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Joseph Yam presents his version of a popular internet story.

Three lazy Guards of Heaven were caught taking a nap while on duty. As punishment, the King of Heaven sentenced them to be beggars for one day on earth. He chose a hard winter's day for them, and the busy and uncaring corner of Wall Street and Broadway in New York as the place of punishment. Each of the three Guards of Heaven was given a begging bowl and warm clothing but no food. They would need to raise enough money through begging if they wanted a meal. They were also each given a piece of chalk so that they could draw nice pictures or write convincing stories on the pavement to attract the occasional philanthropist.

Without much remorse they descended inconspicuously to their assigned spots. It was snowing and it was a particularly busy morning - on the previous day the stock market had just broken all previous records. But nobody paid them any attention, perhaps because they were too well dressed and looked too well fed. The white chalk was of no use on a pavement covered with snow. By mid-morning they were getting hungry, having been used to their hot bowls of ambrosial congee and plates of heavenly-tasting dim sum. How could the King of Heaven be so mean, they wondered? Why did Heaven need to be guarded anyway, given that nothing much happened there? Oh, it's cold! Oh, please spare us a dime! Still nobody paid any attention.

It was time to do something. The first beggar picked up his piece of chalk and wrote on his begging bowl the word "beg" and showed it to every passer-by. Then, spasmodically the bowl clinked as pennies and dimes, and even quarters dropped in. Oh, what a heavenly sound! He managed, by the end of the day, to accumulate US$7.80, having spent about the same amount on a hamburger, a milk shake, a coke and some fries. He was ready to return to his guard duty in Heaven, fully repentant.

The second beggar also decided to use his piece of chalk to write something on his begging bowl. But, on looking around Wall Street and listening intently to the conversations of the mortals, he noticed something unusual and, in the strange language that these mortals used, quite "hot". Although he knew nothing about it, he came to the conclusion that he should ride the tide. And he wrote on his bowl "". But the heavenly clinking sound was not to be heard. Instead, hundreds of thousands of dollars were virtually thrown at him. Someone even offered to take him to a place called NASDAQ or, if he preferred, a trip to GEM in Hong Kong. At the end of the day he decided that he would not be returning to Heaven.

The third beggar was as alert as the second one and he wrote on his bowl "e-begging". A few passers-by noticed him and immediately dashed back to their offices. After just a few moments they returned with their Presidents and Vice-Presidents, accompanied by teams of people in pinstripe suits who must be lawyers, accountants and bankers. They gave him a very nice lunch and a superb dinner at their private offices both mid town and downtown, and throughout the day they talked a lot about strategic alliances and free professional consulting. At the end of the day, the third beggar also decided to become mortal again.

The King of Heaven, watching his three Guards from on high, was quite nonplussed about what had happened. On the return of his first Guard to Heaven, he conducted a full-scale Heavenly Hearing. The first Guard loyally reported the events of that hard winter's day in great detail. He even described the writings on the begging bowls. After the Heavenly Hearing, the King of Heaven ordered His tailors to make Him a new robe. The new robe was to dispense with the usual Heavenly Dragon in gold, which carried Him wherever he desired. Instead, embroidered in gold on his new robe were the words "" on the front and "e-heavenking" on the back.

As He put on his new robe, an unbearable lightness of being never felt before overwhelmed Him. He started ascending, higher and higher through the stratosphere and up into a region known as cyberspace. He enjoyed the feeling immensely. He indulged in it and became oblivious of His Heavenly Duties. His aides got worried and called the God of Thunder. Mustering all his energy and courage, the God of Thunder swung his hammer. The mighty thunder opened up a big hole in the ground of Heaven and woke the day-dreaming King. Without the Heavenly Dragon on His robe to carry Him, He fell, past the Heavenly Gate, past the first Guard who was firmly holding on to his hard earned $7.80, down through the hole, through the clouds, down to Earth and into the deep abyss. His subjects wept in fear, but He was not to be seen again.


Joseph Yam
16 March 2000

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Last revision date: 1 August 2011
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