Magnificent Illusions
Up Mystery

"I know but one thing... and that is that I know  nothing." Socrates


A modernized version of an ancient parable tells of an American who travels to Southern China in search of a renowned wise old hermit. When he arrives in the mountainous region as directed, he finds the guru's current abode is not precisely known. Following general directions into the mountains, he climbs for days following several leads only to find the master has left for a new location or earlier directions had been faulty. Finally, on the point of exhaustion, hungry, feet numb with cold, discouraged and bewildered, he is about to abandon his quest. At that very moment he sees not far in the distance an old man, clad in a white robe, brilliantly white beard and long hair moving with the wind. As he approaches, the old man is gazing blissfully at the horizon. Our supplicant stops before the revered teacher waiting to be recognized. At last, the ancient one turns his head towards our seeker and croaks: "You have been looking for me." 

"Yes." he replies breathlessly. "I want to ask you about the meaning of life." 

After a long silence during which the two look deeply into one another's eyes, the old man raises his hand to the sky and with a sweeping gesture intones: "Life is a river..." 

Our intrepid petitioner reacting with astonishment blurts out: "Life is a river? That's it?" 

Stopping in mid gesture, the ancient one studies his questioner and now with clear puzzlement in his own voice asks: "Life is not a river?"   

Is it possible that even the wisest among us really don't know the answers to life's most fundamental mysteries? How does faith alter our personal perceptions of the mysteries, and what does it mean to be wise in the face of all this uncertainty?   


Reference photo: author
 August 2002

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