Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Mountains

A young man found himself walking down a country road.  In the distance, he could see the mountains.  The presence and splendor of the distant peaks called him forth.  The young man picked up his pace.

Eventually, as he walked along, the man could see an object moving towards him from the brightness of the mountains.  It flickered in and out of the distance.  It grew with every passing moment.  The young man stopped, squinting at the object as it grew in size as it neared.  Eventually, the object enveloped the whole of the brightness, like blotting out the sun.  And it was at this moment that the young man knew that this strange object was not a beast to be feared or an ever growing tree or a plant of some sort, but the body of a man moving closer and closer to the him as it walked down the road.

At last, the stranger came along side the young man.  He was very old.  Though the old man was no longer walking in the beam of the light from the distant mountains, his body still radiated their brilliance.  The young man looked over the old man, who appeared to have been on his journey for many days, returning from the mountains.  His shoes were worn through to his feet and his clothing hung off of him like rags.

"Greetings, Old man,"  said the young man.  "what did you see in those mountains?'

All at once, the old man's frail, withered face drew itself up into the eyes of the young man.  The young man drew back a step, startled by the life that he could see in this withered carrier.  Life so new it scared him.  It poured out of his eyes like water on fire.  Fresh, watery tears stained the creases in his face all at once.  As far as the young man could see, he was not crying in the way one would normally cry.  Aside from the tears, the old man seemed perfectly content.

"I'm sorry, old man, but why is it that you have tears without any sorrow?"

The old man's mouth moved up on it's edges and smiled at the young man.

"What is it you saw, there in the mountains?"  The young man asked again.

The old man finally broke his silence.

"I haven't seen anything in those mountains."

The young man furrowed his brow.

"Oh, so you are not coming from there?  Then where, may I ask, are you coming from?"

"Oh, make no mistake, it is from those mountains that I am traveling.  Though, to say that I saw anything at all would be a lie.  For it was not with my eyes that I experienced those mountains.  My eyes are but new gifts, for the journey."

The young man scratched at his head, confused as to what the old man was talking about and if, in fact, the old man had gone too long without rest.  Long enough to conjure up such confused speech.

"Old man, might you take rest with me for a while in the shade of these trees?"

"Oh, no thank you.  I must be getting back soon."

"Oh?  so soon?  To the mountains?  Then why did you come this way?"

 "Well, to greet you, of course."

"What do you mean?  What's in those mountains?  What will I see?  Who will be there to greet me?"

The old man smiled again and shook his head while rolling his raw foot over some stones on the path.

"Young man, if only I could explain to you in words what you will never use words to explain.  I can only tell you that seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, and smelling will be of no use to you there.  For to experience things there you will be given a new way, new ways of experience.  I even question whether or not you will experience anything at all, though you will of course experience so much and more than mere experience could ever offer."

"Old man, I am honored that you would be willing to walk along with me, but I am afraid that I cannot understand what you are trying to tell me."

The two travellers turned and started in the direction of the mountains.

"Young man, do you know what water feels like?"

"Well, of course I do.  Though, its texture varies depending on what state it is in."

"Yes, that is true.  But in those mountains, it is not.  Water is water in those mountains.  If you could feel water in those mountains, then I could tell you simply that you could.  But you can't, for you have no need for feeling there.  What I can tell you is that experiencing this essence of life in those mountains does not change or vary depending on what state it is in.  It is only in these ways that I can communicate to you what things are like in those mountains."

"Water is water?"


The young man thought about these words for a few minutes, trying to take the man seriously to see if there is any truth of sense in what he is saying.

"Sir, are those mountains Heaven?"

The Old man could see confusion in the Young man's eyes.

"Let me put it this way.  What we were talking about a moment ago: the five senses.  Where did they come from?"

"Why, from the creator, of course."

"Right.  Can you tell me why he made these things this way?"

"Yes, so that we could experience the world around us.  So we could live."

"Right.  Now, what about Time; where did it come from?"

"I would say the same thing.  The creator created time for us to live in.  He himself exists outside of time."

"Yes.  And you know where else He exists?"  The old man raised his arm and pointed towards the mountains.

"So, you're saying that those mountains are without time and and without senses?"

"Well, in a way, yes.  But also, it would not be complete for me to say just that.  The truth is that time is not needed there.  Senses are for experiencing, and in the mountains, we experience everything in much greater and fantastic ways."  The old man stopped and turned to face his companion.  "In the mountains, we exist in eternity for eternity.  The clock still ticks, but it goes in the direction of perfection and it goes on and on for eternity.  And, in a way, it's already arrived.  As for the senses, to say that one could experience of what a friendship, what love feels like, it's actual taste and texture, would be false, but not far off of what it's really like."

"What friendship feels like?  Well, that doesn't make any sense.  Please, explain it to me one more time."

The old man smiled and nodded.  He took a moment to remove what was left of his shoes, deciding to go the rest of the way without them.

"Young man, only now will you begin to understand what things are like over there.  Walk with me towards the mountains and along the way you will understand even more."

The young man placed his hand on the old man's shoulder.

"I am sorry, I cannot go with you any further.  Thank you for your company, but as for now, I must stop and sit down under the shade of these trees to figure these things out.  Only then, when I have understanding, will I be able to continue on towards those mountains."

The old man looked around them, at the trees, and the pond of cool water that sat beneath them.

"Son, I am afraid that the shade only hides you from the radiance of the mountains.  Please, walk with me and let the sun do what it was created to do."

"Oh, I will one day make it to the mountains.  Yet, as for now, what you tell me I cannot understand.  I will wait for guidance and direction."

The old man took the young ones hand and shook it.  "So be it, friend.  May you find what you are looking for, in mercies, as you sit and shade yourself from the glory."

The old man turned and walked back towards the mountains.  The young man stood there, in a daze, with his hand open.  He watched the old man walk slowly into the light.  As he grew further away, his pace seemed to pick up until... could it be?  It looked as if he was sprinting back into the mountains, running until he could no longer be seen at all.  At once, the young man walked over to the trees and sat down under the tallest one.  He crossed his legs, pressed his hands together, closed his eyes and prayed:

"God, I wait on you.  Please give me clarity into these things.  Please give me understanding, and please, oh please, next time you send someone to teach me, please let me understand them completely so that I know that what they say is true.  I will now wait here until you send me clarity and direction; that someone will come to guide me into the truths of the mountains.  I will not set one foot on that path until you, in your infinite wisdom, tell me to."

He sat under the tree and prayed until he became old.  Eventually, he took some of the branches from the trees and built himself a home.  He used the water from the pond to boil and cook leaves and plants that he could eat.  He quite enjoyed the place, and yet, spent every evening praying for guidance.

Over many years, the man became lonely.  He assumed that other travellers would come along the road and stop by to visit.  But no one came.

With the passing of the years, the man grew older, and as it happens with age, he also grew wiser.  One day, deep in prayer, the man realized what he needed to do.  He stood up and walked to the road.  He looked up into the mountains, which were greater and brighter than ever, and he breathed in a great big breath of air.  The warmth of the sun wrapped around his body like clothing.  Carefully, he took off his worn out shoes and began his steps toward the mountains.  Suddenly, the old man heard a noise from the road coming up behind him.

"Old man,"  Shouted a young traveller.  "What's there, over in those mountains?"

The old man turned his aging body around and looked on the young man.

"I don't know, but it sure is good to see you again."

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