I Used to Think Like You
The executioner is a specialist at carrying out the King’s death sentences, a professional at putting criminals to death. A qualified executioner needs to go through many years of rigorous training, learning how to execute in one fowl swoop, without muddling up the job. One such skilled headsman was Zhang San.
One day, a convict guilty of terrible crimes was sentenced to capital punishment. The punishment was to be carried out by an executioner with a beheading. The guilty party was pulled up to the chopping block. He was frightened to endless sobbing, begging Zhang San for mercy, “I’m scared to die, please don’t kill me.”
Zhang San, looking at him blankly, nonchalantly replied, “What’s so scary about a little beheading? Don’t worry about it, my knife is sharp and quick, one little ‘ chop- chop’ and it’ll all be over. With a roll of the head, you’ll be a good guy in the next life.”
The criminal was shaking all over and kept pleading. Zhang San, weary of all the squabbling, let the knife sweep, and all went quiet.
A few days later, Zhang San had upset the king somehow. In a rage the king ordered Zhang San’s decapitation. Upon arrival to the execution grounds, Zhan San, started bawling deafeningly, stamping his feet and beating his chest. The executioner carrying out the sentence was a good friend of his. The headsman looked at him kind of puzzled and said, “What’s so scary about a little beheading? Don’t worry about it, my knife is sharp and quick, one little ‘ chop- chop’ and it’ll all be over. With a roll of the head, you’ll be a good guy in the next life.”
Zhang San, upon hearing this, wept even more bitterly, saying, “It’s easy for you to say, I used to think just like you. And who knew? Now I’ve switched places, with my neck on the block, I have no way to calm down.” u
(From SpeechandEloquence , February 2018. Translation: Sam Bowden)