Controlling the Flame Within | An Ode to Elderly Wisdom

Once upon a time, there was a young farmer who owned 10 Kanals of land, a large rice storage facility, and a small goat barn. His elderly neighbour, who raised goats, became a source of frustration for him. The neighbour’s goats would graze on the young farmer’s farmland, destroying crops and feeding on vegetables. Enraged, the young farmer went to complain.

“Your goats are causing havoc on my farm! They destroy my crops, and I can’t fence the entire 10 Kanals,” the young farmer exclaimed. Feeling guilty, the elderly neighbour apologised, promising to rope the goats to prevent any further trouble. Despite this assurance, the next day, the goats were back in the farmland.

Angrily, the young farmer confronted his neighbour again, using harsh words against him and his ailing wife who had cared for him like a mother. The neighbour, burdened by guilt, explained that he had tied the goats, but they may have escaped. The old man also advised the young farmer to tie his own goats as well and see if they are not going to his farm. However, the young farmer rebuffed him and issued a final warning and threatened severe consequences if the goats returned.

In a surprising turn of events, the farmer later found goats preying on his vegetables. Assuming they were his neighbour’s, he impulsively threw a fire stick at them. Unfortunately, the stick landed on dry leaves, sparking a fire that quickly spread across the farmland, reaching the rice storage facility and goat barn. Within moments, he lost everything.

The elderly neighbour, arriving at the scene, revealed he had sold all his goats the previous day. The goats the farmer saw were his own, escaped from the barn. Regretfully, the farmer realised that anger doesn’t solve problems; instead, it can lead to the destruction of everything. A moment of patience in anger can prevent a hundred moments of regret. Anger is dangerously close to “D”ANGER, and it’s crucial to learn to control it.

In Leo Tolstoy’s “A Spark Neglected Burns the House,” the consequences of neglecting small problems are explored. Ignoring minor issues until they become major disasters is a common mistake. Tolstoy emphasises that hatred has dire consequences, humility is essential in forgiving, and forgiveness saves one from trouble.

The story shifts to Ivan’s family, initially healthy and prosperous. A feud with their neighbour, Gabriel, over a trivial matter escalates into a shouting match. Despite Ivan’s father’s advice to reconcile, the family’s daily quarrels continue. In a fit of rage, Gabriel sets Ivan’s house on fire, engulfing the whole village. When Ivan’s father, now dying, questions him about the fire, Ivan blames Gabriel. However, his father, burnt in the fire, reveals that Ivan’s anger started the blaze. Ivan, realising his mistake, seeks forgiveness. His father, recognizing Ivan’s repentance, advises him to obey God’s will and not reveal the truth about the fire.

Ivan chooses not to blame Gabriel, and their families, once in conflict, reconcile. They rebuild their homes next to each other and live as good neighbors. Ivan learns to obey God’s law, resolving conflicts peacefully and teaching his family to do the same. In the end, forgiveness triumphs over anger, and the community lives in harmony.

The moral of these stories revolves around the significance of heeding the wisdom of elders and the imperative need to control one’s anger. Elders, with their rich experiences and accumulated wisdom, often provide advice that may not seem immediately crucial but holds profound importance in the long run. Their guidance stems from a lifetime of learning and navigating through challenges.

In the first story, the young farmer’s impulsive actions led to the destruction of his livelihood. If he had paid heed to his elderly neighbour’s apology and taken the advice to rope the goats seriously, the entire calamity could have been avoided. The story underscores the value of respecting and valuing the advice of elders, who offer insights based on their lived experiences.

In the second tale, Ivan’s father’s counsel to reconcile and not let a minor disagreement escalate went unheeded by the family. The consequences of their quarrels resulted in the destruction of their village. However, when Ivan finally listened to his father’s words after the tragedy, he found a path to forgiveness and rebuilding. This highlights the enduring importance of elders’ advice, suggesting that patience, humility, and forgiveness are essential virtues.

Moreover, both stories emphasise the crucial need to control anger. In the heat of the moment, the young farmer’s anger led to drastic actions, and Ivan’s anger fueled the conflict with Gabriel. The destructive consequences of uncontrolled anger serve as cautionary tales, urging individuals to master their emotions, especially anger, which is perilously close to causing irreparable damage, as symbolised by the proximity of “D”ANGER.


Failing to handle your anger can lead to a variety of problems like saying things you regret afterwards, screaming at your kids, threatening your colleagues, sending impulsive emails, developing health problems, or even resorting to physical assault. But not all anger issues are that serious. Instead, your anger might involve wasting time thinking about hurtful events, getting frustrated in traffic jams, or emitting about work. Anger management is a skill that everyone can learn. Even if you think you have your anger under control, there’s always space for improvement.

Before you coil into action to calm yourself down, ask yourself if your anger is a friend or a foe. If you’re witnessing someone’s rights being blotted or you are in an unhealthy situation, your anger might be supportive.


Trying to win an argument or sticking it out in an unhealthy situation will only fuel your anger. One of the best anger management exercises is to remove yourself from the situation if you can. While encountering friction and collision in relations, an educated man withdraws and tenders’ apology. He justifies by saying “Apology does not mean you are right and I am wrong it simply means we value our relations more than our inflated egos.” Education should teach us to veil the shortcomings of our colleagues and defend them when others choose to be mute spectators.


If there’s someone who has a calming effect on you, talking through an issue or expressing your feelings to that person may be helpful. It’s important to note, however, that venting can backfire.


Anger gives you a rush of energy. One of the best anger management exercises is quite literally to exercise and engage in physical activity.4 Whether you go for a brisk walk or hit the gym, working out can burn off extra tension. Regular exercise also helps you decompress. Aerobic activity reduces stress, which might help improve your frustration tolerance.


Ruminating about an upsetting situation fuels angry feelings. If, for example, you’ve had a bad day at work, rehashing everything that went wrong all evening will keep you stuck in a state of frustration. The best way to calm down might be to change the channel in your brain and focus on something else altogether.

Dr Zubair Saleem is a Senior Geriatric Consultant and Gerontologist and Dr Showkat Rashid Wani is a Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir

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