Brother Miguel's "Platinum" Rule

Posted by Pancho Ramos Stierle on Jan 8, 2018
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[At last Wednesday's Awakin Circle in Santa Clara, brother Miguel --aka Bobak-- shared this humorous and touching story below, of how his father taught him the "Platinum Rule", prompted by last week's reading on the nuances of universality.]

Sometimes if we get too caught up in the Golden Rule we assume that we can understand what other people want without asking them to tell us what their suffering is. And that can lead us to problematic territory.

My dad used to tell me this story when I was a kid. His dad worked at a restaurant when he was in college and became a chef. He was a very active political leftist. So part of the benefits of working there was that they were able to prepare a meal for themselves and everyone who worked there. The chefs could get steak filet mignon or lobster or whatever choice cuts they wanted. But the owner was really adamant that they give the bus boys only hamburgers. So my dad tried to do a revolutionary activity and started insisting that all the bus boys take filet mignon. And after about a month one of the bus boys came to him really timidly and said, "I really appreciate what you're doing for everyone. But honestly, I prefer hamburgers."

So my dad said, "Sure! The comrade prefers hamburgers. Great! I'm going to make him the best hamburger he's ever had."

And he starts mixing all these gourmet spices and ingredients into it. Another month goes by and the kid comes to him even more timidly and says, "I know that you're really just trying to do the best for me. But my momma raised me really simple, and I really just prefer plain hamburgers." :)

So the moral that my dad was teaching me when he told me this as a kid was that you have to try to strive to live life by the Platinum Rule -- which is not, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." But it's to "do unto others as they would have you do unto them," within reason of course.

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Comments (4)

  • Bradley Stoll wrote ...

    How often are (my) best intentions not what is needed? Thank you for this reminder, Miguel and Pancho. It's not about what I want to do, it's about what's needed to be done.

  • Donna Kuck wrote ...

    Thank you for this, Pancho! I, too have a habit of making simple things complex. A favorite quote of mine from childhood reading (Stranger in a Strange Land) is "goodness without wisdom creates evil." I try to remember that whenever I get carried away with what seems (to me) to be a wonderful solution to a problem. Keep It Simple, Sweetheart (KISS). Check with the people who are actually doing the work and find out what they need, rather than what I think they need.

  • Vinod wrote ...

    Reminds me of how moms who are feeling cold tend to wrap their kids with woollens, Irrespective of what the kid is feeling.

  • Somik Raha wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing this, Pancho! Reminds me of the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I remember the instance when I bought a big bowl of ramen for an elderly Indian lady at Narita Airport 15 years back. Her flight was delayed - and the airline did not do anything for the passengers. Worried that she was hungry, I got her some vegetarian ramen and was astonished that she declined. I loved ramen and all things Japanese. I failed to appreciate that Japanese cuisine is an acquired taste for many people. I only started to appreciate this after my own mother protested when I wanted to take her out to yet another Japanese restaurant. :)