The Path

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Two men stood and surveyed the path. It snaked ahead of them up the dark mountain, branching and forking, dimly offering a multitude of possibilities. The first man said,'I shall build a large fire to light the way.' He scavenged for sticks by the side of the path and soon had a large collection, after advancing to a suitable spot he built his large fire. The fire illuminated the land for miles around, people, seeing the fire, came to it and threw the sticks they'd found onto it. Soon there was a large community around the fire, warm and illuminated they sat and gazed at it's multifarious flickering forms and admired it's sturdy and brilliant magnificence. They talked about how immense and frightening the mountain had seemed before they had the fire to help them see. They discussed the significance of each fleeting leap of the flames.

The other man saw the fire. He saw all the other people. He looked up at the mountain. He asked his companion,'Do these people want to sit and look at this fire forever?' His companion said,'Where else is there to go? Here they are safe and warm and have companionship.' 'But they do not know what is around them, they see only the small portion of the world illuminated by the fire. I want to know what else there is.' He picked a flaming branch out of the fire and, using it as a torch, advanced further down the path. The builder watched his wandering friend depart.

The wanderer stumbled along the path. His flickering branch dimly illuminated the way ahead. At each junction he peered into the darkness ahead and agonized about which way he should go. Unable to see and therefore unable to know what possibilities his choice might open up, always aware of things he might be passing by forever without laying his eyes upon them. He struggled his lonely way forward.

His friend, the builder, grew lonely. He wondered what his companion might be doing and where he might have ended up. Eventually he set off after him. Through the darkness he could see the flickering light of the torch and, using that as a guide, soon caught up. The wanderer lay on the ground exhausted. The builder looked about him and exclaimed,'Look at this place you have discovered with a solitary stick from my fire. It is an excellent place to build another fire, far better than the first one.' He immediately started looking around for sticks and, starting with the torch of the wanderer, erected another fire. The wanderer looked on in bewilderment. Soon a huge fire was blazing, even bigger than the last. People came from miles around to be near the fire. People at the first fire looked into the mountains and saw the new one, some said,'Look how magnificent that other fire is, far better than this one, let us travel to it.' Others said,'Why go all that way, this fire provides all we need. We can make it larger and more magnificent easily enough. It will provide us with even more illumination and enjoyment.'

The wanderer was a little proud of this new fire he had helped to build, but still he yearned to explore. He again picked a stick out of the fire and once more set off up the mountain. The way ahead was steeper than ever, full of yet more impossible decisions. Eventually he passed through the dark clouds and found himself at the very summit.

The builder noticed the absence of his friend and set off after him once again. He found him at the summit of the mountain. As far as the eye could see there were more mountain peaks poking through the clouds, the builder looked at his friend. 'What will you do now? You are at the top of the mountain, you can climb no further.' 'I shall go back down and climb one of these other mountains.' 'You could do that but what would you see that you can't see now? What will that achieve? How can you put yourself through all that again without being able to achieve something new?' 'I shall see if I can climb the other mountain. I shall therefore learn something new about myself' The builder contemplated his answer. 'You will not be able to climb the mountain alone.' 'I know.' 'Then I will go with you.'

© Robert Crowther