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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Untitled Mountains

The mountain was steep and treacherous. Ascending it would not be an easy task. Alas, it would require a great deal more than a perfunctory attempt, for many had come and turned away before reaching the heights. But I was either going to make it or die trying...

After days of arduous climbing interspersed with rigorous introspection, I eventually approached the summit. In the distance I saw the entrance to the guru’s cave, where he lived to stay clear of the elements. As I drew closer, I pondered who I was and what it was I wanted. He was expecting me.

“Come in, my son,” he offered. “You’ve had a long journey and need rest.”

“Yes,” I nodded, “I come seeking wisdom. Fatigue is but a by-product for a higher purpose.”

The guru poured me a warm drink, and as we sat down over the crackling embers, he regarded me. “Tell me your story,” he said, in a way that expressed interest and compassion.

“My story… is incomplete and I want to finish it, but I will tell it to you as much as I know,” I explained.

He shifted his legs and leaned back to get more comfortable. “I am going nowhere, and time is what we have. Please go on.”

“I have questions, but I don’t know if I could be asking better questions. I don’t know how to ask what I need to know.”

“Please, my son… Don’t trouble yourself with such minutiae. I would like to hear about you foremost. I would like to know your struggles.”

“I guess struggles are normal then, aren’t they? There’s no way I wouldn’t have them, right? That makes sense... Well, there’s a song where the singer says he’s seen fire and he’s seen rain. I think I know what that means. I’ve seen both...” And then my voice tailed off.

The guru looked at me sympathetically. “And tell me how they made you feel.”

Gathering myself, I continued. “Together... they made me feel empowered. Alone, they made me feel lost and wandering.” I shook my head. “I search for answers… I don’t know…”

“What is it you wish to have answers for?”

“What’s it all about? Can you tell me what the meaning of life is?”

The guru paused and grinned, an indication he had once been where I now was. He looked me squarely in the eyes. “And why do you think you need to know it now?” he asked. “Isn’t that what living life is for?”

“Hmmm.” I pondered this. “So I’m not supposed to know yet?”

“What are you going to do when you find out, my boy?”

“Uh… I don’t know... I suppose I figured it would bring me peace.”

“Oh, it’s peace you want. That has its merits, and someday you will have ultimate peace, but in the meantime you will be disappointed if that defines your happiness. Life isn’t about arriving somewhere, it’s about getting there. Don’t look for perfection, but only work toward it. You can have high expectations, and this is noble. Yet temper that with patience as it comes to you incrementally.”

“Tell me more about this. What kind of peace can I hope for?”

“A reassuring peace that comes and goes will be more common. And there are other less agonizing ways of finding any kind of peace than in searching for that Holy Grail of the meaning of life. Knowledge alone doesn’t bring peace, and it’s not even a requirement.”

“So then… how do I go about finding at least occasional peace?”

“The answers are inside you. No one can learn them for you. Peace only comes from within. I can no more give you peace than I can give you my own hopes and dreams.”

“How does one look inside himself?”

“There are a few ingredients for this. You must look carefully, and shut out all the paraphernalia. Analyze the things that truly matter the most to you. Listen to your subconscious more. It will give you a clearer picture. Trust your instincts. Pay attention to them and you will learn how to recognize when they are trying to tell you something. These all take much discipline, and you will get frustrated,” he said purposefully, making sure I was following him. “And then lastly, you can see your reflection in others. Look closely at them and you’ll see yourself better.”

I was overcome with the moment, and listened intently as he continued. We spoke into the night, and I felt as though a weight had been lifted from off my shoulders. I slept well that night, and my dreams came alive.

In the morning I bade farewell to the guru. He was soon a memory, though still present.

My day-long journey back down the mountain had a different tone than my journey up. What was night was now day.

Coming down from the mountain with renewed vigor, I met a passer-by at the bottom who was on his way up. “Do you seek wisdom?” I asked.

“I am indeed seeking wisdom,” he said. “Do you know the way?”

“I do. As do you, in fact. The guru will tell you merely what you didn’t realize you already knew. The way is found without climbing mountains. The way is within your reach right now.”

“So you’ve met with the guru...”

The man and I regarded each other, and we spoke into the night.

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