Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Seeker After Wisdom (ATHEIST TALES)

A young man was puzzled and disturbed by the world he lived in. So much sorrow, so much confusion! One day he heard about a wise man who lived in a house at the foot of a mountain. The wise man, it was said, could explain the meaning of life and reveal the path to ultimate bliss.

The young man eagerly sought out the sage and begged him to explain the meaning of life and reveal the path to ultimate bliss. "These secrets are revealed only to those who are worthy of them," the wise man explained.

"I feel worthy," the young man said. "As worthy as anyone, I guess."

"That is but illusion. You must prove your worthiness."

"How may I do that?"

"By becoming my servant," the wise man explained. "Whatever I desire that you should do, you must carry out my orders promptly and unquestioningly. If you can do this without fail for seven years, at the end of seven years I will explain to you the meaning of life and reveal the path to ultimate bliss."

Seven years are a long time in the life of a young man, but on balance the bargain seemed a good one. "What must I do?" the young man asked.

"Here is an ax," the sage said, smiling. "The wood pile is depleted. Go into the forest and chop some wood. When you are finished with that, I will require you to sweep the floors of my house."

And so it went. For more than three years the young man carried out the sage's orders. Occasionally he would approach the sage and timidly inquire whether the sage might be willing to share a crumb of wisdom, but always the sage brushed off the request. "You are not ready," he would reply. "You have not yet shown enough loyalty or perseverance. Here is a bucket. Go down to the well, fill the bucket, and pour the water in the cistern in the kitchen. See that you fill it up, for it's a hot day, and I'm thirsty."

The fame of the sage was widespread, and travelers sometimes arrived, seeking him out. They would usually encounter the young man first, since the young man would be outdoors working in the garden. "Are you the wise man?" they would ask.

"Oh, no," he would reply. "I only chop wood and carry water. Someday I hope to become wise."

So might matters have continued for four more years, if not longer, but as time went on the people of the nearby village became unhappy with the sage. At a banquet he was observed to become quite drunk and surreptitiously urinate in the rice bowl of the mayor. The tithe he demanded of the commerce in the market was never enough to suit him; his house was filled with fabulous statues and tapestries, and still he craved more. Eventually it was discovered that he had been pleasuring himself with several of the young women of the village, who were now pregnant.

The villagers descended on the wise man's house, seized all the fine works of art, and then burned the house to the ground. The sage himself they stripped naked and whipped until he ran away.

The young man observed all of this from a hiding place at the bottom of the garden. When the villagers had gone home, he shook his head sadly and went back to tending the garden. When he needed water, he drew it from the well. When the wood pile was depleted, he chopped wood with the ax.

Travelers still arrived, as before, from distant lands. They had heard tales of the sage who lived in the district, but had not heard of what happened to him. They would see the young man humbly tending the garden before the burnt-out ruin of the house and ask, "Are you the wise man who can explain the meaning of life and reveal the path to ultimate bliss?"

"Oh, no," the young man would reply. "I only chop wood and carry water. Someday I hope to become wise."

1 comment:

lee said...

help to understand the story i missed the meaning