One day a king decided to humble his most trusted servant.
He said to him, “There is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to give to the queen for her birthday, which gives you six months to find it.”
“If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty,” replied the servant, “I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?”
“It has magic powers,” answered the king. “This is something that shall make a rich man sad and a poor man happy.” The king knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.
Spring passed and then summer, and still the servant had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before the queen’s birthday, the servant decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of the city. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet. “Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes a rich man sad and a poor man happy?”
He watched the merchant take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When the servant read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile.
That night the entire city welcomed the Queen’s birthday with great festivity. “Well, my friend,” said the king, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed and the king himself smiled.
To everyone’s surprise, the servant held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty! This is something that shall make a rich man sad and a poor man happy.” The king held to ring up close so he could see the engraving that read “This too shall pass.”
As soon as the king read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. At that moment the king realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.