HIEN V. HO
THE MERCURY BALANCE SYNDROME
         Once upon a time there were a couple of goldsmiths who ran their jewelry shop in a large and prosperous Vietnamese city. The prices of their goods were based on their weights and they used a scale that was made of a beam hung from a cord off its center, with a counterweight sliding on the beam on one side and a pan holding the merchandise on the other side. The couple became rich very quickly because they had a trade secret, the beam of their scale was hollow, and it was loaded with mercury. When they sold something, they would tilt the rod toward the plate and the weight of the mercury would add to the weight of gold. When they bought a jewel from a client, they would tilt their scale to the side of the weight, therefore got a lesser reading to their advantage.

         After a few years, they were able to save a large amount of money and buy a very large house, loaded with all the luxuries. It seemed as if the gods were answering to their every prayer. They also got two handsome, healthy and intelligent sons who were the envy of every family in the city.

         Fifteen years later, one evening after a very busy and profitable day at their large store, the husband had a few moments for himself and started thinking about his life. Now that every dream in his life had come true, he thought of repentance about his trade secret .He talked to his wife and both of them agreed that it was time for them to destroy the scale, spend some of their money in charity and attend religious services at the pagoda to redeem their sins.

         This decision changed their life in a very profound way: they were more respected and liked by their community. They slept more peacefully and learned to enjoy the simple things of life, and though their fortune had dwindled significantly because of their charitable works, their life had become much richer. Most of all, they were proud of their two sons who were so handsome and so successful in their studies.

         Then suddenly, one morning, the two sons were stricken with a severe illness and tragically died on the same day. Their parents were devastated and complained a bout the perceived injustice from Heaven. Had they not spent most of their unjustly acquired wealth on charity works and faithfully attended ceremonies at the temple? Why didn't punishment fall on them instead of their beloved children? Didn't Heaven have any pity for them?

        Please read the rest of the story in REMEMBERING SAIGON.
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