The Perfect House… A Parable


The man finally arrived at the address he was given. It was a long trip and he was cold, wet, and tired. This was his inheritance, deeded over to him. He knew he was in the will, that he would get something, but what a surprise it was to find that it was a house on a patch of land a month’s journey. But it would be worth it.

The house was, as he noted as he walked up the stone path, a bit small and shabby. He had hoped for something a bit more… grand, perhaps? Still, he had never had anything that was truly his own before— nothing that he could touch and lay full claim to.

He saw there was a light on in the house. He knocked on the door, and almost immediately an older man answered the door.

“Ah yes sir,” said this man. “It is good that you made it here safely. You can call me Benjamin if you like. Let me escort you to your room.”

Benjamin helped the man settle in. The house was all wrong. It really needed some work, but the man knew not to worry about that yet. He settled in, and slept well into the morning coming down close to the the time most people would have lunch. There was a full breakfast waiting for him. Benjamin, since there seemed to be no other staff must have heard him waking up and getting himself ready to come downstairs since the food was still piping hot. The man thoroughly enjoyed the meal and as he finished the last bit and was wondering what he should do, Benjamin came in. The man asked Benjamin what he does around here.

“Well sir, I pretty much do everything here. Your inheritance comes with my services. Of course, if you find that unacceptable, I quite understand.”

The man jumped in, “Oh no Benjamin, I have no reason to find that unacceptable. I am just not sure how I can pay for your services you understand. I hope, however, that I soon will be in a position to handle the cost of this property as well as its maintenance.”

“My apologies sir. I believe I must have been unclear. The inheritance more than covers my services. It also covers all of the costs of maintaining this house and land. In fact, funds are available to do whatever you desire with the property. I am quite aware that this house is… not to everyone’s tastes.”

The first week, the man became more familiar with the property and the arrangements made for him. He soon realized that he could do pretty much whatever he wanted with the house, limited pretty much only to the land it was built upon.

The man dreamed. It occurred to him that the best solution would be to tear down that odd house. It was smaller than he hoped. It had rooms set up in a seemingly haphazard arrangement. Symmetry was clearly not valued in the design, and there was hardly a perpendicular angle in the entire house. Some may call it quaint, but the man found it to be strange and a bit claustrophobic. He began working on designing the house of his dreams. He had studied some architectural design in college. Circumstances led him in a different direction and so he never really used those skills. But now he could.

He threw himself into his work with great passion. He came up with a beautiful design that filled up half of the land and would certainly meet pretty much any desire he could think of. It only took him a month to do the design. And it was perfect.

Well, not so perfect. As he looked at the design, he started to see failings. If money is not an object, am I, wondered the man, dreaming too small? He tried again, he looked at architectural design books, and pictures of the most beautiful homes around the world. It made him chuckle at the foolishness of his first design. He could do so much better. He began to make more and more changes and began to think that he would never get to a point where he was completely satisfied.

That was indeed a thought to mull over. He hardly needed a palace. So many of those beautiful homes are show pieces— created to impress others rather than to be truly enjoyed and lived in.

There was a charm to the basic plan of the house he was in. Oh sure, there were some things to change, but it had good “bones.” He can work with that basic framework and update the house. He can open up the spaces and add more natural lighting. He began to develop a whole new design— tearing down walls, adding additional closet space, expanding windows and so forth. He felt better with this plan. The creativity of the artist is brought out by limitations. Limiting the size and materials forces the artist to truly embrace his imagination and innovation. The man again threw himself into this new design task. Soon, however, he began having the same problems he had previously with the idea of a complete demolition. There were too many options. He began to see why it was good that he did not become an architect. It is hard to figure out what things are actually an improvement and what are only… new and different.

This went on for weeks, and then months. Finally, he began to realize something. He liked the strangely shaped rooms. Some of the design choices in the bedroom and kitchen for example were strange, but suited him surprisingly well. He knew that the house had not changed, but it seems like he had. The house did not need to have things ripped out or added to. There were things that should be done, but they were small things— those sorts of things that can be done a bit at a time. Some paint and spackle over there on one day, and maybe new handles for a cabinet over here the next.

Eventually, the man told Benjamin his plans. Benjamin replied, “I am quite elated to here that. I am ready any time to help with the improvements you have in mind.”

“Why is it that you are elated?” asked the man. Benjamin never shied away from hard work, and funds (as Benjamin had stated) were indeed not an issue.

“Well sir, you see… I designed and built this house specifically for you. I knew it was to be your inheritance and so I worked diligently to ensure it was just what you needed. It is not so hard to make a house to meet someone’s needs. But it is impossible to make a house to meet someone’s wants. Wants change and grow without warning.”

“Oh,” said the man. “I did not know you built this house. I am embarrassed that I spoke so poorly of it early on. And now I feel bad that I am seeking to change anything. I can leave everything as it is.”

Benjamin replied, “No sir. This is not a museum. It is your home. It is yours to change— big or little, it is good that you make this house your own. You should make some changes, and I will help you with that. But I am glad that you don’t want to make big changes. If I may say so, I believe that shows that you now know who you are. People who do not know who they will never find contentment in any place. I believe you have chosen wisely.”

“But Benjamin,” countered the man. “We have never met. How is it that you knew me so well as to make the perfect place for me?”

“Sir, it is not so much that I made the perfect house for you. I suppose I have said it without clarity. Perhaps it is better to say that the house was made for you, and you were made for the house. And in time, you will be perfect for the house and the house will be perfect for you.”

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