blurted out. The tears gushed up again.

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. That’s hard on everyone.”

What should I say? The other students would be arriving any minute. My male, linear-thinking mind flipped into lecture mode. No, no. He didn’t need a lecture. But that’s what I did best. I tried to slow down. I was grasping at straws.

Angeline and Tom came into the classroom, saw us sitting in the desks, and asked, “What’s happening?”

“Nothing,” I lied. “Just get your music and instruments out. I’ll be with you in a few minutes.” I lowered my voice to talk just to Franklin. He held his head in his hands, elbows on the desk, and looked at no one.

“Relationships are tough, the toughest part of life. And marriage is the hardest of all. It’s not easy for your mom and dad, and I’m sure they are doing their best. Half of all marriages don’t make it. Heck, half of my friends are divorced.”

Franklin nodded a bit but didn’t say anything.

“Why don’t you come play some music? Maybe it will take your mind off it.”

Still no response.

“If you’re not up to it, that’s okay. But I think you will feel better if you do.”

Most of the class had arrived by now, and the grating sounds of beginning band students soon overwhelmed our conversation. I left Franklin and went to be a band director. He did not join us in music that day.


Things are not always what they seem. Franklin wasn’t upset by math. It was something much deeper. Life’s like that. Reality is much deeper than it seems. The physical world seems to be all there is—all of what there is to reality. Yet we know our minds are real—and thoughts are not physical. Knowing we have a consciousness is a different kind of knowing than the way we know about the physical world. Science can’t explain the connection between the mental and physical realms. We have no idea, scientifically, how the brain gives rise to consciousness.

It’s a similar situation with spiritual reality. If you’ve ever had some sort of spiritual experience, you know in your heart that there is a spiritual reality. The heart is a much better guide in spiritual matters than the mind, partly because the mind—our ego—wants to be in control. Our mind wants us to think that we are our mind. Although we are an alloy of spirit, mind, and body, our core essence is our spirit.

As we prepare for a new performance cycle—a new cycle of spiritual growth—in our lives, we must understand that our fundamental nature is spirit. When we think about what we want to become, we must think about it in spiritual terms. What do you want your spirit to become?

Things are rarely as they seem. We seem to exist in a physical universe, but its core reality is as a spiritual universe. And despite appearances, our core reality is as a spiritual being.

Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website:, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon.

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